When you’re shopping around for a landscape contractor to make your outdoor living dreams come true, you want to hire someone who knows what they’re doing. Bay Scenery’s Responsible Managing Employee (RME), Ian Harris has been in the landscaping business since 1980. Key employees have worked with him for over 20 years helping to build the company. “I’m enjoying the fruits of 30 years of experience. I know all kinds of stuff,” says Harris. Harris brings his wealth of knowledge to the landscaping projects he works on and shares some tidbits with us now:
What led you to become a landscape contractor?
I had always liked gardening and decided to go to College of San Mateo and do some courses in horticulture. From talking to people, I found that I’d like become a landscape contractor and started working for a retail nursery. I got a good grounding in plant identification. I was lucky to have a very knowledgeable person share her knowledge and help me. I got a job as a tree pruner while I started my own gardening business on the weekends. I decided I’d rather be on the ground than up in the trees.
Over the years, what part of the job has become easier for you?
The practical knowledge. How to put things in, how to do things and also what looks good and what doesn’t. Translating from the plan to the field is easier. Many people are not comfortable with plans. The clients have spoken to the designer more than they’ve spoken to us. So we want to work with the designer to produce what the client wants. That’s been one of our mantras “what does it say on the plan?”
What are your favorite parts of being a landscape contractor?
Working with clients and sub-contractors, and organizing the different aspects of the job. I enjoy getting a new set of plans and starting to look them over, after I’ve slogged away for two weeks on an estimate, I’m glad to see the back of the damn thing and hope the client will go for it.
What landscaping features do you have at your own home?
One of my employees was doing ceramics so she cut out leaf shapes. We put them on the wall in the shape of a plant and stuccoed them in so that in winter when things die down there are these plants on the stucco wall. My wife and I put in a flagstone patio and we built an arbor. I look after the drip irrigation system we put in.
What components to designing an outdoor space do homeowners need to be aware of?
There are so many styles of garden you have to choose the one that suits your lifestyle. Some people like tranquility and some want an entertainment space each will give you entirely different landscapes. Some people want to grow their own vegetables so they have to find a spot for those. Some people want outdoor kitchens or water features and those have to be incorporated. You have to set up a traffic pattern that works, for instance, a pathway to get things from the kitchen to the outdoor kitchen.
What services does the California Landscape Contractor’s License enable Bay Scenery to provide?
Just about everything that’s to do with the outdoors but we’re not allowed to do electrical or plumbing. We use fencing and concrete contractors not because we can’t do the work but we can’t do it economically. We’ve built up a network of reliable sub-contractors who we manage and work with which is very important.
What’s been one of your most memorable projects and why?
We did a job in Hillsborough on the side of a hill. We ended up putting in a big water feature with rocks each weighing a ton and a half. We also did an outdoor kitchen, a marble patio, an outdoor shower and an arbor. Typical things you have to worry about on a hillside site are drainage and the systems that go with it. It was a comprehensive job on a difficult site. The homeowners displayed our craftsmanship on the Hillsborough Garden Tour.
What are the advantages to homeowners of hiring a well-established landscaping company?
People with experience know what they’re doing. You want to connect with your landscape contractor. It could be the greatest landscaper in the whole world but if you don’t like him or her, don’t go with them.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Being a landscape contractor has given me pleasure for 30 years and I’m still working even though I’m well past retirement age and I’m happy to do it. I can’t think of anything else I’d like to do instead, even retire