Growing business: reimagining your green space

Photo Provided

This image shows some of Fokus Landscape Services' residential work. The landscape architecture company is just one resource of many available to those who want to see a more unique landscaping vision come to life.

The state record for the latest freeze was set on May 3, 1954. By any predictive measure, the spring planting season is here and lawn manicurists and green thumbs are preparing their canvases.

It may be second nature to some, but many may not know where to begin. The good news is they’re not alone. From DIY help to big picture planning and total project execution, there are people who make it their business to help budding gardeners and the botanically challenged.

Here’s a look at three directions you could take with your green spaces this summer and some businesses that can help get you there.

1. DIY — The do-it-yourself route is a popular one for a number of reasons. Apart from being the cheapest route, it also offers the chance to get your hands dirty and experience the fruit (cactus, venus flytrap, etc.) of their labor.

But where to begin? Bill Farris, who along with his wife Sally co-owns Prairie Wind Nursery, said selecting the best plants for the soil and climate is key.

He said he is passionate about spreading knowledge and has been since he started doing business in Cleveland County 30 years ago.

“Being successful, a lot of that has to do with choosing the right plant material for your soil type and your conditions — whether that’s sun or shade. And that’s what we can help with,” he said.

“What people don’t realize is that a lot of alien or introduced plant materials that come from other parts of the world don’t support our native wildlife and pollinators and that sort of thing.”

Farris said it may be tempting to jump into an ambitious project but it’s easier to start small, and, like the plants themselves, grow slow and steady.

Farris said Prairie Wind Nursery can help with that, and there are other resources to aid in the ongoing journey.

“Find somebody that’s a mentor, a master gardener, or join the Cleveland County master gardener group,” he said. “Just realize that it’s one of those things, like riding a bicycle, you’re going to crash a few times. But practice makes perfect.”

The time to get practicing, he said, is now.

“If you plant now, with the spring rains and things like that, Mother Nature kind of helps you a little bit,” he said.

For more information about Prairie Wind Nursery services, call 405-579-8846 or email info@prairiewindnursery.com.

2. Curb appeal curators — Prairie Wind Nursery does offer landscape consultation and installation, but that’s not its focus. If you have no interest in doing the planning and planting yourself, then you may want to turn to a company like Fokus Landscape Services.

After completing a master’s degree in landscape architecture at the University of Oklahoma, company founder Fotis Kousiakis went to Alaska to work for Faltz Nursery — the largest nursery in the state.

When he returned to Oklahoma in 2013, he went to work for the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department. He later went on to work for K&K Nursery in Norman and during that time began to conceptualize a company of his own.

In the summer of 2018, he officially launched Fokus Landscape Services, LLC. His goal was to provide low-maintenance, permanent solutions to the gamut of landscaping challenges.

It starts with a design and an itemized list of options for plants and materials. Designs are available for $75, and, even if customers go with another company or take a DIY approach to installation, Kousiakis said he is happy to know that his company can provide a vision and a map.

“That’s the beauty of what we do, it’s a long-term plan that helps the customer become more comfortable,” he said. “Having a plan that you can refer to is very helpful, and that’s where we start. Everything becomes a little more scalable and a little more attainable when you have something to look at and you’re not just working off of a vague idea.”

From there, Kousiakis and company can take a job all the way to completion, putting the finishing touches on a curb appeal boosting flower bed or a major overhaul.

“We try to give the whole package, not just the plants you’re putting in, but afterwards, too, making sure that its maintainable and you’ll get the most bang for your buck,” he said.

“We do technical stuff, like retaining walls and stormwater and drainage issues. And I really enjoy that kind of stuff, as well.”

Kousiakis said he would also like to do more work with green roofs, something he has experience with from his time at OU working as a graduate assistant, adding another layer to the myriad of creative services the company already offers.

Whether customers have a huge property or small property, Kousiakis said it doesn’t matter.

“[Landscaping and landscape architecture] really increases the resale value of your house,” he said.

For more information about Fokus Landscape Services, visit fokusland.com or call 918-212-6030.

3. Yard to table — If you’re ready to give up the monoculture of grass for something more tasty and pragmatic, Earth Rebirth is there to help.

The environmentally focused nonprofit has built its name through its school gardening program but it also does private consultations and offers services like raised vegetable garden installation, composting setup and rain barrels to residential homes.

Founder Andrew Sartain said there are a lot of reasons to break away from the “Stepford lawn” type of yard.

He said it may seem a daunting task to start a garden but you don’t have to know everything to grow better.

“One of the ways we try to encourage people to start is to not overthink it,” he said. “There’s no wrong way to garden, other than not garden.

“For a lot of people, gardening itself starts as something that sounds interesting or fun and then it becomes something that you learn how valuable it is to you. When you start with the mentality that you want to grow all of your own food, it gets much more overwhelming and you start to realize how many different choices there are.”

Sartain said Earth Rebirth can help with selecting the right kinds of vegetables and pollinators and get people set up with raised beds and the knowledge to keep them thriving.

Sartain said it starts with asking residents what they want. Whether it be raised beds or rain barrels, Sartain said Earth Rebirth remains available to help answer questions and provide encouragement along the way.

“If you have questions, we can come out for a free evaluation and walk through your garden and look at the pests and all those different things.”

Sartain said some prospective gardeners get caught up wondering whether they want to exclusively grow food, or exclusively grow flowers. The best answer, he said, is to embrace biodiversity.

“Every garden should have at least a little bit of food, and a few flowers, and plants to mitigate rain runoff, and a little bit of everything. Nothing in nature, when it comes to growing, only has one purpose. It all works together.”

Not surprisingly, Sartain said patience is a natural virtue of the craft. He said his dad moved to Oklahoma a few years ago. He had never had a garden but now his yard is teeming with different kinds of plants.

“He took it one step at a time,” Sartain said. “You plant something and then you plant something else, and then, suddenly you’re doing it.”

For more information about Earth Rebirth services, call 405-358-3565 or email info@earthrebirthnow.com.

Mack Burke is an investigative reporter and award-winning feature writer and columnist for The Norman Transcript. An OU alumnus, he has lived in Norman since 2003.