April Bayne, a Chicago-based urban landscape designer, works with customers who typically live in smaller two- to three-story homes with a single garage on flat lots sometimes measuring as small as 25 by 150 feet. Her services also include placement and planting of containers on concrete spaces, curb appeal makeovers for real estate agents and space planning for outdoor events.
Her overall mission is to help Chicago area residential property owners beautify and improve the usefulness of their outdoor spaces with low maintenance designs emphasizing sustainability.
“Most Chicago neighborhoods are pretty flat,” Bayne explains. “With the addition of trees and sidewalks, you get a lot of shade and drainage issues and not much open space. I love the challenge of gardening in shade and finding the sunny spots to make interesting garden rooms. Finding the sun, dealing with tree roots and other obstacles underground create big challenges for landscapers.”
Bayne’s designs take into consideration many important elements for clients, including activities, special needs, style, color preferences, safety, maintenance and budget. She also trains condo management on how to maintain small spaces as her installations are being completed and designed, and provides installation oversight to several local community gardens.
Year founded: 2006
Client mix: 90% residential landscape design, 10% commercial containers
Service mix: 100% design (contract out installation)
Business motto: Helping clients better utilize their outdoor spaces.
Proudest moment in the landscape business: The day I went to a client’s home to show their project and caught them having dinner on their patio. Why? I knew the client was enjoying their renovated space.
Biggest business challenge: Obtaining new clients. Referrals, internet presence and ads help, but there is so much information that potential clients receive. That makes it very difficult to be heard and seen.
Best sources of landscape design/build inspiration: A variety of seminars, garden shows, magazines and the internet. Also, the various landscaping sites I see while looking out the window when driving.
Favorite plant or plant combination: I love Aronia arbutifolia (red chokeberry) and Amelanchier (serviceberry) underplanted with evergreens or tall groundcovers because they have similar form, bark, bloom time and fall color. They are a good size for urban gardens and open enough to allow underplanting to give summer color and winter interest.
Monday morning motivation: Thinking about a design I will work on that day.
Business worry that keeps you up at night: Thinking about the possibility that my deliveries will not arrive on time to complete a project. I don’t want people standing around waiting for materials to arrive making the project delayed.
Landscape design mentor: Ken Benson, my ornamental horticulture instructor at Triton College in River Grove, Illinois, who taught many of my classes. I gained a lot of practical knowledge from him. Whenever I have a problem with my landscaping business, I often think about how he would solve the problem.
Favorite business or landscape design book: “Small Garden” by John Brookes and “Small Spaces, Beautiful Gardens” by Keith Davitt. “Small Garden” offers many styles of landscape design and is helpful in determining a client’s style. “Small Spaces, Beautiful Gardens” shows how garden rooms, water features, seat walls and patios can fit to create beautiful small spaces.
Landscape design project that makes you smile every time you drive past it: I did a design and install oversight on a corner lot in my neighborhood. I re-designed the porch, deck and stairs for better use of the space, enlarged the patio and selected plants that would thrive in the north- and west-facing lot. We added a small raised herb and vegetable bed to consolidate the edibles and installed an irrigation system. The landscape looks good no matter what time of year I drive by it. After several years, it looks well tended with plants growing to just the right size.
Describe your business in five years: I hope that the business will grow to allow me to work with other design professionals and installers to continue bringing beauty to the landscape one garden at a time and to encourage clients to enjoy their outdoor spaces. I want to take on an oversight role to my business.
Connect with April Bayne:
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in April 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.