Luke and Melody Huskey are inseparable business co-owners, co-workers, spouses and new parents. Situated on California•À_s Central Coast, their newly-formed landscaping company, Greener Environments, located in one of the nation•’s most beautiful but drought-stricken areas, is focused on creating low-maintenance and water-saving landscapes for its clients. Greener Environments encourages its clients to use alternatives to plants and lawns that require almost no water usage at all.

Examples include the installation of dry creek beds, replacing lawns with flagstone or brick patios and laying down a variety of mulches of various colors and textures. As part of their high integrity business practices, the Huskeys are continuously looking for non-traditional landscaping business practices to save their customers money by encouraging them to use native drought-resistant plants; recycled materials in hardscapes; compost for soil; mulch for groundcover; and when installing new gardens, buying small plants or using seed. The Huskeys are working on a partnership with a non-profit to bring low- to middle-class homeowners affordable opportunities to reduce their environmental impact by replacing their lawns. They are also creating a regional network of environmentally friendly home services, both for the benefit of consumers and business owners. Prolific writers, the Huskeys recently wrote a blog highlighting and promoting their top five competitors and authored and distributed the Consumer Guide to Landscaping in San Luis Obispo County

Proudest moment in business:

Luke: Every time we complete a project and can show the homeowners exactly how little water their landscaping will now require. Of course they are relieved to know their days of shelling out hundreds of dollars every month on their water bill are over, but more importantly both the homeowner and our company can feel good knowing we are part of the solution in conserving one of our most precious resources. I was able to compare the water bill of one of our recent lawn removal clients before and after the project. They saw an 80 percent drop in their water usage. In the big picture, this one yard is just a drop in the bucket, but every little bit counts and I feel proud knowing that our work, combined with all of the other great companies doing similar work, has a positive impact on the environment.

Biggest business challenge:

Melody: We both absolutely love what we do and are very passionate about our work which can make it hard to step away from it at night. We can easily get caught up talking about landscaping and creative ideas for our business in the evenings. We•’re learning how to strike a balance, and since we have a toddler we know how important that balance is for him. In addition to having well-planned work days, we•’ve learned to plan our free time and vacations in advance so that we can have a well-rounded life.

Photos: Greener Environments

Best sources of landscape design/build inspiration:

Melody: I draw most of my inspiration from nature. We go on a lot of hikes and I love to look at how plants grow naturally in an ecosystem. Which plants are thriving in the understory of a tree? What plant combinations are working together? What plants are still green and lush in this drought? I like to take notes from nature and then combine what I learn with other aspects of design to create a landscape that is a more organized and showier version of the natural world. Also, we are lucky enough to have some exceptionally beautiful landscapes in San Luis Obispo County and some very talented designers. It•’s great to be able to be surrounded by so much talent where we can all gather inspiration from one another.

Favorite plant or plant combination:

Melody: Thankfully, in our Mediterranean climate there is a plethora of outstanding plants to choose from. Lately, I•’ve really been drawn to the combination of a tree form of manzanita and California field sedge. The strong burgundy trunk of the manzanita is a lovely juxtaposition to the soft, owing texture and the green color of the sedge. It•’s a simple, yet eye-catching and soothing scene that can be incorporated into many landscapes.

Monday morning motivation:

Luke: I love the thrill and adventure of being an entrepreneur. The twists and turns of running a business, especially one in its infancy, can be exhilarating. Both the successes and the missteps provide endless opportunities for learning. Every Monday morning brings with it a new set of circumstances. It•’s this freedom from monotony and complacency that keeps me motivated.

Business worry that keeps you up at night:

Luke: For me, the inner dialogue often sounds something like, •How will I ever have the time to do that?• Melody and I both have a lot on our plates, which can be overwhelming at times. We•’ve worked hard on creating systems and keeping a tight schedule to enable us to be as productive as possible. In addition to our •to-do• list, we keep a not-to-do• list where we can put the ideas and tasks that are not helpful to us at this time. Managing our lives efficiently has become a complete necessity to keep us from becoming overwhelmed.

Landscape design mentor:

Melody: Laurie Olin is my landscape design idol. He•’s world famous and has received multiple awards for his work. He has designed many notable landscapes, including the Carnegie Hall roof garden and Washington Monument. He is currently working with architect Rafael Violy to create the largest green roof in the world in Cupertino, California. The large scope of his work, as well as his influence on the art of landscape design, has had a ripple effect throughout the industry. It•’s inspiring to follow somebody whose work has had such an impact.

Melody Huskey says she draws most of her landscape design inspiration from nature.

Favorite business or landscape design book:

Melody: •Gaia•’s Garden• Guide to Home Scale Permaculture is the first book that got me excited about doing sustainable, eco-friendly design. I love the way the author Toby Hemenway describes how to create a self-contained ecosystem where the trees mulch the ground which then brings nutrients back to the plants, while other plants are sowing nitrogen and others are warding o insects. I•’m currently reading recently published •Planting in a Post-Wild World• by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West. This book is about designing with plant communities that occur in the wild and bringing back a more naturalistic approach to design rather than the conventional way that only takes aesthetic appeal into consideration. There is a movement that is especially popular in California that craves a closeness with nature. This book is a great resource for learning how to mimic nature in a designed landscape.

Landscape design project that makes you smile every time you drive past it:

Luke: We replaced a lawn at a local high school with a water-efficient, low-maintenance landscape that gave me a lot of grati cation. The students and the staff were incredibly appreciative of our work. In contrast to the at, green neutral space, they now have a colorful garden that they can walk through and observe as it changes throughout the seasons. Their water usage in the landscape plummeted after the project was complete. We don•’t do many public spaces, but I love that it exposes people to a little slice of nature as they go about their day.

Describe your business in five years:

Luke: We will continue to focus primarily on projects that involve lawn removals. Our goal is to help neighborhoods in the dry areas of California reach a tipping point where the default landscape doesn•’t involve a water-intensive lawn. We•’ve noticed that homeowners tend to want their landscaping to be cohesive with the rest of the yards in the neighborhood. If we can replace enough lawns with drought-tolerant and sustainable landscaping, the new normal will be colorful, interesting and California-friendly gardens. We•’re working on a partnership with a nonprofit that will bring low- to middle-class homeowners an affordable opportunity to reduce their environmental impact by replacing their lawns. We hear from a lot of people who really want to reduce their water usage but can•’t spend thousands of dollars on a landscaping project. This will allow them to have more sustainable yards and bring us even closer to that drought-tolerant tipping point. We also have plans to create a regional network of environmentally friendly home services, both for the benefit of consumers and business owners. In addition, we plan to roll out a set of consultation services for businesses and municipalities that would like to become more sustainable. During this crucial time in California, we see ourselves as part of a collective movement to preserve our beautiful state.

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