Native trees and shrubs tends to be the advice Randy Thompson gives. As co-owner of Liberty Landscaping, Thompson has been working in commercial landscaping since the 90s. He recently joined his business partner, Jason McNutt, at Liberty Landscaping, pursuing a business focused on commercial landscape projects.
“I got into it early on,” Thompson said. “I went to school to be a landscape architect. I got into general horticulture. I have always liked plants. It’s something I enjoy. I started doing it right out of high school (and) have been doing it for 26 years. Over the last year I started this business.”
Thompson has a background designing parks for city governments. He now likes to bring that experience to businesses seeking to improve their foliage footprint.
He said things are fairly basic in the Texoma region, with most businesses sticking to a few native trees. The emphasis is on finding trees that can be used to absorb the heat from parking lots while also providing shade to customers. Red oaks, ash and elm trees are among the most popular ones used in the area, Thompson said. Customers in the area are also seeking perennials (plants that come back year after year) and plants that can handle the dry climate.
Thompson said his favorite part is the design phase. He likes working with a client to determine the plan that works best for them.
“I like complete projects where we get to do everything from irrigation work to the facade and everything — the whole package,” Thompson said. “We do the design. It’s kind of neat to be able to create something from start to finish. That’s more satisfying than just doing a part of it here and there.”
“I get satisfaction seeing something complete (and) that looks good,” Thompson continued. “You don’t have to wait long term to see the fruits of your work. As soon as you complete a job you can look back and see it. (It’s) awesome, it’s satisfying.”
Thompson said he transitioned from working on parks and athletic fields for cities and school districts to commercial projects. One area that many businesses are looking at is replacing mulch with small rocks as a form of pest control as well as it being lower maintenance. Currently, Thompson said, business in the area is growing.
“We’re seeing new landscape trucks in the area we haven’t seen before,” he said. “I think the area is about to grow and people are anticipating that. On the commercial level, we’re behind the Metroplex as far as quality and available contracts to get at that level, but we’re moving that way quickly.”
Thompson said standards are higher in and around Dallas. There is a higher quality expected out of landscapers that he is hoping to see come to Texoma in the near future. He said there has been a shift in the larger culture to be more aware of the potential of water shortages. As such, he said people tend to be moving towards plants that can survive on less water.
“It seems like people are spending more money than in previous years on landscaping,” Thompson said. “I wouldn’t say it is a booming business right now. We’ve been busy because we have good referrals, but we don’t have a lot of people seeking out our services. People are out there with money to spend, but I don’t know that it’s a big market right now.”
While Thompson’s focus is more on commercial business, he does take on residential jobs as well. In that world, people are looking for something specific, more tailored to their individual preferences.
“(Residential customers) want more aesthetic, compared to the business side,” Thompson said. “They want something different in their landscape. They’re interested in learning new plants, creating a variety of things going on in their landscaping. They’re not looking for color, like annual flowers.”
As a full service operation, the company also offers maintenance services, mostly including mowing grass and trimming trees.
“One of the things that can help us mow less is to have less weeds (and) have healthy earth,” Thompson said. “Mowing the lawn is a big part of it. On the landscape they are planting less in the landscape area, taking areas out and putting grass in. You see a lot of people put concrete islands they don’t have to maintain. For us, it is trying to create a good turf.”
He said while it is extra work, he likes to start at the concept stage and be involved through the entire process.
“It’s in my nature and background in park planning. I like to get it on paper,” Thompson said. “I ask lots of questions of the customer to figure out what they want. I try to put that on paper in the form of a drawing, then try to get feedback (from) that customer to determine if we’re on the same page. If they like what’s being represented to them, once we figure out a plan and put a cost to it, from that point on the customer decides what they want to do and we move to get it installed.”