Form. Texture. Line.
These are three simple things that transform an ordinary lawn into a landscape masterpiece.
Trees. Flowers. Water. These are three components that make a house a home.
Landscaping is a process of adding a splash of color or a line of texture to deceive the eye. It’s a skill many possess, but only a few act on.
One of the most experienced landscapers in Garden City is Fred Palmblade.
Palmblade is known for his landscape designs, from Deane Wiley Park to the Lee Richardson Zoo aviary.
“I enjoy the people,” he said. “I like building relationships that span generations.”
But landscaping wasn’t Palmblade’s first career choice.
His main interest was forestry, but with the Vietnam War, Palmblade couldn’t get a job in his selected profession. So he turned to industrial horticulture at Kansas State University, where he took classes in landscape design.
“Basically, I slept, drank and ate plants,” Palmblade said.
And it wasn’t all studies all the time, he said.
Palmblade said he got the opportunity to try his hand at a design that he wasn’t impressed with.
“Making mistakes is how you learn,” he said.
Thirty-one years later, Palmblade has made a name for himself with works attributed to him in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Montana.
Palmblade can be found at Wharton’s For Every Bloomin’ Thing, where he works in the nursery.
When customers come in and visit with him, Palmblade said, he tries to get a sense of their interests and figures out a way to incorporate them into a functional design.
Then he requests pictures and measurements of the property.
Once Palmblade has an idea of the property, he begins sketching a design.
“You want the eye to go across the yard and land at the front door,” he said. “You don’t want to get caught up on colors that don’t complement each other.”
Once the sketch is done, the hard part is next — selling the drawing to the customer.
Each sketch is drawn out to scale, and each idea is accompanied by pros and cons so customers understand the risks and rewards they will get out of the design, Palmblade said.
“Landscaping is not something you can just throw together and expect to work,” he said. “It takes knowledge and some tender loving care.”
After the customer approves the sketch, Palmblade makes an onsite visit and removes any plants that will not survive the winter.
He replaces those plants with cold-weather tolerant flowers and shrubs that bring a flow to the property.
“The right plant may bring in color, nature and make the home more appealing,” Palmblade said.
Eugene Saloga is in the tree spading business.
He is often referred to as the “middle man” of landscaping.
“I usually stand between the landscape designer and the customer,” Saloga said.
But like Palmblade, landscaping was a second career.
Saloga retired from the oil drilling business in 1998 and was looking for something to supplement his farm income. He decided on tree spading.
“No one else was doing it,” he said.
Saloga said trees are an integral part of any good landscaping design.
He said trees serve as windbreakers on a property, provide shade, and depending on the tree, can lead to a more modern-looking home.
In his business, smaller trees are popular and larger trees are a thing of the past.
In southwest Kansas, customers want pine and locust trees in the front yard or elms and cottonwoods for ranch-style homes.
And then again, some people hate trees.
“I’ve seen homes where it was a driveway and a yard,” he said. “No trees, no shrubs, no flowers.”
At times, Saloga said, customers ask for his opinion on trees, from what type to where it should be placed. And sometimes, he doesn’t mind giving advice.
“I just tell people I’m not a professional landscaper,” Saloga said. “I’m a tree mover.”
Everyone makes mistakes. And some are bigger than others, Palmblade said.
He said one of the biggest heartbreaks he has experienced is putting time and effort into a design, only to find out the yard died.
“You can have a great design, but if the owner doesn’t take care of it, it’s worthless,” Palmblade said.
He said with landscaping, people should expect to water the yard once or twice a day, and plants should be manicured on a regular basis.
Palmblade said people should go to a local nursery and research the plants they’re interested in buying. He also recommends buying plants that can handle the southwest Kansas climate.
“When people see the landscape, they come looking for you,” Palmblade said. “Because they want the same result — a beautiful yard.”
Steve Michel, owner of Prairie Wind Aquatics, has been selling and installing ponds since 2001.
To him, water is just as important to landscaping as trees.
Michel said ponds are popular in the area, but it’s not the pond itself that causes the intrigue. Rather, it’s the sound of water and the relaxation that naturally follows.
Michel, who installed his own pond more than 10 years ago, said he enjoys landscaping, and at one time viewed it more as a hobby than a business.
It all started with a 25-by-25 garden. The garden later was transformed into a 25-by-25 water lily pond.
Once the water lilies blossomed, Michel would sell the flowers.
It was after the water lily business gained popularity that he decided to expand it to water landscaping.
Now, Michel sells disappearing waterfalls and water features that are a big hit in the area.
“I enjoy helping people and making sure they do a project correctly the first time so they can enjoy it,” he said.
Some of the landscapes he has done include rock pathways leading up to a small waterfall.
“It’s the mystery,” Michel said. “And it’s discovery of finding something hidden on the property that makes landscaping fun to do.”
Southwest Kansan has an eye for design
Form. Texture. Line.