PROMOTION: Professional help in creating or improving your outdoor living spaces

Families yearn to spend more time in their yards
PROMOTION: Professional help in creating or improving your outdoor living spaces
Ground Affects Landscaping

Marc Ganser is the fourth generation of his family to work at Ganser Company. He has been part of the business since he was 12 years old, doing everything from sweeping the warehouse, to working on construction crews during the summers, to eventually overseeing projects as a production manager. “We have a saying in the family,” he says. “‘You grow into the business, so you can grow with the business.’ After almost two decades working here in every capacity, there’s no denying I know it inside out.”

Ganser now handles most of the estimating for multifamily and residential projects, as well as public relations for the company. The firm, which employs nearly 40 people, works all over Dane County in Madison, Edgerton, Janesville and Lake Mills. A full-service exteriors and remodeling company, Ganser’s staff has expertise in: installing roofing, siding, windows, doors and gutters; replacing tubs and showers; and making general home repairs. “In a lot of small towns, homeowners are looking for reliable contractors,” he says. “Working with a bigger, more established company like Ganser gives them peace of mind, knowing that it’s going to be done right.”

Ganser also has a wealth of experience in helping homeowners design landscaping for outdoor remodeling projects, including decks made from composite plastic materials and resins. These materials are much more durable than wood–they won’t rot or splinter over time. They are also more resistant to fading, discoloring or staining than wood. “It’s part of the maintenance-free lifestyle that many homeowners are looking for these days,” Ganser says. “Wood decks typically need to be re-stained every two years, and completely replaced after 10 years. With composite building materials, customers get a much longer-lasting solution. When a deck faces south, we often recommend putting in retractable awnings or pergolas to help with shade.”

With changes in the housing market, Ganser says more families are deciding to stay in their homes and remodel to fit changing needs, rather than sell the house and buy something new. “Whether it’s upgrading a deck or adding on a three-season porch, customers are generally choosing higher quality materials,” he notes. “They’re really making an investment in the home. They’re restoring the house and improving it rather than trying to ‘flip’ it.”

Ganser says his company is a good fit for inside and outside remodels. “For whatever size job a customer is imagining,” he says, “Ganser has the answer.”

Steven Swenson is a landscape architect for The Bruce Company, a full-service landscape company that can carry an entire project from planning to execution. “Much more than a retail store, we can create the idea and execute it so our clients can enjoy it for many years,” he says.

Swenson has worked for The Bruce Company for six years, but has been in the landscaping industry for two decades. “I’ve aspired to do this from the age of 10,” he says. “I owned my own landscaping business. That’s actually how I put myself through college at Purdue.”

When approaching a new project, Swenson initially meets with homeowners for an informal interview to determine their landscaping needs based on their lifestyle. “The bulk of what I do currently is landscape renovations,” he says. “In general, clients have been in their homes for between 10 and 30 years. They have a pretty good mindset of what they want but don’t know how to put it together. Then I come in, look at objectives, and come up with a design solution.”

Many factors need to be considered when planning a landscape renovation. “When we design the exterior of the property we consider how to best use the space, as you move from the interior to the outdoors, regarding accessibility, views, and usability,” Swenson says. “We have to understand what’s going on inside to execute on the outside.”

According to Swenson, landscapes need to be responsive to the built environment, the site, and the existing conditions, as well. “If the house is built in a Prairie Style, or Frank Lloyd Wright, we try to create a design that matches that character. If it’s a modern home with a minimalistic colors and style and lots of glass, then the landscape will be a reflection of that house,” he explains.

In terms of trends, Swenson says his clients continue to look for creative ways to extend the usability of the outdoors, earlier or later in the season. “For different projects and budgets that will mean different features. I might design an outdoor kitchen, pergola, or fire pit if that fits in with their lifestyle. Or big trees and plush gardens, he says. “I love natural stone walls and pavers. It’s at the higher end of the cost spectrum, but it’s timeless, reusable and recyclable. It can be repurposed for other things, whereas concrete walls and pavement are more cost-effective, but they look dated as time goes on.”

Swenson says he enjoys the challenges and rewards of creating great landscapes. “In this profession you need to be a problem solver,” he says. “You have to be very observant and remember lots of details. But you’re also allowed to be a visionary. That’s the fun part.”

Tom Ball, president and founder of Ground Affects Landscaping, has provided southeastern Wisconsin with distinctive, professional landscape services since 1996. The company now serves both residential and commercial clients throughout southern Wisconsin.

Ball says that his company offers complete landscape design services, hardscape installation, planting and softscape installation, grading and drainage solutions, lawn care services, and even outdoor lighting installation. While they specialize in customized outdoor living areas, Ground Affects Landscaping can accommodate outdoor remodeling plans of any size.

“If a client is interested in having us add a fire pit, a built-in grill, a pergola, or designing any other type of outdoor living area, we can supervise the whole job and subcontract for anything that we don’t personally do, such as handling gas, electrical, and water lines,” Ball says.

Ball frequently recommends adding outdoor lighting to a landscape design for safety as well as aesthetic reasons. “We install lots of LED, low-voltage lighting systems as part of an outdoor living area,” he says. “At night, and even in the winter, when the lighting comes on it looks gorgeous. Outdoor lighting can accent the house, the hardscape, and also gives you soft lighting to make sure things are illuminated properly at night.”

Ball believes that the key to a successful landscape design project begins with the initial consultation.
“We really listen to the customer, to get an idea of their wants and needs,” he says. “Then we put our creativity to work, whether it’s helping them design an entire backyard living area or simply planting beds around their home.”

Ball says he didn’t always know that landscaping was his calling, but he loved working outside and dreamed of having his own business from an early age. “This is the best of both worlds for me, really,” he says, with a smile.