June 15, 2008
By Allan Dennis

The formal definition of engineering is the “application of science to design.” In the case of Earthscape of Elmira, some additional words, such as creativity, enthusiasm and sense of team, must be added.

After 19 years in computer engineering, Mark Schwarz sold his share in the business in 2003. He moved to Elmira, and began work in a career for which he had great passion, landscaping. He started as wheelbarrow operator for a local landscaping company, moving quickly from there into management. He also took course at Humber in the Horticulture Apprenticeship Program.

One of his classmates who made the drive with him to school was Sam Bauman. At that time they didn’t realize they would become partners in their future business, Earthscape. Sam, now 22, began his own lawncare business at the age of 14. He has been involved in the landscaping business ever since. A horticultural technician, Sam is considered an excellent stone mason and loves plants of all kinds.

The community of Elmira describes itself as “a world away from busy urban Ontario. It’s sometimes a century away from today’s fast-paced society, an oasis of rural tranquility.” Although Mark and Sam live in a small town, the quality of their work is big time. It wasn’t long after beginning Earthscape, that their work garnered a number of Landscape Ontario awards in residential design, website and special interest construction. One of Earthscape’s projects was featured on the cover of LO’s 2007 Garden Inspiration magazine.

Mark says his engineering background helps greatly when it comes to operating the company, including management and designing. Mark utilizes the CAD computer system to create his 3D designs. Clients can easily see and understand exactly how their property will appear once Earthscape has created its magic.

There is a four-step process involved in every project: verbal consultation, concept design, master plan and reality. It begins with the interview to determine the client’s requirements and budget. The interview usually takes between one and two hours. Mark says, “It is very important that I leave understanding what my client visualizes as the finished product. “I want to know how people spend their time on their property: Do they enjoy maintaining their garden? Do they entertain a lot? Do they want water features? We (Mark and client) must be on the same path towards the concept.”

Once an understanding is reached with the client, then the conceptual design phase begins. “Many designers will use their portfolio of work to create designs, but I believe in order to maintain a varied design style, one should listen to the client and use all forms of material available to arrive at the end result,” says Mark. He also believes that the landscape style needs to reflect what the client wants. “I don’t want to impose my views them.”

Once the concept has been agreed upon, Mark creates the master plan. “This is the final stage of design. At this point the design must be agreed upon by us and the client. It could start to be expensive if too many changes are required at this stage.” Many of the plans are completed during the winter months, when Mark estimates he spends between 30 to 35 hours a week creating the CAD images.

The reality stage of the project, is the client sitting back enjoying the new outdoor living space. And, there have been some pretty happy clients. You can check some of Earthscape’s winning creations by going to the website at www.earthscape.ca.

Mark and Sam and their staff members begin their outside work around the first of April. The staff members include, office manager Rosely Schwarz, a wood crew of Joel Martin, Don Wiens and Terry LaChance, along with Jared Martin, Josh Ruppert, Lyndon Brubacher, Dawson Bott, Bob O’Brien, in landscape construction, and Barb Smith and Myrna Bauman in maintenance.

Earthscape has created an informal advisory board that includes George Urvari of Oriole Landscaping in Toronto, president of the Toronto Chapter of Landscape Ontario, and Bert Frey of Frey Building Contractors of Elmira. Earthscape has been a member of Landscape Ontario since 2006.

Another contribution to the success of the business is the review process at the end of each project. The crew all sit down to discuss the good points and bad points of the project. “It’s an open forum that is used, not to attach blame for those things that went wrong, but to correct issues that will improve the process,” says Mark. He explains that it’s a good opportunity to for all the crew to contribute to the ongoing success of the company.

The team creates another beautiful waterfall.
Earthscape team Sam Bauman (left), and Mark Schwarz.