December 2, 2019
Tumber designs big and dreams big
Randy Tumber

Tumber designs big and dreams big

What does it take to get a reputation for designing and building high-end, stylish landscapes for elite customers? Randy Tumber has earned that reputation, and he has some strong opinions about why.

With longstanding design/build contracting experience, Tumber currently operates T.I.L.T., for Tumber International Landscape Training. He is busy with teaching and speaking engagements, as well as landscape projects across the continent.

“I never compromise on quality, “ says Tumber. Rather than asking clients for budgets, Tumber says, “I do everything from the heart. I try to work with clients willing to dream big. My strategy is to get to know them, spend an evening asking questions: What are your goals? What direction do you want to take? Who is your family? Your pets? How do you entertain? Do you have allergies? What are your outdoor memories?” All are attempts to identify elements with emotional impact, to help Tumber create a family environment. He says initial consultations take up to four hours, and unlike some contractors, he charges both time and expenses for the consultation.
sketch of a house and landscape
house almost hidden among trees
The master plan was just the beginning of this site’s story; Tumber’s client was inspired to host tours on the property as well as earn Master Gardener status.
How does Tumber show his dream to clients? He named a range of strategies, including hand drawings, pictures of other projects, and tours of properties where his work led to outstanding client relationships. “My clients are happy to showcase my work.”

The potential customer saying, “I have a budget of X,” is not a good fit, Tumber says. “Why flounder in a sea of mediocrity?” Instead, he seeks to, “Design to dreams, build to a comfort zone.” He breaks projects into phases, and builds each phase right, to high standards, the first time. The customer can proceed to the next phase when he is ready financially. One of Tumber’s clients started in 1979, and is up to Phase Eight.

How do Tumber’s heartfelt convictions apply to smaller-scale contractors who are earlier in their careers? Tumber thinks his philosophy applies regardless of scale: “Do not be a paid Yes man.” He sometimes finds customers that are too specific, with preconceived ideas. When this happens, he has to sometimes respectfully decline business. “I owe clients my honesty. Just because they may have money to bankroll ideas does not always make them good.”

Tumber will share insights on building water features that look natural at his Congress Conference presentation. Too often, he sees contractors use “reams of PVC to build contrived monoliths with water spewing out. Or quite nice waterfalls that come from nowhere. No way can your brain accept the flow as emanating from nature.” Instead, Tumber says it is always important to create, yet obscure, water sources. If you can use a trick, like a corner, to satisfy the mind, flow and acoustics will draw the eye to follow the water. Tumber believes in using the look, sound and feel of water to pull observers into a pleasant, reflective area.

wooden lattice and structure in a backyardTumber likes to take clients on a journey, explaining, “The project is not about You or Me. It’s for every person who can appreciate the landscape. You called me because you like what I have done. I am guided by the principles of nature. I don’t care much for trends. Instead, I allow what I see in nature to guide me to recreate and refine to the best of my ability. I will integrate your home and landscape elements to be more beautiful over time. After all, who doesn’t love nature?”