Building blocks (and rocks) to success
By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor
Jeremy Schellhorn and his wife Megan bought the landscape portions of Monona Greenhouse, Landscape and Floral in spring 2009, forming Outdoor Creations Landscape and Design. Now Outdoor Creations Landscape, Garden Center and Floral, the business offers a wide array of services, but is well-known for its landscape designs—things like waterfalls, fire pits, walls, patios.
Last week, Outdoor Creations won two awards from Kings/Marquart Company, one of their material suppliers. One was a second place award for outstanding concrete block wall and the other a third place award for outstanding water feature.
Looking back now, Jeremy admitted that he didn’t think the business would be where it is in just five years. Although Outdoor Creations has won awards yearly from Kings/Marquart, which has locations in cities throughout this part of the state, this is the first year that each individual location did not hand out its own awards. Instead, all the landscape businesses were lumped together, pitting Outdoor Creations against larger companies from cities like the Quad Cities, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Clear Lake and Decorah.
“Those are six-figure projects—walls and big fire places. Those big companies are doing multi-millions per year,” Jeremy said. “Now, we’re hanging with the big boys and we can compete.”
Jeremy said the wall took five days to complete. It contains 25 pallets of block, with each block weighing 95 pounds. Each one was hand laid. It is 85 feet long and 9 feet tall.
The waterfall, which took three days to construct, has a 14-foot drop and 10,000 gallon pump. It is constructed with limestone rock from Elkader, with some of the larger pieces weighing four or five tons. When it was originally constructed, Jeremy said the owners thought it was too noisy, so he tuned the waterfall by adjusting the rocks to control the amount of water dumped.
When people come to him with landscape ideas, Jeremy said he knows within 30 seconds whether it will work. However, even with a plan, he said he’a never sure of the outcome until he starts working with the grade, slope and other natural factors.
“I draw it up, but it never looks like that,” Jeremy said of a waterfall. “You have to let mother nature dictate.”
Jeremy said the biggest problems he and his crew run into are leech fields and septic issues, as well as power lines, but that they can often work around them.
“We have a great crew and we know our abilities,” Jeremy said. “I can show them a drawing and they know what I’m thinking.”
Jeremy said his team—Jon Johanningmeier, Adrian Adam, Tharin Benson and Cody Larson—has been with him most of the way. Darcy Dickens, Kelly Wille and Ashley Blietz provide open-minded design opinions. Jeremy said Brent Blietz, who had worked with him before Outdoor Creations and helped bring the business to fruition, but passed away in 2009, is never far from their minds.
While Jeremy has faith in his own team’s abilities, customers also have a lot of faith, entrusting Outdoor Creations to fulfill the envisioned project. In five years, the ideas have grown more and more elaborate.
“We’re going from this little cookie cutter version to, now, they want a curve, or to kick this out, or put a fire pit over here,” Jeremy said of a patio. “I’m getting people wanting this who say, ‘I know you can do this.’”
Within the last five years, Jeremy said the amount of lighting he installs has also grown. Now, he doesn’t do a project without some kind of lighting touch.
“Now it really is night and day,” Jeremy said, with no pun intended, explaining that lighting gives the project another perspective.
While Jeremy said he especially enjoys working on waterfalls and fire pits, his favorite projects are those that bring people together.
“They’ll come back and say, ‘This is awesome. Our family was around it and together,’” he said. “When I hear that’s where they gather, those are the things I really enjoy.”