Art from nature
by Sally Colby
Not every young man knows exactly what he wants to do before he finishes high school, but Scott Rosenbaum did.
“I’ve always been interested in landscaping,” he said. “I started working for a landscaper when I was 14. I started my own landscaping business when I was in high school and continued after I graduated. I have always loved it because I can create art from nature.” He expanded his knowledge through a two-year vo-tech landscaping curriculum during high school.
Today, the Chambersburg, PA, business is a family affair. Scott is the landscape designer and his wife April is the finance manager. Their son Alexander is operations manager, overseeing crews on the job and assisting in the nursery. Alexander’s wife Brielle is the marketing coordinator, handling the website and social media for the company.
Scott’s first equipment was simple: a wheelbarrow and a shovel. But from the start, he’s had a knack for envisioning the final outcome of a project. Scott said the best benefit of being able to foresee the outcome of a project is that both he and his customers enjoy the process along the way. “I can see things before they’re done,” he said, “and that makes the design part easy.”
Before computers became the norm for creating custom landscapes, Scott recalled designing by hand, using color and hand-drawing the details. Landscape design software has evolved since it was first available, and Scott now uses DynaScape because of its versatility and timelessness.
As he’s meeting with clients, Scott has found that asking certain questions during the planning stages helps him determine what the client has in mind. “Do they like topiary, or do they want more of a natural look?” he said, adding that he designs for all seasons so landscapes don’t look lifeless in winter. “It’s all about asking the questions. I’ve been doing this for so long that I’ll ask questions, they give me answers and I can start building a picture. It isn’t always ‘What do you want?’ I often ask ‘What don’t you want?’ which is just as important. If I design something they don’t want in the plan, I’m two steps behind.”
One of Scott’s goals with every design and installation is completing the job below the original estimate. In addition to providing a pleasant surprise, Scott said it often spurs customers to have additional work done. Although he’s planning from a big picture aspect, Scott also focuses on minute details, and said something as simple as good edging to separate landscaped beds from a lawn can make a customer happy. He said about 80% of his customers are the direct result of referrals. Alexander added that the company logo on their trucks also helps draw new business.
After design basics are in place, Scott discusses more details to determine what kind of trees, accent plants, mulch and other features to include. “If we’re designing around a swimming pool, we’ll suggest they don’t use mulch – we’ll use gravel instead,” he said. “If someone is tired of mowing, I might suggest a putting green.” During the planning phase, customers can see a 3-D rendering of the proposed plan, which includes details such as property lines, light exposure and slopes. Once the design is finalized, Scott adds the finishing touches using the company’s unique hardscape and softscape options including water, patios and accent lighting. Customers can see many of the available options in both the interior and exterior office area where hardscaping material is incorporated.
Rosenbaum’s covers 22 acres, 12 of which are devoted to growing a selection of plants suitable for the region from bareroot stock. Scott also brings in material from Oregon, mostly key pieces that make a design unique. He said the Oregon nursery he uses has a similar climate, just with a longer growing season. If a client requests a specific tree that isn’t suitable for the area or may not be the best choice for the intended use, Scott explains why he doesn’t recommend that option and helps the customer select something different. He also provides ample information to the landscape architects he deals with so they can explain plant options to their clients.
Alexander said one of the aspects that differentiates Rosenbaum’s is growing their own stock on premises. “We’re able to bring clients here to touch, see and feel plant material,” he said. “That allows them to visualize designs. Many of our customers come in and have specific ideas about the colors they want, but it’s impossible to stock everything.” Alexander added that each year brings new cultivars with new colors, and in some cases, unique selections with extended or multiple bloom times.
Rosenbaum’s sells trees and perennials, both wholesale and retail. “We are a seasonal business,” said Alexander, “but we keep foremen and key people here full-time. We also have people who love being seasonal – they work crazy hours in summer then go home to see family in winter. Last winter was mild, so we continued to install throughout winter.”
In winter, the Rosenbaums perform routine maintenance and make improvements to the facility. They’re currently working on installing an indoor/outdoor greenhouse for hardscape displays, and they’ll change plantings around those features to allow customers to visualize colors. Scott said the crew will be kept busy trimming field-grown deciduous trees through February.
The company also offers commercial and residential snow removal in winter, which keeps some of their key people busy. “We have enough to keep multiple trucks busy,” said Alexander. “In winter, I oversee some of the systems we implement, like the point-of-sale system that tracks inventory. We also introduced a bar code system, customer research management software and invoicing software.”
While many landscaping jobs are one-time sales, many customers request ongoing maintenance. Scott said the landscaping business has been great since COVID-19 – people are cancelling vacations and spending more money on improving their home spaces.
Attending industry trade shows during winter helps Scott and Alexander stay abreast of the latest landscape design and plant trends. Scott tries to stay ahead of the game with hardscape materials, incorporating a wide range of timeless surfaces in his designs.
“We pride ourselves on ‘new,’” said Scott. “A few years ago, everyone wanted a koi pond, then large features with fountains were popular. Now everyone is into pools and outdoor living. As a landscape design company, we’re always looking at what’s next.”
Visit Rosenbaums’ Landscaping and Nursery online at RosenbaumsLandscaping.com.