By Emily J. Weitz
When Frederico Azevedo began Unlimited Earth Care 20 years ago, it was a tiny operation. With just two helpers, he began meeting with clients and discussing their vision for the landscaping of their homes. Now, Azevedo has a crew of 25 and many of those first clients are still clients. Many of those original landscapes are still in his care.
When a landscape designer and a client strike a good rapport, it can be a relationship that lasts a lifetime. That’s because gardens are always growing, neighborhoods are always shifting, and the needs of people in relation to the land are always changing.
“I have clients that have been with me for 20 years now,” says Azevedo, a touch of nostalgia in his voice. “We never left each other. Even if they change houses, I go with them. Some of my clients are in their third houses, and we keep landscaping the different houses.”
But it’s not only when the client moves that Azevedo finds they are in need of his services.
“Even those that stay in the same house, we keep renewing and updating the landscape,” he says.
When a neighbor renovates their house, the client’s needs are going to change. If a pool is built or updated, new landscaping will be required. And of course, if the client puts on an addition or changes the style of the house, the gardens and screening will need to be updated to reflect that.
“I have clients that renovated the whole house over the course of 20 years,” says Azevedo. “Trees had to be moved, the foundation garden around the house had to be redone.”
Also, as the plantings grow, they sometimes outgrow their original location and need to be pruned or moved.
“These are the kinds of details we pay attention to keep things in scale,” says Azevedo.
But another reason that Azevedo’s relationships are often long is that when he first sits down with a client, they discuss the long-term plans for the property. Some clients may be able to do everything all at once, but many are working on a budget and need to pick and choose what is the top priority and what can maybe wait a few years.
“According to the budget of the client,” says Azevedo, “I set the priorities. I urge them to spend widely in landscaping, to invest in things that won’t have to be changed in the near future. We start with the things that are more necessary, the things that will stay forever.”
At the top of the list of priorities are what Azevedo calls the foundation garden and the screening. The foundation garden includes the plantings around the house.
“This will make the house more attractive,” he says, “so it doesn’t look naked, just standing in an empty field.”
The next thing he looks at is the screening. When he’s working with clients on a budget, he often encourages them to invest in smaller trees instead of larger, more expensive options.
“Trees will grow,” Azevedo says simply. “Start small instead of waiting to be able to buy something bigger, because in two or three years, those small trees will be bigger.”
Along with the loyalty of his long-term clients, Azevedo has had other ways to keep his business growing in some pretty tricky economic times.
“I’ve always spread my work everywhere,” he says. “Over the years, I’ve worked for real estate development companies outside of the Hamptons too, doing work in Florida, New Orleans, and Colorado. My design work has continued to get stronger, and that has helped to push the work in other areas when the economy was not balanced here.”
Azevedo has also prided himself on being light on his feet, and ready to grow and change as new developments occur in the landscaping world.
“I always search for new dimensions of the work, to update the work in design and in structure,” he says. “For example, we started focusing on the population of predators here, and finding plants that would not be destroyed by deer and other predators. We started to work with sustainable plants and organic products. We always bring up to date the environment and what is new in the field.”
Azevedo also opened his concept store in 2006, where he sells innovative home and garden products, including his own line. In the past he has unveiled popular items like stainless steel floating spheres and floating torches for the pool. This year he is creating modular cabanas that can be put by the pool or in the middle of the woods.
In the coming years, he plans to pretty much keep doing what he’s doing, keeping it fresh and innovative.
“We want to keep doing all our work with the best quality we can, and to work in concert with the environment,” he says. “That’s our priority.”
To celebrate their 20th anniversary, Unlimited Earth Care will host an open house on Saturday, June 15 from 4 to 7 p.m. at their showroom on the Bridge/Sag Turnpike. For more information, visit http://www.unlimitedearthcare.com or call 725-7551.