For Kristin Warner, launching Garden Scapes of Central Arkansas was about gaining two things: control and flexibility. As a mother, she chose a career in landscaping to strike a balance between taking care of her family and owning her own business.
After graduating from college with a degree in biology and a minor in botany, Warner started her career at a plant nursery. She then worked for a botanical garden, where her knowledge of the landscaping industry really began to take off. After Warner got married and started a family, she decided to set up her own company in 2015 in Greenbrier, Arkansas.
"It didn't take long before I figured out that I'd enjoy working for myself because it gives me a lot more freedom," she said. "This gives me the flexibility to pursue my passion in landscaping while fulfilling my other responsibilities as a wife and a mother."
Garden Scapes offers a wide variety of landscaping services, including mowing, flower bed care, landscape installations and more. The business is focused on grass, powered by a fleet of Gravely lawn mowers. When it does snow in Warner’s region of Arkansas, which is rare, her team goes into maintenance mode to prepare for spring.
Garden Scapes typically employs a team of about 7 – 10 people. Many of the workers come to the company from a local rehabilitation program. They are looking for solid work while they rebuild the infrastructure of their lives. It is a great program that Warner says has made a real difference in the community and in her company.
"It's a blessing to me to be able to work with them and help them in their process of restoring their lives and getting back to work," she said. "Once they become my employee, they become part of my family.”
Warner admits that she sometimes gets “odd looks” because she is a woman running an all-guy crew, but it doesn’t bother her. Garden Scapes is thriving, and she has earned respect from her colleagues and clients.
"The landscaping business doesn't have to be for males only,” she said. "I would highly recommend anyone, male or female, to take a leap in the landscaping business if you are passionate about it."
Garden Scapes may run a small crew, but that is by design. Warner’s focus is on quality and flexibility. She learned this lesson the hard way, though. The company went through a growth spurt, but in the face of the pandemic, labor shortages and supply chain challenges (particularly in getting affordable trucks to haul equipment), Garden Scapes had a tough time keeping up with the increased workload.
"I figured out that for Garden Scapes, it's better to stay at a manageable size and do an excellent job with the work we have," she explained.
"Providing the highest level of quality is always our top priority."
This strategy has helped Garden Scapes stay nimble, which has helped the company secure contracts with commercial facilities, including the local wastewater treatment plant.
"Because we are smaller, we can offer more flexible and customized services for our clients,” Warner said. "Some companies in this region usually require their customers to schedule service on set dates, sometimes weeks in advance, and it can be difficult or costly to cancel. They can easily call me to come by or to reschedule and it is no hassle.”
With years of quality work behind her, Warner has earned so much trust from her customers that many of them let her decide when it is time for their lawn to be cut. In a region where there can be droughts, and lawns shouldn’t be mowed every single week, for example, it takes flexibility and the utmost attention to give customers and their lawns the best care possible. Warner keeps a close eye on her clients’ lawns and only brings in her crew when they are needed.
Garden Scapes is currently running a fleet of four Gravely zero-turn mowers, ranging in size from 52” to 60”. Gravely is the only brand of mower the company runs. The company typically uses the 60” Pro- Turn on large properties that take all day to mow, such as a 20-acre lawn at the wastewater treatment plant.
"I purchased a used 52” Gravely Pro- Turn from a friend of mine that was shutting down his business,” Warner said. “Ever since then, I have found that I am in love with these machines. They are tough and they cut great. I like a zero-turn mower's mobility and the way it can take corners. I've been really happy with them."
Warner has a stellar relationship with the local Gravely dealership, Triple C Sales & Service, from which Garden Scapes has purchased all of its current lawn mowers. The dealership is based in Conway, Arkansas.
"Their customer service is out of this world,” she said. “Whenever I have had a problem, they drop everything to take care of me and get us back to work. When they could not fix the machine on the same day, they would even loan me a mower. They understand that in this industry, time is valuable.”
Whether it be family or business, Warner exemplifies this same ideal. She knows that time and attention are two of the most valuable commodities one has to offer.