Printouts add new dimension to landscaping

Debbie Meuser of Lake Frederick surveys her stone patio and fire pit that was designed and built by Prosperity Landscaping of Stephens City. Rich Cooley/Daily

The digital age has entered the landscaping business in Frederick County.

Sitting at his computer using a complicated software construction program, Brian Wismer carefully entered the measurements of a potential customer’s yard.

He creates 3-D images of walkways, fire pits, patios, waterfalls and pergolas along with appropriate flora for a complete landscaping design – sometimes populated with moving people images for perspective.

Wismer is president of Prosperity Landscaping on Front Royal Pike in Stephens City, and along with his brother Michael and Project Manager Brandon Hughes, says, “Our specialty is outdoor living spaces and the computer allows us to show an entire design concept.”

For the past two years, he has created “our hard niche” allowing the 20-employee company to show customers potential hardscaping – the building of concrete and stone structures incorporated into traditional landscapes.

Debbie Meuser walks outside her Lake Frederick home in front of her stone walkway designed and built by Prosperity Landscaping of Stephens City. Rich Cooley/Daily

Using colored computer printouts, he shows clients like Charles Warren, of Middletown, how to improve the look and utility of  2 acres surrounding Warren’s 7,000-square-foot log and stucco mountain lodge home.

“They show different views of what he proposes and helps us decide what to do,” said Warren, a retired Washington, D.C., lawyer. “The (printouts) show us what the bushes and flowers will look like full grown.”

A class A contractor, Wismer has been studying landscaping and the recent emergence of hardscaping technology ever since he graduated from high school 16 years ago.

Employees use hardened concrete paver stone, brick or block installation instead of poured concrete, which Wismer notes tends to crack over time.

The 2 1/2-times stronger concrete paver stone allows any unexpected replacement with the same color stone – all guaranteed not to settle for three years.

Lorenzo Zootez, a laborer for Prosperity Landscaping in Stephens City, prepares this yard in Lake Frederick for planting beds. Rich Cooley/Daily

“We build following the standards of the Interlocking Concrete Paving Institute,” Wismer said, ” by installing over gravel. It can last a lifetime if installed properly.”

The integration with flowers, bushes and trees can turn an unattractive grass yard into a neighborhood showpiece.

Debbie Meuser downsized to Lake Frederick from Winchester’s Oakdale Crossing last year to a much smaller backyard.

“We wanted to make the yard into something special but not have to slave in it every weekend,” said Meuser. Looking at printouts, they picked the type and color of stone for their patio and fire pit and “it looked fabulous,” she said.

The fire pit was used for the first time on a chilly March night and neighbors have gotten excited about the Meuser’s backyard.

“We have two neighbors who are now hiring Prosperity,” she said.

That pleases Wismer but also frustrates his sense of service. “There is always chaos around here before Easter and July 4th because people want projects done tomorrow when they need to have planned three months out. Once the weather improves, the phone starts ringing,” he lamented.

Rachel Payne, also of Lake Frederick, understands because she had to wait two months to get her fire pit built, but it was finally finished before this winter’s record snowstorm.

“My husband dug a path to the fire pit and we used it for the first time,” she said. “It was fun.”

Interest in hardscaping began to escalate when the economy soured between 2008-2010, Wismer said.

“People began thinking they would be stuck in their home for a longer time and began deciding to make their back yard something nice,” he said. “Home TV shows helped because people became more aware of what could be done,” he said.

With landscaping demonstrations at fall garden shows, like the one held this past March at the Apple Blossom Mall, the company generates interest, especially with examples of the 3-D images.

“We really listen to the customer and we are flexible,” said Wismer, often altering and tweaking plans to reflect a homeowner’s desires and sometimes making suggestions based on the more than 35 years of experience gained by Wismer and his team.

“We work to develop a complete design and then break costs down to see what is first wanted to be done,” he said. “Many times we come back and do more later that year or next.”

The Warren’s have been using Prosperity annually for the past five years and now boast a paved patio, garage stone steps, split rail fence and flowering garden beds.

“We have a steep slope behind the house that had brambles and bushes and didn’t look nice,” Warren said.

Prosperity cleared the area and used different rock sizes and shapes to cover the slope and planted holly and crepe myrtle trees.

“I can’t wait to see how they do,” said Warren.