By Bernie Schmitt
Landscapes by Dallas Foster, Inc. a regional landscape design company located just north of Vincennes, is celebrating its 40th anniversary creating in each project what its owner calls “a portrait in nature.”
Dallas Foster is a landscape artist who began his own business humbly in 1979 with a used pickup truck, a used wheelbarrow, and other tools. He decided early on to “design with nature.”
“My customers loved it,” he said.
Now, years later, Foster’s reputation for quality work is widely known. In addition to local customers, Landscapes by Dallas Foster, Inc. has spread throughout southern Indiana, mostly to the Jasper and Evansville areas (it has a maintenance facility in Evansville), and reaches into northern Kentucky and eastern Illinois. It has developed a reputation in Louisville, Ky., as well, and Foster said the company is working on new botanical gardens planned along the riverfront there.
The company’s focus is to design and install landscapes, but it also helps maintain them. Every landscape is unique, designed to satisfy customer needs and wants. And while the company has 30-plus employees, it is the designer, Dallas Foster, who determines where each plant, shrub, tree, or rock is placed.
The Dallas Foster look
“If people know landscapes, people know they want that look, the Dallas Foster look,” said Garth Whewell, the company’s office and business manager.
That look is what Foster calls a “naturalistic style,” one that blends good design with nature. An expert on different plant varieties and what they do, he knows how to create a landscape that will stay beautiful in all seasons.
“I learned about satisfying the intent of the customer,” Foster says. “Our landscapes help make family outdoor time better, and we try to have them reflect the customer’s personality.”
Foster meets personally with his customers, and gets to know them and their needs. He begins thinking about designs for his clients upon first arriving at the property, and then consults with customers before ground is broke for a project. Upon evaluating the property and its space, Foster works to determine the customer’s goals so that the landscape is personalized.
“I have an eye for placement,” he said. “I apply that to natural plants and natural stone, to create beautiful views and nice outdoor living areas. It’s a natural artistic approach.”
Foster’s philosophy is to try to stir the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. He said he tries to incorporate elements of design in an unpredictable way, the way nature does.
“We’re very much on-site designers,” he said. “We blend our ideas and talents into the existing space and the style of the home and surrounding landscape.”
Landscapes by Dallas Foster, Inc. uses natural water features, stone outcroppings, exposed bedrock, and architectural accent pieces into individual designs. This allows Foster to cater to individual tastes and needs. The company also offers a routine maintenance program that will help keep the designs looking good over time.
“Sometimes we fall in love with our projects,” Foster said. “You develop a bond with a project and the property owner. We create a portrait in nature for them, using living things to paint. Artists fall in love with their paintings, and we do the same.”
When a customer doesn’t have a preference for a landscape design, it provides Foster with a blank canvas.
“That’s when I can open up as an artist and use my talents and plant knowledge to create a nice design,” he said. “But we’ll still bring the customer into it, even if they have no idea what they want.”
Emotions play a role
A person’s feelings and emotions are just as important to a landscape design as trees and shrubs, something Foster said he learned when he and his wife, Susan, planned the landscaping for their home in Vincennes.
“She is a full partner with me, and has a strong business sense as well as a good eye for design,” Foster said. “We surround ourselves with good employees who have the same vision.”
Those employees are long-lasting. Several have been with the company beyond 15 years, with some having been with Foster for 25 or more years. In fact, the third person Foster hired after starting out years ago is still with the company.
A native of northern Indiana, Dallas Foster earned a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University, studying landscape design. He grew up on a farm and was always outdoors, enjoying wildlife, nature and plants. His mother was an educator, he said, and made sure her children went to college. Purdue was the closest.
‘Bloom where you are planted’
“I kind of stumbled into this,” he said of landscape design. “In school I figured out I had some artistic talent, but when I started at Purdue I studied wildlife science and forestry. I changed when I discovered the landscape design program.”
He arrived in Vincennes because he got a job working for Bob Forbes, at Forbes Greenhouse and Nursery. Four years later, when Forbes died and the business was closed, Foster started his own business. He has been here ever since.
“I guess I followed what I heard when I was younger, and that is to ‘bloom where you are planted,’” he said.
His passion for landscape design has not waned in 40 years, and Dallas Foster intends to exercise his creativity in designing landscapes for years to come. He has no plans to retire.
“I see the business going on for many more years,” he said. “I intend to keep going, too. I don’t see any reason to stop. I guess if I’m ever unable to do it I’ll have to gradually slow down.
“I’m still on site a lot,” he continued. “I arrange all plants personally.”
One of his daughters, he said, is in the business, and the company has multiple crews, always working on four to six projects. That, along with a strong office staff, will continue to allow Landscapes by Dallas Foster, Inc. to grow and prosper well into the future.
“We have a good reputation for quality and we stand behind what we do,” Foster said. “I have a passion for beautiful landscaping. We believe in what we do and we work hard at it.”