- people on the move
Local lawn and landscape business gets colorful
Husband-and-wife-owned venture adds ‘seasonal color’ as company’s fourth division.
While driving around West Michigan, Ryan and Nikki Riebel noticed a pattern of clashing flower colors and poor plant symmetry in outdoor planters at local businesses and homes.
The problem wasn’t something they planned to address at the time. Their 10 or so employees were already busy with landscape design, lawn care and landscape management, and snow and ice management services year-round at the company Ryan Riebel founded in 2006, RRR Lawn and Landscape, 6757 Cascade Road SE.
But when a client on the lakeshore approached Nikki Riebel — RRR operations manager — explaining the “large conglomerate” she had hired to manage her flower displays was doing a boring job of it, the Riebels decided to find out if they could do better.
“We said that’s something we could handle,” Nikki Riebel said. “Ryan jumped in with this idea, and we started traveling, touring and learning. We got connected with a Proven Winners rep at Four Star Greenhouse (in Carlton), and she started assisting us with literature, things to learn about and products and plants.”
Proven Winners is a plant propagating company that sells plants in North America through local retail centers such as Four Star Greenhouse.
The Riebels didn’t know much about flower installations, so they started with the basics using literature from Proven Winners.
Each year, Proven Winners releases a spiral-bound book that shows all of the breeds and varieties it will offer for each season.
The Riebels used the manual to learn about plants’ color, size, habitat, sun and shade requirements, and the “endless” combinations and variegations offered.
Besides the spiral-bound edition for professionals, Proven Winners also publishes a smaller viewbook that is more client-friendly, called “The Gardener’s Idea Book.” It shows the Recipes of the Year based on the Pantone Color of the Year. The 2018 color is Ultraviolet, so the 2018 viewbook displays recipes for each season’s installations, which contain “Supertunias” in various shades of purple.
The Riebels determined those books would be a starting point for what they would offer in their seasonal color division, which they launched last year.
“What we started doing to be different and stand out is custom building and designing,” Nikki Riebel said. “If someone sees the Recipe of the Year and wants it, great, fine. But not everybody wants that, so we custom build.”
That includes working with customers to help them determine if they want plants in the ground or in planters, if they want to buy the planters from RRR Lawn and Landscape or use their own and where the flowers will be placed on the property — in the sun, shade or a combination of both.
Nikki Riebel also encourages clients to determine what the purpose of the installation will be — is it to create a focal point for an entryway? Brighten up a pool area? Enhance a view from far away?
“We determine what plants can be chosen,” she said, “and start to lay it out. Say a client says, ‘I love magenta.’ So, we use magenta as the base and add yellow, etc. — colors and textures that go together.”
Nikki Riebel is head of the seasonal color division now and said the demand since last year has grown exponentially. Most of it is coming from middle- to high-income residential customers, but they have a few commercial clients, as well.
Ryan Riebel said the flower installations offer almost instant gratification.
“It’s like having no lawn at all, then putting sod in. You have nothing; then it’s gorgeous.”
He said if a client wants “color to be strong” for a graduation party happening two weeks from now, they plan ahead and install the flowers now, so they can fill out in time for the party.
Nikki Riebel said she orders the plants in January or February for the whole year, then schedules three installation days for spring, summer and fall for each client.
The long lead time means prospective clients should plan to contact RRR in the fall to set up a consultation for the following year.
The installations are done all in one day, including the swapping out of plants from one season to the next.
“You remove the plants, do a soil amendment if it’s needed, fertilize and add the new plants,” Nikki Riebel said. “And between seasons, the clients receive monthly visits. While they are required to water, we come and deadhead, prune and fertilize to keep them going. All of our current customers have taken advantage of those services.”
Ryan Riebel said their goal is to make the seasonal color package more affordable as time goes on.
“I would like to, over time, be competitively priced enough that anyone can get seasonal color services,” he said. “We’re open to work with anyone. We can do one or two pots, a plethora of pots and travel to your cottage or your home.”
The business does not currently have a price list for seasonal color installations, as it depends on the cost of plants, number of planters or beds and other factors.
“Every installation is 100 percent custom,” Nikki Riebel said. “We look at planters, measure openings, meet with the client to find out what plants and colors they like, and based upon the sun or shade, it varies on what plants you can choose.
“Then I’ll go through selections and price each one out. I enter it into our computer system, then we send an estimate by email.”
Each season is priced separately. Summer is the most expensive, followed by spring, fall and winter.
RRR’s landscape division serves Ada, Forest Hills, Cascade, East Grand Rapids, Caledonia, some of Lowell, Rockford, Grandville, Spring Lake, Grand Haven, Holland, Middleville and Hastings.
Its lawn care division serves Ada, Forest Hills, Cascade, East Grand Rapids, Caledonia and Lowell.