BY SHALEEN DESTEFANO
Born and raised in Denver, Alicia Bell is a fourth generation plant and landscape creator. Her passion for horticulture, sustainability and low-water landscape design, caught our attention years ago. She generously sat down with us to discuss her process for inventing new spaces, and curating unique styles, all with sustainability and water conservation in mind.
My father opened small greenhouse on South Broadway where my parents eventually met in the late 70’s. Together they created a residential landscape design/build company in 1985 serving the Denver metro area. At a young age I developed an interest in plants and learned how to grow fruits, flowers, and veggies at home. Each Spring I saw the enthusiasm in my father’s business (HomeStyle Landscaping) to see the designs come to life. I am grateful to have worked within the family business prior to receiving my education for Landscape Design. There are many facets and concentrations in the industry and I also have experience in: property maintenance, garden center/nursery management, floral installation, outdoor kitchen design, and patio furniture & décor.
You specialize in sustainable landscaping. Is the focus low maintenance and low water?
My passion for sustainable landscape design centers around water-saving practices. I work with a plant palette that thrives on the front range. Most of these species require less water and tolerate varying weather events (example: hail!) we experience during the growing seasons. Ornamental grasses are unique option for their beauty and texture with little water and maintenance required. I have many favorite plants that are reliable and tend to show vibrancy and strength in late summer at a time when many species are showing signs of fatigue.
Irrigation technology is very important in my work as a Landscape Designer in Colorado. I annually update my learning in water-saving technology for Clients and Homeowners. My favorite method of irrigation originated in the Middle East around 1948 (Source: https://www.dripworks.com/blog/drip-tubing-and-the-history-of-drip-irrigation) utilizing small subsurface pipes to direct water to plant root zones, now called drip irrigation. This method slows water distribution for maximum water absorption with less surface evaporation compared to other systems. Smart controllers are also becoming more advanced and user-friendly.
When someone makes the switch from a lawn to xeriscape, how big of an impact can be made for the environment?
The impact of converting a bluegrass lawn to a xeriscape provides a number of benefits. The Executive Director of Plant Select suggests “Xeriscapes save 2/3 the amount of water that a Bluegrass lawn requires.” Japanese Beetles have become an increasing challenge in our environment, and removing lawns reduces the opportunity for Japanese beetle to reside in the turf over winter. As a designer, the opportunity to replace lawn with various colors/textures to improve the winter aesthetic/interest and overall plant diversity is creative work. Developing outdoor space can become a surprising journey of repurposing underutilized areas with greater ingenuity.
I begin with an Onsite Consultation to walk the landscape, hear a Client’s goals and problem solve with design ideas. This meeting is informative and leaves us with a good understanding of what will be necessary for the project. I will put together a Design Proposal that is unique to the level of detail needed for installation. The Design Process includes three phases of design to arrive with a Landscape Plan that accomplishes the client’s objectives with artistry.
What other services do you provide beyond landscape design?
The services I offer in addition to Landscape Design include: Project Installation Oversight, Furniture & Décor Consultations, Sculpture selection and endless inspiration and ideas for future projects.
What changes would you hope to see for the future of Colorado landscapes?
Water conservation for our high plains region – without question.
How do you see your business evolving in the future?
The future of Alicia Bell Design LLC is an exciting topic! I have a healthy passion for Colorado soil, product/material improvements, growing contractor relationships, and the desire to see my work after years of establishment. My grandmother lived to 106… I plan to be around for a while.
When you’re not working, how do you spend your free time?
I am typically active in the outdoors and annually migrate to an island in Mexico for scuba diving. Painting and drawing are my winter pastimes – I am an artist at my core. Lastly, I will be forever learning Spanish and have become a volunteer for ESL (English as a Second Language) courses locally.
We appreciate your wisdom and mission to create more environmentally thoughtful outdoor spaces, Alicia. If you would like to learn more about her services, visit aliciabelldesign.com.