Fredell’s business grows with xeriscaping

Landscape designer Sherry South started working last year with Paul Fredell, who owns Fredell Enterprises, which is doing more xeriscaping.

Fredell Enterprises, Inc.

2929 Prospect St., Suite 105

Founded: 1984

Employees: 25-30

Website: coloradolandscapedesign.com

Even though it’s the first thing people see when they look at a house, landscaping is often the last thing they budget for.

“It’s like buying a Mercedes and deciding not to have them paint it,” said Paul Fredell, who runs landscaping company Fredell Enterprises.

Fredell started his company in Colorado Springs in 1984. He and his three brothers were spread throughout the country, living in different states. They decided to come together and make Colorado Springs their home.

“We’d lived in Colorado before and we liked it,” Fredell said.

They knew they wanted to start a business together, but they weren’t sure what they were going to do. So they generically named the company Fredell Enterprises Inc.

“We were going to build houses or — or — or — or,” he said.

Fredell studied forestry and business in college, so landscaping seemed like a natural fit for him. Today, he and his brother’s brother-in-law, David Smith, own the company together. They have 25 to 30 full time employees during the busy summer season and a few who work year-round.

They grew the revenue from $160,000 in 1984 as much as $3 million now, depending on the season, Fredell said.

Landscaping is Fredell’s passion.

“The most important thing is the first impression,” he said. “You can have the most beautiful house in the neighborhood on the inside, but if no one gets past the front door, they’ll never know.”

He said he has to sell people on his work three times — first to the homeowner, then to the friends and family who will be his next clients and a third time when the “for sale” sign goes up again.

Landscaping, if done correctly, should account for 5 to 10 percent of the cost of a new home, which would be $20,000 to $40,000 for a $400,000 house, according to industry standards, Fredell said. But so many people forget to budget for a beautiful outdoors.

It was frustrating when Fredell Enterprises was doing more new home landscapes. These days, most of the work comes from people who want to make a change.

And those changes are increasingly including low-water and low-maintenance options.

Xeriscaping, a term invented by the Denver water board just a few years before Fredell started his business in 1984, now accounts for 40 to 50 percent of his work.

The term combines the Greek prefix xeros, meaning dry, with the word landscape.

“But it’s not just rocks and cactus,” said Sherry South, a young landscape designer Fredell hired last year.

Xeriscaping can be beautiful and even lush, she said.

Scott Winter, the lead water conservation specialist for Colorado Springs Utilities, said there is an astounding variety of plants that fit into local xeriscapes.

“Xeriscaping is more a set of horticultural principles than a certain gardening style,” he said. “The main thing is choosing adaptable plants suited to the climate and the soil conditions.”

Winter works at the Colorado Springs Utilities Resource Conservation Center at 2855 Mesa Road. The center features a large xeriscape garden overlooking the Garden of the Gods that includes everything from native grasses and cactus that need no water to deer-resistant and low-water herbs to rose shrubs and turf grass.

He said xeriscaping has grown in popularity and the garden sees about 20,000 visitors a year, with many stopping in to ask questions.

“It’s not as limiting as people think it is,” Winter said.

Susan and Gene Shannon knew when they embarked on a landscaping project with Fredell that they wanted to xeriscape.

They bought a nice home in an established neighborhood on the north end of town two years ago and it was covered in railroad ties to manage the dramatic slopes.

“It was horrible,” Susan said. “To have such a nice piece of property — we knew when we bought that we were going to do this.”

The half-acre lot now features flowing lines and rock walls, natural paths, a grassy area where the Shannon’s grandchildren can play when they visit and a pavestone patio in the front and the back of the house.

“We wanted it to be a place where people could come to find peace and calm and relaxation and that ahhh,” Susan said. “And that’s what it is.”

There are some flowering plants in the yard and a wide range of elements that produce that “ahhh” feeling. The space does need some water, but not much.

The Shannons are happy with their water bill, which is about $160 a month — not bad for a big house with lots of family coming and going and half an acre to maintain.

They were referred to Fredell by a friend. And that’s how he always used to get 90 percent of his business. But Fredell said he gets a larger percentage from his website, which is the first to appear under searches for xeriscaping in Colorado Springs.

“What I liked about it was that Paul’s the owner,” Susan said. “But he comes and sits down and worked with us and helped design it.”