Before & After - Not Just A Garden Center

By+Kelli Stopczynski, Photos by David Hubler

When we build or remodel a home, a lot of thought goes into architectural plans and interior design. We want to maximize the space while retaining a stylish, yet functional atmosphere. In the same way we customize cabinets and flooring inside our homes, you can customize sidewalks, decks, landscaping, waterfalls and yes, even fire pits on the outside.

Mishawaka-based landscaping company Not Just a Garden Center does just that. Owner Brett Parks recently transformed his back yard into a custom-designed haven for entertaining. The Granger home already had an in-ground pool surrounded by concrete and a privacy fence, but Parks wanted to add features that made the space uniquely his own.

Parks, 26, opened his business 7 years ago after graduating from Penn High School. A self-taught landscape artist who tackles low voltage electrical wiring alongside the design and construction of outdoor structures, he’s also a stickler for getting it right.

“The quality of my work is my biggest promise to customers.  Every job is treated as if it were my own,” Parks explained.  I’ve actually been asked to cut corners in the past and I’ve turned jobs down because I wouldn’t do it.”

Parks also takes pride in his price point. 

“We’re a smaller operation. We have to take care of our customers, and part of that means making sure we’re affordable for everyone.”

His outdoor space includes a custom-built pergola – an arbor of horizontal trelliswork supported by posts. Parks designed the cedar structure then hand cut and assembled each piece of wood. Aside from recessed lighting inside the pergola, he also installed an all-weather iPod dock and outdoor speakers.

Parks said the most exciting part of the space is the fire pit he            custom designed. 

“It is truly one-of-a-kind,” he said. “It represents two factors I always consider when I begin new projects – convenience and entertainment.”

The pit has unique features that can operate simultaneously. It’s functional because water and fire nozzles (designed for outdoor water fountains) put on an incredible aesthetic show while the gas fire feature gives off ample heat on chilly evenings.   

Perhaps the most calming feature of the outdoor space is the custom-built pondless waterfall near the pool. Water appears to effortlessly flow out of a rock formation then disappears into a bed of rocks more than a foot below. At night, LED lights at the top of the waterfall compliment the soothing sound of the water. What’s more, the entire function can be turned on or off with the convenient flip of a switch.

Another focal point of the project is a patio area Parks designed, cut and laid into formation. His inspiration for the round shape of the patio came from the hot tub that used to sit in the space.

From the shed Parks built over the existing pool pump to match the exterior of the home to the tailor-made stone area (featuring outdoor countertops and all-weather electrical outlets) for a massive grill, he left no detail unattended…including the plants and trees he brought in to complete the landscaping part of the project.

“What we do for customers is bring them into our nursery, show them plants and flowers, then let them choose what they want to be in their space,” he explained. “It allows us to guide them through the process and make sure they’re getting what they want.”

Plants, shrubs and flowers aren’t the only garden necessities you’ll find at Not Just a Garden Center.  The company also has a wide variety of pond supplies, mulch, patio pavers and just about anything else you might need to complete your outdoor space.

No project is too big or too small for Parks and his crew.  But they stand behind the commitment that every job will be done right and done well the first time.