Makeover of a Courtyard
And How a Woman's Passion for Landscaping Evolved into a Successful Business
Michael Miyamoto, LC/DBM
Photos: Mary Liljequist
When the owners of a townhouse in Raleigh, N.C., wanted to revamp their backyard with more of a Southern flair, they gave Mary Liljequist, owner of Earthly Delights Landscape Design oversight of all phases of the project. She was the construction administrator for the project.
"The clients had wanted to transform their existing backyard with a small patio to a New Orleans style courtyard," Liljequist said, after they had moved from Louisiana to North Carolina. "The homeowners enjoyed gourmet cooking and fine wines and wanted a place for entertaining friends. They also wanted a quiet, private retreat where they could relax at the end of the day. Their wish list included a fountain and planters."
Most of the backyard was dirt, except for a small concrete patio and a narrow walkway, so there wasn't much that had to be demolished and hauled away.
Mac Masonry, of Fuquay-Varina, N.C., was the hardscape contractor, and its workers graded the site, poured concrete into the 30' x 23' space in the backyard, constructed a raised brick planter box, placed bullnose caps on top of the brickwork, and also installed a brick fountain.
Southern Lights, a lighting contractor from Raleigh, installed path lights in the planter box, underwater lights in the fountain and a transformer.
Liljequist incorporated plants with a tropical feel into the planter box.
The existing brick was no longer manufactured, so careful attention was paid to finding bricks that matched those in the privacy walls as closely as possible.
"The masonry contractor went to great lengths to find brick that strongly resembled the existing obsolete brick," Liljequist said. "Every element of the project was carefully analyzed before selection was made, from the fountain mask, to the tile, to the faucet handles."
Liljequist's clients live in a neighborhood called Meredith Townes, and the homes were constructed in the 1970s. This led to some challenges in the construction of the courtyard. The original oversized brick used on the walls on either side of the courtyard were no longer being produced. Due to the age of the walls, attaching structures was not permitted. Other challenges included relocating the HVAC unit and the utility boxes.
It took eight months to complete this project.
Lucrative Second Career Started With Education
When a tornado extensively damaged Mary Liljequist's home in Raleigh, N.C., in 1988, it led her to embark on an entirely new -- and very different -- career path.
First, she signed up for a landscaping class through a continuing education program at nearby Wake Technical Community College. That piqued her interest in the field, so she signed up for and completed part two of the class. Long before this, she was already disenchanted with her day job in the pharmaceutical industry. Even though she was paid well, the job just wasn't satisfying to her.
So when her employer downsized, Liljequist jumped at the chance to switch careers. She took her severance pay, returned to school full-time and earned an associate of applied science degree in landscape technology. She was 40 years old at the time and wanted to tackle something that involved more creativity and imagination.
As she put it, "I took a leap."
Liljequist began her career in the landscaping industry in March 1996. She held positions with a major landscape contractor in Apex, N.C., and then a leading landscape firm in Raleigh. She created Earthly Delights Landscape Design, also in Raleigh, in March 2003.
Liljequist specializes in high-end residences and is the contract administrator on all her projects. She also believes in going the extra mile for all of her clients.
"I visit my completed projects from months to years after installation," she said. "I tell my clients that they 'get me for life.' On these visits, I check the growth and health of plants, check that hardscape elements are holding up, and take photographs for my portfolio and marketing purposes."
Degree Programs at Community Colleges
For anyone interested in following Liljequist's lead, community and junior colleges offer all sorts of two-year associate in applied science degrees in horticulture and landscaping pursuits, including the schools and programs listed below:
o Almanac Community College, Graham, N.C., horticulture technology.
o Central Lakes College, Brainerd, Minn., horticulture and landscape technology.
o Chemeketa Community College, Salem, Ore., horticulture.
o Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Cincinnati, Ohio, landscape horticulture.
o College of Marin, Kentfield, Calif., environmental landscaping.
o First Coast Technical College, St. Augustine, Fla., landscape and turf management.
o Front Range Community College, Westminster, Colo., horticulture and landscape design.
o Houston Community College, Houston, Texas, horticulture.
o Eastern Oklahoma State College, Wilburton, Okla., horticulture.