Enhancing the Beauty of the High Desert Landscape
“We take the canvas of your property and enhance it in an unpretentious way. Our goal is to have you say, ‘This is my little piece of the world that I get to enjoy.’”
Landscape designer Kevin Zachary is a true craftsman. His interpretation of the natural world is equally as poetic as it is scientific. His Bend-based company, Earth Designs, creates environments that enhance the beauty of the high desert landscape. That creativity takes shape as Zachary’s team recreates the native pristine forests, mountain views, and lakes around Bend.
“We take the canvas of your property and enhance it in an unpretentious way. Our goal is to have you say, ‘This is my little piece of the world that I get to enjoy.’ We enhance the landscape to be something that you’ll never get tired of looking at,” says Zachary.
Zachary gets his inspiration from hiking and camping. “My eyes are always on nature,” he says. “I want to recreate that. How the water’s moving. A tree hanging out into the water. A log leaning into the water. A rock outcropping. All my inspiration comes from how things are in the natural world. I’m out there looking all the time and recreating what exists in the native landscape. Naturally created landscapes are the best teachers. You can’t learn that level of creation from a book.”
Earth Designs also celebrates the science of landscape design. As Zachary explains, “With the change of seasons, water features become ice sculptures. Boulders get piled with snow. Then in the spring and fall we see different colors. It creates a lot of drama, all stemming from our environment.”
“We may move a boulder a few times to get the exact feel I’m trying to create. You can lose perspective if you just work from the outside. I am constantly thinking, ‘What will it look like from inside?’”
Serenity and peace are at the forefront of Earth Designs’ work. A sense of place is created as Zachary interprets the natural world and translates it on a more relatable scale for his projects. As an artist, his design palette includes moss- and lichen-covered basalt boulders, native grasses and vegetation, mindfully-placed lighting, and water.
Earth Designs is known for its water features. Zachary estimates that 90 percent of their jobs involve at least one water feature. He says, “In the high desert, water is huge in the landscape. It is premium and we don’t want to waste it. It is scarce and is a very valuable resource. It’s always a centerpiece that delivers sight and sound. Once we’ve installed a water feature, from a sustainability standpoint, we’re filtering and reusing the water. We don’t use additional water except for evaporation.”
Earth Designs’ style is simple but elegant. Their goal is to try to keep their work as close to native topographic elements in a miniature form as possible. Zachary says, “What’s been created in our environment naturally is usually much simpler than what we try to make it. When you go to the nursery, it’s almost overwhelming. Having one of everything translates to poor design. Instead, I might use six or seven different species. It helps define the sense of place and make our environments more understandable. Bend is so much about outdoor living. Our goal is to blend native species into the more formal landscape.”
Earth Designs balances composition and texture with perspective. “I know what I want something to look like,” says Zachary. “We may move a boulder a few times to get the exact feel I’m trying to create. I always want to go inside the home. You can lose perspective if you just work from the outside. I am constantly thinking, ‘What will it look like from inside? Will what I’m placing enhance or block a view?’ We then build on that.”
Earth Designs is a full-service firm that designs and installs. Plans can be interpreted in many ways, even with simple designs. Questions come up during execution that are best answered by the design team, which is why Earth Designs works from design to completion, including lighting.
Lighting is a very important element in Zachary’s work. “We have to be careful that we’re not interrupting the night sky by shooting light straight up. Instead of a runway of lights down the driveway, we might light up a boulder, a pine tree, a berm with a special specimen plant. Our goal of lighting is to enhance natural features or features we’ve added.”
“Landscape is very visual. It’s out there for the world to see. I’ve been able to live my passion.”
Earth Designs celebrates nature’s creation through form and function. That same equilibrium extends to the business side of the company. Zachary says, “We don’t look at clients as projects that we check off and say, ‘We’re done.’ We have a maintenance business, so our relationship goes on.”
“We have clients whom we’ve had for 25+ years so they’re like our family. We are a very personal business. My son, Josiah, and my son-in-law, Chad, both work with me and are dialed in to that concept for our clients. My wife, Cheryl, and my daughter, Kerah, are both very involved and manage our bookkeeping. With our world of internet and texting and emails, people really appreciate personal connection. To that end, we also always respect our clients’ privacy and make sure they trust us because we really do care. Clients come to us and say, ‘This is your craft, your art, and the only thing that matters is that we don’t block the view or that we have an outdoor living space. Just be creative.’”
Earth Designs has been in business for 40 years. As Zachary reflects, “Landscape is very visual. It’s out there for the world to see. I’ve been able to live my passion. I don’t go to work and say, ‘Here we go.’ Instead, I have the privilege of gathering my team and saying, ‘Look what we get to do today.’”