Benjamin Lewis is the president of Browder-Hite, Inc., a full-service landscaping company in Exmore, Virginia.
How did you get started in the industry?
I do not have a formal background in horticulture; my graduate degree is in a completely unrelated field! Out of all my siblings, I was the one who most enjoyed gardening and horticulture. I started my business after grad school as a way to move closer to my grandmothers and also purchase my first home. That was 18 years, and a lot of “degrees” in the School of Hard Knocks, ago.
What did you think of our inaugural issue?
To be frank, I’ve become tired of the advert heavy, 100 calorie business tip style magazines that seem to be the standard. While I’ve received (and implemented), advice found in these publications, Pro Landscaper is a breath of fresh air. I love how you cover people. Additionally, I’m very happy to see a publication focus on the South and where I do business.
What are the biggest trends in outdoor living right now?
Owners want to get the most out of their gardens. Gone are the days of rows of shrubbery in front, boring lawn in the back and, perhaps, a small concrete patio off the back porch. Today’s homeowners (and intuitive commercial building owners), want to maximize their investment with vibrant, strong plant material that requires minimal maintenance, thoughtful and purposeful hardscapes that offer multiple seasons of enjoyment and irrigation systems that are efficient and easy to use. High quality and well-placed LED landscape lighting is the most underused and misunderstood component of modern landscaping.
Neutral or colorful?
I tend to steer more towards neutral schemes when designing. Deep green, white and tan/brown tend to be my unconscious bias.
What has been your biggest personal/professional challenge?
Shepherding and successfully expanding a growing business in a sector in which I had no formal training. I’m always in a posture of learning and keeping an open eye for innovations, ideas or improvements Browder Hite (and I) can use.
What is the biggest challenge facing the industry?
Finding, training and retaining skilled and loyal employees who see and value the landscape industry as a viable and honorable profession.
What’s your favorite plant or flower?
Magnolia, hydrangea macrophylla, heuchera and tulips are my favorite tree, woody shrub, perennial and annual, respectively.