Creating ‘paradise’

Friday, May 24th, 2013

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By Gabrielle Gonzalez
Staff writer
219-326-3870, ext. 3870
[email protected]

La PORTE – With more than 30,000 different trees and varieties of flower species, Small’s Landscaping isn’t so small.

Originally established in La Porte, Small’s now conducts business at their massive nursery at 310 North 325 East in Valparaiso.

Landscape designer Becky Whitacre and her sister, Nancy Marshall, recently received a high honor for their implementation of an elaborate landscape for a home. They were awarded as Total Landscaping Care Magazine’s North American 2013 Landscaper of the Year.

Whitacre attended a landscape nursery program at Michigan State University, the only female in her class. Marshall, who served as president and project manager consultant, developed a knack for accounting when attending a local business school.

The family business was established in La Porte by their father, Walter Small, originally known as Small’s garden center. When the sisters took over the business, they took out the retail and gifts aspect to focus on creating exotic and unique garden scenes and established a name for themselves with their hard-surface lawn and pond backyards. They also work with waterscaping, custom containers, irrigation, outdoor kitchens and seasonal décor.

They have had booming business in landscaping and maintenance since they took over and moved to Valparaiso 13 years ago this fall.

“We think outside the box,” Whitacre said. “Our landscaping style is not flat but it is angulating, with rolling layers, and with color.

Small’s examines their canvas – the land they will use. Then they go back to the office to sketch and design the work for the client to review and add input. Clients also can visit their business to personally look at the products and plant that will be used in their design. At the next stage, the sisters have certain crews who perform tasks such as building waterfalls, as well as a gardening and a disassembling crew.

They landscape for the circumference of the home’s outside and also cater to designing for businesses and large commercial front and back yards.

“Landscaping is very personal,” Whitacre said. “We want to create our client’s paradise.”

Whitacre said great motivation is getting calls from clients who say they “love their yard” or say they “practically live in their backyard now.”

They have clients as near as Illinois, Michigan and Indiana and as far as Texas, Colorado and California.

Through any season, Whitacre said they will maintain or create any scenic landscape, making sure it is original and custom made.

Flowers and trees range from any annuals, perennials and native plants to tropical palm trees, Japanese maples and colorful magnolias. They specialize in ground and hanging pots, which they fill with colorful boutiques that flow over the rim of the bowl.

Winning the award earned them a cruise to Australia as well as a new Bobcat and added recognition in the landscaping business community.

They also received three awards by the state this year for residential landscaping, residential hard-scapes and commercial landscaping. The duo also received state recognition in 2008 and 2009.

For more information visit or call 219-476-7400.

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