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nature by design
Story by Susan O'Connor, Photo by Courtney Fitzwater

When Todd Smith of Harmony Gardens designs a landscape, nature is his inspiration. He is a businessman with a definite creative side, a musician with an affinity for the outdoors.

“Most of the materials I design with are a part of nature, so observing how these elements occur in a natural setting and then trying to recreate that really sparks a lot of creative ideas.”

Smith left for New York City in 1990 shortly after graduation from Jonesboro High School to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, a college conservatory for the performing arts. After a year in the program, Smith returned to Jonesboro and studied biology for two years at Arkansas State University.

Not quite sure if biology was the right path, he joined the U.S. Navy and spent five years as a corpsman in San Diego. He was also still playing music and took classes in recording engineering. After his Naval service was completed in 2001, he returned home and completed a bachelor’s degree in plant science from ASU, and the idea for a landscaping business began to germinate. He began attending trade shows to learn the latest trends in the business.

“It’s really a perfect fit for me,” he said of his business. “The balance between creativity, business and taking care of people all fits.”

His business philosophy, he added, is all about taking care of his customers, as well as his employees.”

“I want to provide the highest quality product at an affordable price, done with down home customer service. I want people to know that Todd is a guy you can trust. That’s who I am — that’s who my family is. If I can’t make a dollar doing business this way, then I won’t make a dollar.”

Smith is currently adding water elements, such as a Koi pond, to the Harmony Gardens grounds. He said he wants to create a beautiful destination that will inspire landscaping ideas.

“I want this to be a five-star nursery,” he said. “Our expectations for ourselves are high. If we can stay progressive and hip, be on top of the industry and take care of our customers at the same time, we will have succeeded.”
Harmony Gardens is a Certified Green Builder, and is licensed and bonded with the state plant board. They offer all elements of notable environments such as construction and installation of terraces, patios, decks, arbors, walkways, driveways, pillars, fences, water features, landscape lighting, irrigation systems, site grading, hydroseeding and pavers, such as stamped concrete and stone work.

“People have worked hard and saved their money and they are entrusting their money to me to make that refuge for them — that place to escape and relax. I take that very seriously.”

What are some new takes on outdoor living spaces? The idea is to create a seamless transition from the inside of the home to the outdoor entertaining areas, and then to create a natural flow from one outdoor space to the next, while creating great views of each area from the others. Some of the new elements we are using in our designs are moving water for sight and sound, outdoor lighting to soften and/or highlight focal points, fireplaces to create that cozy feeling, outdoor kitchens to allow dining with friends and family, fire pits — those make for great conversation areas, and Koi ponds, very tranquil and relaxing.

You’ve said you love to incorporate water features into your designs. What has been your most challenging project to date? We have built several waterfalls and Koi ponds on our property at Harmony Gardens. I think they were the most difficult because I really wanted them to be perfect so people would begin to feel how relaxing a water feature can be. We need that today. The most challenging of all would be the Harmony Gardens sign. I designed the sign and used natural stone, fire and moving water to show how well these elements work together.

What is the toughest thing about running your own business? Getting the word out to customers that Harmony Gardens puts its customers and employees first. I am blessed to have the team that I have here, and I really want our customers to know that we are here to serve them and their needs.

What is the last CD you bought? Ray LaMontagne/Trouble. This guy has a beautiful soul! Wow!

What is your favorite spot in the world for R&R? Breckenridge, Colorado.