We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelly Bull and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelly, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
My husband and I became first-time homeowners last year and buying a house felt like being sent home from the hospital with a newborn. All of a sudden, we became responsible for this house, which also means we are responsible for messing it up. I have so many questions about the plumbing, the electricity, the insulation (why is the wall 200 degrees in the summer when we are going to bed?). As a DIYer and generally competent person, I felt overwhelmed by my inexperience and ignorance. Each time I met a trustworthy specialist who was willing to hold my hand a bit and answer my million questions, I gained confidence, joy, and was filled with a deep sense of relief and gratitude.
It then dawned on me that I could be that trustworthy specialist for someone else. My knowledge, skills, and experience in gardening and landscape design, teamed up with my experience as an educator, could bring relief to other DIY-minded people overwhelmed by not knowing how to take care of their yards. I love teaching people how to transform their dry dirt patches into lush yet water-wise productive landscapes that are as good for them as they are for the planet!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I am a landscape designer and a garden coach with a particular niche. And I think the best way to explain what I do is to tell you how I got here. And It all begins with plants. I have always loved plants, ever since I was a little kid and it wasn’t until high school that I learned that my love for them was “unique” and that not all teenagers spend their time collecting new specimens for their pressed plant collections. Luckily, in my freshman year at the University of Georgia, I found my fellow plant nerds in the horticulture department. After amazing courses like “Greenhouse Management 101” and “Perennial Plant Id”, I took my bright and shiny horticulture degree off to a series of plant jobs, and like a horticultural Goldilocks, I tried this and that until I ended up just creating the right one.
I loved being a grower for a plant nursery but I hated that the plants were sprayed with toxic chemicals.
Working on an organic farm confirmed that you really do not need to use toxic chemicals to grow healthy plants. But man is it a lot of work and even my strong 20 something back was not in it for the long haul. So I moved to Nantucket where I gardened for people with seemingly unlimited budgets. Although they were gorgeous, it all felt rather empty because the gardens didn’t really DO anything and were only for show. I then traveled to New Zealand, trading gardening help for room and board. I found a wonderful family with a fabulous garden that was my perfect horticultural Goldilocks porridge. Grown organically, didn’t take all that much work, and in addition to being beautiful, it also produced tons of food, flowers, wildlife habitat, a place to relax and hang out in nature.
They had created what seemed like a Willy Wonka edible forest. Instead of tidy little rows of vegetables, imagine a meandering pathway that weaves between fruit trees. Beneath the protective canopy of the fruit trees, there might be a berry bush or a tomato plant, with a patch of spinach beneath it, and next to it rosemary, and besides that a lavender and spreading below that are strawberries. Layers of edible and beautiful surprises.
This garden had been modeled after a forest ecosystem. By growing multiple layers of diverse plants, like a forest, they support each other and grow stronger together than they would alone. The plants then feed and house birds and pollinators and beneficial wildlife that all end up taking care of each other so that YOU become just a part of nature and a piece of the system, rather than trying to be the ringleader, always trying to control nature and inevitably fighting against it. The family designed the garden using permaculture principles. I began studying and learning more about permaculture then took a course to become a certified permaculture designer.
Last June, my husband and I moved to Colorado Springs and as we drove around shopping for houses, I saw yard after yard, just perfect for transitioning to these highly productive yet low-maintenance food forests: Lawns that use a lot of water but look like no one is using them, neglected dirt patches, and weedy lots that I’m sure feel like an embarrassment or a burden to the people living there. What if all these underutilized yards were growing food and flowers, sequestering carbon, cooling temperatures with shade, feeding the birds, and supporting our pollinators that are struggling these days? What if people got to connect with nature just by walking out their backdoors?
So, I set up my landscape design and garden coaching business to start helping eco-conscious and DIY-minded homeowners learn how to get the most out of their yards with the least amount of work. I really want everyone to love gardening as much as I do and I think food forests are the wave of the future and that everyone should have one!
So, if you are sitting there doubting your gardening abilities, I promise, with a good holistic design that treats your yard like an ecosystem and a few training sessions to help build your confidence, I can turn yard work from a hassle into a hobby for anyone.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The first stop on our tour would be the Garden of the Gods for a hike. The natural beauty of this park is amazing and there is a range of difficulties in the trails that make it suitable for anyone who comes to visit. For lunch, we’ll gain back all the calories we just worked off by eating fried chicken at The Angry Chicken. Their fried chicken is delicious and gluten-free! Next, we would hop on some bikes and explore the great bike paths crossing all around Colorado Springs. We would end our bike tour downtown for dinner at Springs Orleans where we’ll feast on their delicious gumbo.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I owe a big shoutout to 3 very influential women in my life, my mom, and my two grandmothers. They each had a special hand in sowing the seed that grew into my love of gardening and my passion for plants. I’d also like to give a shoutout to my dad who worked hard to start his own business and demonstrated what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Both my parents instilled in me a love and respect for nature as well as an appreciation for art and creativity, and I feel fortunate to be able to use these values in my business.
Finally, a special shoutout to my husband who has offered an endless amount of support and encouragement (not to mention graciously doing a lot of my grunt work!) throughout the process of launching my dream into fruition.