Testimonials


Client: Richard Vandervoort

August 2014

Our beautiful canyon garden was the subject of a ten-page photo-feature article in the August 2015 SAN DIEGO HOME/GARDEN LIFESTYLE magazine. Needless to say, we LOVE our backyard garden.

Columbine Landscape, Inc.'s Mark Sterk, Emilio Gutierrez, Nicolas Shellhammer and Mark's team of people did a a wonderful job obliterating our ridiculous "cliff-dweller" jungle-with-weeds and water-wasting broadcast irrigation system, into what is today's (Nic's phrase) "dry tropical" canyon garden with primarily succulents, cacti and native plantings.

When we moved here 10 years ago, we had an extremely steep backyard loaded with both inappropriate water-needy plants, a vast weed population and zero retaining walls. During winters with heavy rains, soil eroded merrily (or un-merrily) down our steep slope.

We now have a handsome canyon garden with six well designed, well drained retaining walls, a completely new low-water-use irrigation system with a smart controller, and a water dissipator to handle and disperse runoff when the rains come ... and, oh yes, a beautiful, far more climate-appropriate landscape. Nic did the design work. Emilio personally supervised the crew who created this massive, but small-footprint backyard project. Mark Sterk, as the founder/owner of Columbine Landscape, Inc., kept his watchful eye over the entire multi-month undertaking.

A highlight of our canyon garden, is our "Gutter Garden." Designed by Nic, we have 26 running-feet of gutter along our side deck. This conventional house gutter is irrigated and contains a couple of inches of potting soil - plus a large number of miniature succulents. More than two years since installation, they are THRIVING. And, that "gutter garden" is always one of the most talked about highlights of our backyard.

Crazily enough there were some really strange discoveries that happened during the project. We have a beautiful winding walkway about halfway down the slope. When Emilio's team was preparing the area below that walkway, they found LOTS of construction debris! Best guess? That part of the backyard was the construction-waste disposal area from the 1981 conversion from 700 sq. ft. nondescript tract bungalow to its present form as a lovely two story, architecturally significant modern home (per the nine-page pictorial feature article in the April 2005 issue of SAN DIEGO magazine). Naturally because unfortunate unearthings can occasionally lead to more unfortunate unearthings, it became evident that a years-and-years ago former owner must have decided to bury what had become by 2014 a VERY moldy, disgusting 9- by 12-foot shag carpet. All of that stuff has been at the landfill for more than two years now, and we enjoy the entire canyon garden.

The final grade for Mark and his team: A-plus!


Wendy Buchi

February 2015

Columbine Landscape, Inc did an amazing job on a landscape remodel of our front and back yards. Mark and his group are extremely easy to work with, flexible, creative and have great knowledge of which plants will work in which areas of the yard. Columbine's ongoing maintenance has been invaluable as the yard has matured. The backyard had a terrible drainage problem which is now completely resolved. The irrigation system is well thought-out and the landscape lights really enhance the whole package. We are extremely happy.


Nick & Samantha Binkley

March 2014

We purchased our one acre property in Del Mar in 2012. It was one of the most beautiful and unique pieces of land we had ever seen, reminding us of Jamaica where Samantha was born. However, the property was in dire need of a comprehensive landscape overhaul, including a 400 foot drive, hardscape and pool, as well as a full home remodel including the addition of bedrooms and baths. The property was previously owned by a former member of the San Diego Palm society and collector of hundreds of exotic palms and tropical plants which had been randomly placed around the property. Many of the palms had been on site for years and were well-rooted into the ground through their plastic nursery containers, root-bound and struggling to survive.

We called on Jim Bennedetti and Kristen Koehrn with JPBLA Landscape Architects to create a complete site plan with a specific location for each of the many specimen palms, trees and plants, as well as a comprehensive hardscape, irrigation and planting plan. We also involved master plantsman, Steve Anthony, to catalogue all the palms, their genus, species and native origin and to help with detailed area designs and arrange value-add plant procurement. Mark, Emilio and Nic of Columbine Landscape, Inc., worked closely with us and Steve to move and place each palm and plant, sometimes requiring the aid of a crane or bobcat, properly amending the soil, and carefully planting or re-planting each specimen. In addition to installing the extensive planting and providing design embellishments on site, as well as other areas of the yard, Columbine Landscape also installed the Netafim low-water use drip irrigation system designed by JPBLA. The irrigation system installation required re-construction of our existing water main lines, irrigation lines, valves and wiring and included installation of a smart controller, low flow irrigation valves, and a fertigation system which delivers nutrients regularly to the trees, turf and plants. There were also mulched pathways, a fountain area, outdoor shower, outdoor BBQ and two low-water use turf areas, one used as a car turnaround, using Seashore Passpallum, a beautiful warm season grass that requires much less water than regular turf, and is lush and great to walk on. The final product exceeded all of our expectations. In fact, the San Diego Horticultural Society listed the property for their spring garden tour, 2016, and the house and garden was featured in the Home and Garden Spring edition of Ranch and Coast Magazine. We can't say enough about the excellent work provided by and collaboration with Columbine Landscape throughout the more than twelve month life of the project. Their flexibility and willingness to work with us, our landscape architect and Steve Anthony and ability to respond creatively, resulted in a magical garden paradise. They have continued to maintain our landscape at the very highest level, keeping a close watch on landscape water use.

Without any hesitation, we highly recommend Columbine Landscape, Inc. - Mark, Emilio, Nic and their friendly and hardworking crews. We couldn't be happier with the final product. At the end of the project, we were so thrilled with the result that we invited the entire crew and their families, architects and subcontractors for a weekend fiesta to celebrate our beautiful new tropical paradise!


Robert & Coleen Padovani

July 2013

We have worked with Mark and his Columbine Landscape team on two projects a smaller one in Del Mar and a larger one in Carmel Valley. In both cases the experience through the various phases of the projects and the final results have been excellent.

We enjoyed working with the Columbine team during the design phases as well as the project construction and we are very pleased with the outcome.

We continue the interactions with the team through the projects maintenance phase and we really like the continuity in the staff, it provides knowledge and history about the project and its maintenance and that is invaluable.


Chris & Katie Young

May 2016

We have worked with Mark Sterk and Columbine Landscape for several years, and they have completed many landscape and hardscape projects for us -- ranging from planting and plant maintenance, to trees, to the construction of patios, a grill area, an outdoor fireplace, and a large dog run. We have always been really happy with the results. Their work is of very high quality. They stand behind their work and will charge for repairs only where appropriate (e.g. damage caused by our dogs). Mark himself is a skilled designer and supervisor and an honest and fair businessperson. His employees (Emilio is who we deal with most often) and subcontractors are all helpful, diligent and skilled. Everything that looks good in our front and rear yards is due to them. Outdoor projects can be expensive, and it is nice to have someone you can trust. Highest recommendation.