By Jamie McAllister
Bryan Ramsey’s earliest memories revolve around plants and flowers. He remembers sitting on his great aunt’s front porch in Dinwiddie, Va., stringing bucket after bucket of green beans. In the summer his family visited his paternal grandmother in the mountains of Asheville, N.C., and he marveled at the gorgeous wildflowers that grew there. After a childhood spent harvesting carrots, onions, corn and strawberries from his great aunt’s garden and listening to his father’s family talk about their tobacco crop, Ramsey followed his passion and started a part-time landscaping business with his identical twin brother, Kevin.
“The two of us would rush home from work, load up materials and put in plants with our own hands,” Ramsey recalls. “It’s amazing to think that we went from just the two of us to a full-fledged corporation. Now not only do we get to share a life together; we also share a business.”
Ramsey and his brother are co-owners of Bryan Ramsey Design, Inc., a company based out of Norfolk that designs gardens for homeowners and businesses. Ramsey studied horticulture, art and architecture at universities in Louisiana, North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia. He has also traveled the globe, soaking in the majesty of the greatest gardens in the world in places like Europe and Greece. From the very beginning of his career he was groomed by two mentors, garden guru Chip Callaway and Phillip Watson, another sought-after garden designer who is also known for selling the Cottage Farm line of plants and flowers on QVC.
Although based in Coastal Virginia, Ramsey will travel anywhere to design a garden for a client. His twin now lives at their great aunt’s house in Dinwiddie, about 45 minutes southwest of Richmond, and the two serve clients all over Virginia, from the mountains to the coast, as well as North Carolina, Washington, D.C. and Delaware. The company has also done work in Florida and Oklahoma. “If a client calls, I come running,” Ramsey jokes.
Ramsey has five employees in the office and currently works with two full crews of between three to five members. Business is booming, and he is looking to ramp up to three or four crews this year. “My larger projects involve garden design and planning for large estates, which often takes years,” Ramsey explains. “Each phase has to progress according to the seasons.”
The changing seasons present one of Ramsey’s biggest challenges as a business owner. “We rely on the whims of Mother Nature,” he says. “We often have to schedule our projects around the weather, and we do our best to keep a steady flow of work during the winter months.”
While the company excels at large projects, Ramsey also loves designing small, intimate spaces for city dwellers. “You can make a lot of impact in a small space with a small budget,” he says.
In addition to residential gardens, the company designs gardens for businesses, including hospitals and medical centers. Known as healing gardens, the tranquil spots are ideal for patients receiving extensive treatment or with terminal illnesses. “Healing gardens can have a very calming effect,” Ramsey says. “They warm up the space and make people feel more at home, which helps make the experience less stressful for them. It’s not such a sterile landscape.”
Ramsey’s greatest joy is seeing the smiles on clients’ faces when he unveils the finished garden. “I love that they have a space to enjoy and that I had a hand in that,” he says. He works hard to make sure every moment of the project leading up to the big reveal is an enjoyable experience for every client. “We always go above and beyond,” he says. “If even a bubble gum wrapper blows into the yard while my crew is on sight, someone picks it up. We always leave the garden clean and tidy, even if the work isn’t yet complete.”
A completed project doesn’t mean Ramsey’s job is finished. Styles change, and Ramsey is available to offer advice and guidance as a family’s or business’s garden needs grow. “Gardens serve a purpose, but they also elicit an emotional response,” he says. “They are living, breathing entities that are forever changing and evolving.”
For more on Bryan Ramsey Design, visit their website.