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Landscaping Inspired by Your Favorite Cartoon: An Interview with BauerCombs & Associates, Inc.

By Kristen Bosse

Please describe a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

BauerCombs & Associates, Inc. (BCA) founded in 1991, is an established landscape architecture firm located in Santa Fe, NM providing sustainable and innovative landscapes for southwest environments. BCA specializes in residential estates, calming healing gardens, therapeutic trails, children play areas, and sustainable community developments. We design everything outdoors from extravagant kitchens, lighting, fireplaces, to bandstands, parking, xeriscapes and everything in-between.

Susan Combs Bauer is principal landscape architect and president of BCA and has over 30 years of professional design work. In addition to a career in landscape architecture, Susan is an accomplished violinist. This blend of science, design, and music inspires her artistic expression with attention to balance, soul and function.

How did you get into this line of work?

At the age of eleven or twelve, I was curious about a new shop in my small town called 'The Bottle Garden'. This little store was the catalyst that spurred my interest in landscape architecture. The store was full of bottled terrariums! I was fascinated with the science going on in the bottled gardens and the mini biosphere ecosystem. Throughout my younger years I enjoyed creating art and growing plants (both indoor and outdoors). Then wha-la, I read a short description that landscape architecture is a combination of art and science and knew that was what I wanted to study in college.

Describe your energy efficient services available.

In addition to designing low maintenance and low water landscapes, we encourage incorporating rainwater collection and permaculture design elements into every project. Rainwater collection may be as simple as placing a few rain barrels under canales to installing an underground collection system to irrigate plants. Our designs strategically place trees or shrubs to reduce direct sun from striking and heating up building surfaces. Trees and tall shrubs may also be used as wind brakes to reduce wind velocities around outdoor gardens and spaces.

Additional design strategies include the use of deciduous trees on the south side of the house to filter summer sun and evergreen plantings on the north side to slow cold winter winds.

What should homeowners be looking for in a good landscaping architecture company?

The most important is to be sure your designer is truly a licensed landscape architect and licensed in the state your project is in. Landscape architects are licensed in 49 states and typically hold a bachelor's or master's degree in landscape architecture, and licensure requires passing a rigorous exam.

It is also important to know your landscape architect's design style, what their passion is, and how long they have been practicing as a landscape architect. Ultimately, when choosing a landscape architecture company it should be based on the appropriate balance of design experience, professional service, cost and personality.

How do you make sure that the transition from design to the hiring of contractors is smooth? Do you have sub-contractors you always work with?

As part our services, we oversee on-site installation throughout the construction process. In addition to design, our bid packages include meticulous construction details from size of rebar to depth of gravel base to specific materials and color matches.

We have a pool of sub-contractors we enjoy working with that provide excellent work for reasonable cost. In addition, we often partner with local engineers, architects and surveyors.

What sets your business apart from other comparable companies? Do you believe you do anything better/different?

BauerCombs & Associates, Inc. motto is 'Go outside and Play'. What sets us apart from other companies is our expertise in healing gardens. These happy outdoor spaces incorporate elements such as touch, pattern, color, sound and scent to help awaken the senses and stimulate receptors for overall healing and happiness. In addition, we are advocates of providing nurturing outdoor spaces for children with autism disorders. We feel nature plays an important role to the overall health of special needs children. Exposure to nature helps ground special needs children and orients them to their surroundings. Providing these types of spaces is an art in itself and requires involving the children's care providers and parents as part of the design team.

Would you say you have a specific design style?

When people ask 'what is your design style', my answer is simply "Fred Flintstone". If you recall the delightful cartoon, the typical scenes are stone caves, stone furniture, stone cars, stone everything. Yes, I love stone! Here in Southwest, stone is the perfect design element because it requires zero water. Some of my favorite uses of stone are flagstone patios, large accent boulders, stone curbs and walls, columnar rocks as architectural focal points, and attractive boulders with concave depressions to serve as watering holes for birds after a hard rain in the monsoon season.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you?

The best way to get a hold Susan Combs Bauer of BauerCombs Landscape Architecture is either email or phone (505) 216-0775. Please check out our website and while you are there, look to see what seminars are being offered. Keep a look out; we will be posting down-loadable low cost seminars in fall of 2013.

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Kristen has written impressive content including press releases and feature stories...

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