DENNIS TOWNSHIP - Ron Barber, owner of Barber's Fresh Meadow Nursery Inc., turns boring yards into inviting gardens for homeowners across South Jersey.
Barber, 64, of Dennis Township, designs flower gardens and landscapes for residential customers in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties.
"I kind of have a talent to know how to set plants up and put them together. I feel it's a blessing from God," he said. "My mother was a dance teacher. My father was a farmer. I inherited the genetics from both sides."
For years they specialized in landscaping yards for new-home construction. But after the 2008 housing-market collapse, it expanded into maintenance contracts to spruce up yards, trim hedges and mulch flower beds.
Today, the company does both, mostly with trees and shrubs grown at its nursery in Eldora on the Delaware Bay.
For each new job, Barber's Fresh Meadow Nursery starts with the customer's budget.
"The budget is definitely the No. 1 factor. Then we talk about what they like. I show them the work I've done and get a feel for the different plants they want," he said.
Barber grew up on the family farm in Middle Township and has a degree in ornamental horticulture from Delaware Valley College, where he studied landscape design.
Barber works with his son Brandon, 23, who lives at home surrounded by the family's greenhouses and nursery stock in Eldora.
Brandon Barber said landscaping takes experience and flexibility.
"All landscaping is trial and error. My dad has been doing it for so long, he knows what works," he said. "Once the landscape grows in, it becomes mounds of color. It's really neat."
Landscaping companies are expected to be in growing demand over the next decade as Baby Boomers retire and rely on gardening services, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The industry is expected to expand by 20 percent between 2010 and 2020.
Brandon Barber said offering his customers all-inclusive landscape service saved the business after the housing-market crash cut new orders in half.
"We took a really big hit," he said. "We're doing more maintenance now, which is key."
The service includes spring and fall plantings and mulching, lawn cutting and chemical or fertilizer applications.
Brandon Barber said he has learned a lot over the years by watching his father work.
"Nobody can match his design. He designs on feel," he said. "Things work the best when he is left alone to do his thing. He is really talented."
His sister, Christen, helps with marketing of the business. Family businesses often magnify friction, but Brandon Barber said they get along pretty well.
"Sometimes we disagree, but we get along. He's been calling me the boss a lot this year," he joked.
In years to come, the family would like to expand the nursery stock for its wholesale business and continue to add more residential clients.
"I don't want it to get so busy that I can't spend 20 minutes talking to a client," Brandon Barber said. "We want to keep it personal."
Contact Michael Miller:
Barber's Fresh Meadow
Location: 142 Powell Road, Dennis Township
Owner: Ron Barber, 64, of Dennis Township
Revenue: Not disclosed