Wirth Landscaping Propagates Across Generations
Strong roots promote good growth for Darien landscape business
Working in a big office building never appealed to Mark Wirth.
“I like to be outside,” he said. “I’m not the kind of person who can sit behind a desk all the time. I like to get my hands out and do things. I like to meet people.”
He found his niche as owner of Wirth Landscaping in Darien.
Wirth’s parents were both teachers. In the early 1980s, his dad, Lee, began working on the side for a teacher who had his own landscaping and nursery business. Wirth remembers his dad saying after many years, “Why can’t I do this?” And so began Wirth Landscaping.
“(Dad) never gave up teaching,” Wirth said. “Obviously springs and falls were very hectic.”
Wirth’s mom, Donna, had left teaching years earlier to care for her growing family. She also worked for the business, answering phones and handling scheduling and estimates.
“She likes to talk to people,” Wirth said. “She’s very personable.”
Mark Wirth was in grade school at the time.
“I started (landscaping) when I was 13 or 14,” he said. “As soon as I was able to push a little lawnmower, I would go and help the other guys. I’ve been working with (Dad) ever since.”
Wirth graduated from Southern Illinois University in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in plant and soil sciences/landscape design.
“I wanted to focus on installation and maintenance,” he said.
About five years ago, a few years after he retired from teaching, the elder Wirth passed the landscaping business to his son. Mark Wirth has continued to grow that business as a full-service landscape company.
One area of his expertise is hardscape, including patios, walkways and retaining walls. Wirth uses professional-grade natural and manufactured stones, bricks and pavers. He is a certified by the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI).
Wirth begins each project with a free consultation and estimate.
“We go to the spot and first I ask them a lot of questions,” he said. “‘How big is your family? Do you like to entertain?’ I tell them to take a hose or a rope, and mark out a comfortable area in your yard that you think you’re going to be happy with. If you have a (patio) set, set it all up and make sure this space is going to work for you. Then I’ll give you an idea of a budget, what this might cost you. We can always scale it (larger or smaller) or use a different material to save a little money.”
For landscaping, he always asks the customer’s preferences. He is also ready with suggestions, and to discuss the pros and cons of various ideas.
“I’ve gotten very good at listening and explaining to people what I’m trying to give them,” he said. “Most people don’t exactly know what they want. When I first meet them, I usually ask, ‘Are there some particular colors that you like? What’s your favorite color?’ I ask if there are plants that they like, and I might incorporate a few of them. A lot of times I try to broaden their horizons.”
Wirth likes to reuse existing landscape elements. “Nowadays, a lot of people are just adding on to what they have,” he said. “That’s my biggest (area of) expertise – trying to use what you already have and make it work. Take some of your existing plants and maybe move them or arrange them differently. Add some new stuff to it. A lot of people are just amazed at what you can do with what you already have.”
Wirth looks for good homes for discarded plants. He donates them to the First Baptist Church of Bolingbrook and Christ the Servant Catholic Church in Woodridge, as well as to other groups.
Wirth shops local nurseries to find the best plants.
“I pick out the plants myself,” he said. “I want to inspect them myself. I don’t send my guys to do that. Or I’ll go with (the customer).” Customers can also choose to go on their own and tag their choices for Wirth to pick up later.
Care instructions are vital for new plantings. “Most of the plants I give you are going to be pretty carefree, not have any extraordinary things you’re going to have to do to get them going," he said. "You’re going to water them a lot for the first two weeks, then scale it back.”
Wirth’s customers put a lot of trust in his work.
“The last few years, a lot of clients have been doing backyard weddings,” Wirth said. “I had a customer last year (who) just gave me a blank slate. A new patio, plants, everything. (They said,) ‘Make this yard look beautiful. Don’t worry about what it costs. Just do it. We know you’re going to do a great job.’ I’ve had that happen a few times. That makes me feel good. I’m going to go above and beyond, give them everything they need to make them perfectly happy. It’s their special day.”
Wirth Landscaping also provides weed control, fertilizer and pruning services. As do many landscapers, they do snow removal in the winter months.
Wirth has five full-time employees as well as several part-timers during the busy seasons. One young mower has been with him for 10 years, and while a hardscape worker has been with him for 14 years.
“I treat them well because I know I can depend on them,” Wirth said. “They work hard and they stay with me.”
His longtime customers appreciate Wirth’s business ethics.
“I’m going to give you quality and exceed your expectations,” he said. “You’re not going to ever be disappointed with me. You’re going to get exactly what you wanted, and you’re going to know what that’s going to cost. And you’re going to be happy.”
For more information, contact Wirth Landscaping at 630-479-4245, or go to www.wirthlandscaping.com.