Getting it Right: Chestnut Hill Landscape Contractors

Getting it Right: Chestnut Hill Landscape Contractors

“If it’s outdoors (and awesome), we built it.” That’s the tagline for Chestnut Hill Landscape Contractors, whose owner, John Talago, has been designing outdoor living spaces for customers in the Lehigh Valley for 30 years.

“I’ve been around it my entire life,” said Talago, the youngest of seven children who grew up around the nursery business his father founded in Center Valley in 1959. “He was a full-time engineer, but we had the nursery business at the house. It was just like being in a farming family. I got off school and there was a list of work to be done, getting orders ready for customers. So, I grew up in it until I went to college in the ’80s.”

Back in the early days, Talago recalled, DIY customers would come to select ground-grown-and-dug trees and shrubs, often with a picture of their house, and ask for advice about what to plant. As the market shifted from a supply to a service economy, he said, more homeowners started to request delivery. “Then they began to ask, ‘Now that I’ve got you over here can you plant it for me, too?’”

Talago’s initial major at the University of Maryland was cartography. “I remember meeting with my advisor and the Berlin Wall had just come down and globally things were pretty stable. It appeared to be a dead field.” (As fate would have it, this was about five years before emerging GPS and GIS technologies opened up the industry.)

“You make those decisions. I remember calling dad and telling him, ‘I think I’m going to switch majors.’ He says, ‘OK.’ That was it. He said, ‘It doesn’t really matter. If you work hard and stay focused, you’ll be successful at it.’ That was the end of that conversation. I’m like, ‘thanks.’ I guess he wasn’t wrong.”

Talago credits his cartography studies—which included soil science, geology, climatology, and hydrology—with helping him better serve his clients when it comes to considering the long-term ramification of projects and how to approach them.

“The performance of a driveway, patio, or sidewalk is a direct result of the level of compaction in the soil beneath it,” he offered up as one example, adding that poor water drainage due to other factors such as improper grade can lead to catastrophic results. “The value I bring to the table is that I can prevent all that.”

Talago said his ideal customer, and the best match for what his company provides, is “somebody that really uses and enjoys what we build for them. Some things are built for show, and, hey, that’s OK. But if I’m going to build you a porch or a patio or any sort of living environment, I talk you through the process.”

The three pillars of that process, he said, include safety, circulation, and aesthetics.

“We look at safety first—step heights, railings where needed. If you need a tree for shade, do we need to install root barriers so 10 years from now your patio surface is not pitching and water is pooling up? It’s not just the health and safety of homeowners and their guests but the health of the house. Anything we do should not be a hardship to you.”

Circulation involves matching the intended use with the flow of traffic. Just like indoor spaces are designed for a specific purpose—a family room to get comfortable and watch TV, or a formal dining room where everyone gathers around in their finery for Thanksgiving—outdoor spaces serve their intended purpose, too. Talago helps clients define and prioritize that purpose, then designs and builds to suit.

“How frequently do you dine or cook outside? We want to create the space to support that.”

He said the ultimate goal is to utilize all of
the outdoor space surrounding a home in order to maximize clients’ investment
and enjoyment.

The third pillar is aesthetics.

“If you want contemporary, colonial, or rustic, we can build it that way,” Talago said, adding that maintaining flexibility in the design for potential future homeowners is also something at the forefront of his mind when designing projects.

“My personal style isn’t as relevant as your personal style—I’m working for you.”

And to get to the heart of the matter, Talago said he’ll often begin a project simply by getting to know his clients.

“I might spend two hours with you, sitting on the porch drinking lemonade and talking with you about your grandkids and what’s important to your life, and we design to that. Because you’re going to stay there, and I’m going away. It’s an investment I think that’s good for us to make in time in developing the client.

“They’re going to live in that space, enjoy it, raise a family and spend the next 10 or 20 years—we really want to get it right.”

Chestnut Hill Landscape Contractors, Inc.
4570 Chestnut Hill Rd
Center Valley

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