Joanne Kostecky's Garden Design Inc.

By Kathryn Finegan Clark

When Joanne Kostecky made her first dry flower picture years ago she had no idea she was planting the seeds for a booming, blooming company.

But there it is, Joanne Kostecky’s Garden Design on Allentown’s Hamilton Boulevard at Brookside Road. Its design studio and showroom is housed in the old Wescosville General Store, which was built as a hotel just after the Civil War.

It’s a commercial location that’s seen previous lives as a post office, a dry goods store, a gas station, neighborhood gathering place and a real estate office. Joanne says the location’s historic aspect emphasizes the old-fashioned service her company promises.

Next to the store a cozy little garden wrapped in brick walkways provides a place of solace at the busy intersection.

That garden/escape conveys exactly the message Joanne has for her clients: Using plants and landscaping, she wants to create for them an environment that is beautiful, a private place for them to unwind.

Noting the recent trend toward outdoor living spaces, she laughs. “I’ve been creating outdoor living rooms for 30 years.” That’s what her award-winning landscape design and construction company is all about.

And it all began with the dried flower pictures she made as a young mother. Joanne decided to grow her own flowers for the pictures, consequently started to study plant materials and just kept going, seeking and gathering more and more knowledge about plants and gardens.

She did her own landscaping when her family moved into their first house and tracked down all the information she could get about that. Then she did some landscaping for friends, learning her craft as she went. “My friends encouraged me. I was married then and had two children and I decided to go back to school because this was a business I could do while raising children. When I started in this business, I realized I needed to know so much more so I joined trade organizations and took advantage of their programs.”

As a result, her business has become a nationally recognized landscape design and construction company, winning an armful of international, national, regional and state awards.

And Joanne herself has racked up a bundle of “first woman” achievements in her 30 years of business in what had once been a man’s field. Among those was the first woman president of the 132-year-old American Nursery and Landscape Association. She was also the first woman to receive the Hall of Fame Award presented by the National Landscape Association and the first woman to receive the Pennsylvania Nursery and Landscape Association Hall of Fame Award. A certified landscape critic, she frequently lectures and offers presentations.

Joanne says, “I created the company and I grew it over the years, adding services as it grew.” For example, after she discovered lawn services sheared off good plants or hacked up perennials the workers thought were weeds, she formed her own horticultural service to make sure that damage doesn’t happen.

Outside work comes to a halt in cold weather, but the work for Joanne never stops. In the winter, she designs, orders plants for her nursery and does job-costing and evaluations. “There’s always a project and when spring comes there’s always the feeling, ‘Oh my gosh I’m not really ready,’ but the business is not one person, it’s a team effort–all the people installing, the nursery manager, the business manager….”

Joanne is the firm’s lead designer and works closely with Mike Cave, landscape designer, and Kirk R. Brown, business manager. She normally employs about 17 seasonal workers, most of whom are laid off over the winter and return in spring.

“I enjoy challenges,” she says. “Certainly the weather is a challenge. There are sites that present all kinds of challenges–sometimes above ground, sometimes under There’s so much to consider–texture, form, shape, color, season of bloom and unity.”

Joanne has done landscape designs for an entire site but she also frequently works in phases, doing a portion each season of an original master plan.“We often work in phases. That also makes it easier for a client to handle the expense over a period of years,” she says.

Joanne attributes much of her success to her clients—the people for whom her company has designed landscapes, garden patios, ponds, swimming pools, decks and patios.

“My clients wanted more. They pushed me through doors I wouldn’t have opened on my own and I ended up with this design company,” she says.

Kathryn Finegan Clark is a National Press Club Award winner who has been writing departments for Lehigh Valley Marketplace for several years.

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