Saunders Landscaping and Renovations

A major player in the Calgary comm­­er­cial landscaping market is gearing up for one of its busiest years. “We already have twice as much work lined up for this year than we completed last year,” says Leo­nard Saunders, owner of Saun­ders Land­scaping and Renovation Ltd.

The company specializes in landscaping for commercial clients, multifamily residential developments and retail sites. Its services include  installing irrigation systems, planting trees and shrubs, laying sod and installing block retaining walls and pavers. The company also builds gazebos, fences and water features as required by its projects, Saunders says.

Saunders Landscaping works regularly as a subcontractor to general contractors and developers on new construction. More than 95 percent of the company’s work comes from repeat business.

“We try to work for a select group of companies we’ve built relationships with over the years,” Saunders explains. “We’re working for a builder almost all of the time.”

The company was founded in 1989 by Saunders’ parents, Bryan and Wendy Saunders. Bryan Saunders had previously worked in landscaping, including helping build the Calgary Zoo’s Prehistoric Park. Leonard became a part owner of the company at the age of 18. In 1996, Travis Pope, a close friend of Leonard’s and an employee of Saunders Land­scap­ing, also became part owner of the company. Saunders and Pope completed the purchase of the company in 2002.

Green Leanings

Two of Saunders’ regular development partners are Streetside Development Corp. and ITC Construction Group, both developers and builders of large residential developments.

Saunders is currently handling the landscaping for Streetside’s Ginger Park development, a town house complex in Calgary’s Wentworth community. Re­cent projects for ITC include the multi-story Stella and Nova towers in Calgary. The company will also perform the landscaping on ITC’s Luna condominium tower project beginning this year.

The Luna project will include a green roof, an element Saunders says is becoming more common on its projects. “We’re involved in green roofs, which we’re seeing more and more on high rise projects; the whole industry is leaning toward more green-friendly projects,” he says.

Saunders Landscaping also uses low-flow irrigation and drought-re­sistant pro­ducts on projects as they are specified. “We push for LEED-certified projects be­cause they have a smaller impact on the environment,” Saunders says.

Maintaining Quality

The company’s long-term relationships were a major part of its being able to sustain itself during the recession.

“Rela­tion­ships are everything to us,” Saunders says. “That’s how we were able to stay afloat.”

Saunders says a sharp decline in multifamily residential projects during the economic downturn motivated it to seek out different types of projects. In 2009, the company worked on 20 multifamily projects; in 2010, Saunders performed only five projects of that type.

He credits the company’s recent di­versification into commercial/retail work with its being able to ride out the decline. The addition of General Manager Ran­dall Dyck in 2010 has greatly helped the company make contact with a wide range of commercial/retail clients.

Today, Saunders Landscaping is am­ong the most efficient in its region in terms of the size of company.

“We do a lot of work for a company of our size,” Saunders says. “We do what we do very well.”

Saunders also credits the work of his main field foreman for the company’s success. “We maintain our quality by sending good people out on projects,” Saunders says. “We try to hire skilled, experienced people.”

“We’re very efficient. A lot of companies will work on a large project for a long time, [but] we like to go in, work hard, get out and have an immediate impact,” he adds. “We put out a very high quality of work; we don’t cut corners.”