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Living where you work; working where you live

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:18 PM

Bill Miller's backyard not only provides outdoor living space for his family, but also serves as a living advertisement of his talent as a landscape designer.

Miller made his commute to work easier 12 years ago when he built his home next door to his landscape and garden center on Sand Road. Miller and his brother Steve, a partner in Miller Landscape & Gardens, bought a 15-acre vegetable farm 25 years ago and Bill bought 2 acres from the business to create his dream home.

Featuring a rose garden and other special planting areas, seating areas, an ornamental pond, two waterfalls and now a new swimming area with beach, Miller said he looks at his yard as an advertisement for his business. "It makes selling a job very easy because it shows mature plants," he said.

"Landscaping used to be decoration," he said. "Now it's a functional product. The trend now is for interactive landscaping."

Miller explained people now want landscaping they can live in fire pits and fireplaces, outdoor kitchens, water features, patios. Accessories such as statues and boulders add to the interest of a yard. His home gives outstanding examples of many elements of landscaping.

He also follows the advice he gives to customers don't just settle for what is affordable now, but complete a dream landscape in stages.

He dug the original pond in his backyard before he built the house to drain the marshy, low site. "It was a wet marsh area when we first started," he said, "an unbuildable site." So the original pond he dug provided enough drainage to build a home on the property.

Last year he started his newest project a swimming area with a patio on one side and a beach with a volleyball net on the other. Miller said he dug the addition to the existing pond last year, then added the patio area, a retaining wall and the beach this year.

Next year he plans to finish the landscaping around the pool area and the beach. "You can do it in stages," he said, "rather than settle for less than what you want."

Miller said the pumps for the pond send 40,000 gallons of water per hour down the two waterfalls. He doesn't have any filters for the water, but uses water plants to oxidize and clean the water so he doesn't have to worry about using chemicals that could be harmful to the fish and frogs that live in the pond.

Miller earned a bachelor's degree in landscape horticulture from The Ohio State University before starting his business. He credits his parents with fueling an interest in the field.

"A huge influence would be my mom and dad because we worked outside as a family all the time," he said.

Miller and his wife, Candy, follow that family tradition by enlisting the "reluctant" help of daughters Melissa, 18; Abby, 14; and Libby, 12.

But Miller doesn't have as much time as he would like to spend in his own yard because of the responsibilities of running his business. "Our business is growing by leaps and bounds," he said. "We're running out of display area."

So he enlisted the help of another brother, Kevin, who is an architect in Columbus. Kevin designed the addition now under construction to connect all of the existing display buildings.

Miller expects the business to continue growing because of the interest of local homeowners. "We're not the only good landscapers in the area," he said. "What's notable for Huron and Erie counties is that homeowners understand the value of landscaping."

He said he can tell just from looking at home in the area that homeowners are willing to spend time and money to create effective outdoor living spaces. And he's more than willing to help customers create their own personal dream yard, just as he is doing at his own home.

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