The art of landscaping—beginning with choosing which plants to grow and culminating with the final design—can be an intensive process. However, for people like Fred Billings, owner of Buds & Blossoms, it provides a positive outlet for creativity and understanding of the world.
"The first lesson in my gardening class is that there is unseen life in the soil," he said. "Everything flows out of growing. When you learn to take care of the unseen life in the soil, the soil will produce good healthy plants."
Buds & Blossoms deals with every aspect of landscape design from planting and growing to the installation of features such as swimming pools, hot tubs, outdoor kitchens and patio covers. The actual site stores a countless variety of plants in 20 greenhouses.
The focus has mainly been on growing, with each greenhouse turning over roughly 2.5 times per season. However, plans exist to convert the location into a full design center, Billings said.
"People will be able to see the landscapes and the design ideas, the plants, the type of rockwork," he said. "We're hoping to have that more developed this summer, but it takes a lot of time and money."
Billings, who has a degree in agriculture economics from Texas A&M, said the main thing separating his business from big-box competitors is the creativity and experience of his staff.
"The creativity spills into the things we grow," he said. "We grow things you can't always find elsewhere—Dutchman's Pipe, Burgundy Leaf Oxalis. We're better growers because we build landscapes, and we're better landscapers because we're growers."
In terms of experience, Billings said there is not anything his team cannot do, including lighting, irrigation, construction, masonry work and planting.
"We don't want to just be a place where people come by and pick up some flowers," he said. "We want long-term relationships with our customers. We want to be a part of their lives and let them be a part of ours."
Business has been good so far this spring, Billings said. With 34 projects in the works, he said the only thing keeping him from having 64 projects is limited time and staff.
"The hardest thing is finding people who love doing this as much as we do and are willing to work hard and smart to take care of the customer," he said. "The No. 1 reason behind our success is the amazing employees."
Although growing and landscaping comes with its challenges—namely the weather and the intense seasonal demand from customers every spring and fall—Billings said there is nothing else he would rather be doing.
"We just love what we do," he said. "People give us money to grow flowers. It's the greatest job in the world."
Athletic Missions International
In addition to running Buds and Blossoms, Billings also operates a separate nonprofit called Athletic Missions International, which organizes sports-related mission trips to the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Guatemala. Part of the work will involve delivering 4,300 pairs of tennis shoes, hundreds of gloves and thousands of balls, bats and other sports equipment on a mission trip this summer.
Billings also engages the Houston community though teaching an organic gardening and leadership development class and by organizing gardening events. Roughly 500 people gathered for a "Serve Saturday" event April 26 with Buds and Blossoms and Community of Faith Church. The event involved planting massive vegetable gardens at Cy-Fair ISD's Andre Elementary School.
Buds & Blossoms owner Fred Billings has plans to ramp up the design aspect of his business by putting more landscape ideas on display. Plans are also in the works to build an enclosed area for butterfly plants.
"It will just be a nice, peaceful area that both kids and adults can enjoy," Billings said.
Billings also aims to introduce a floral arrangement aspect to the company, which should be available this summer.
"It's a natural move for us," he said. "We have some talented people who are very capable of doing arrangements. With a name like Buds & Blossoms it seemed like something we had to do."
Buds & Blossoms
14120 Cypress North Houston
Hours: Mon.–Sat. 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Closed Sunday