Painting with Plants

DSC_0444Louisville is an area blessed with interesting and high-quality horticulture. Consequently, the city has no shortage of incredible marvels of landscape architecture. There are countless businesses that perform beautiful work in this field, but one of the best is Korfhage Landscape & Designs, run by veteran horticulturist and landscape architect John Korfhage. Through his business, Korfhage has had the opportunity to establish a sterling reputation that has afforded him the opportunity to work ona such gardening and landscaping projects as the offices of Kindred Healthcare as well as some of the most valuable residences in Louisville.

“Our family started a horticulture business in 1920,” explains Korfhage. “My father and his brother took over the business, and my brother and I worked in the business as kids. Then I went to UK and got a degree in ornamental horticulture, but I always knew that I wanted to do design work.” Korfhage says that the university didn’t have a landscaping architecture program when he went there, but the degree he was able to attain and the experience he had and would gain allowed him to become a registered landscape architect anyway.

Photos courtesy of John Korfhage

Photos courtesy of John Korfhage

Korfhage worked in the family business for several years. He eventually decided, however, to open his own location with his brother, Bob, in Jeffersontown in the late ’70s – what now has become Korfhage Landscape & Designs.

“There are more development, office buildings and higher-end residences there every day,” says Korfhage of his part of town before adding with a laugh, “Since we started our business here, the whole East End has changed tremendously. When we moved out there, it was a lot of corn fields.” During that time, not only did Korfhage work hard but he also developed a reputation for excellence. He also sought ways to offer services that his competitors did not.

Photos courtesy of John Korfhage

Photos courtesy of John Korfhage

“I traveled a lot, looking at gardens around the country and in France and Italy,” recalls Korfhage. “Everywhere I went, I tried to learn what the style of gardening was there. For example, when I went to Dallas, I asked, ‘What is the style? What are they doing here that they are not doing in Louisville?’” In essence, each region uses different plant materials. Each city has a different look. For instance, New England has more hydrangeas, and due to his trip to the gardens of Versailles in France, Korfhage understands how to utilize that sense of color and scale when appropriate.

More than just flights of fancy, these trips arm Korfhage with a vast array of ideas and concepts to apply to his projects. “When people build a house with a particular style, I know what it’s supposed to look like. When I look at a house, I know about 10 different looks that will work for it,” he says. With this treasured knowledge in tow, Korfhage will get the dimensions of the building or residence and draw a plan. “I’ve got a blank sheet of paper with the drive and the walks on it, and I just start drawing. After a while, the thought just comes to me and I think, ‘I like this.’ I draw it up, and I price all the pieces. Then I sub it out, but I supervise all of it. I make it happen. If I’ve drawn it, I’ve imagined it, and that means I’ve seen it.”

Photos courtesy of John Korfhage

Photos courtesy of John Korfhage

Korfhage treats each of his projects as an artist would. Every home, office building or industrial complex is a blank canvas waiting for him to take advantage of lines, curvatures and plant materials: “I include flowerbeds, and I like mixing colors. Most flowerbeds in Louisville are uniform in color, but I like to mix. A few clients dictate color, but I mostly get to have at it.” When asked specifically what it’s like for him to work, Korfhage simply offers, “It’s like painting with plants.”

The man also prides himself on never doing the same thing twice: “When someone tells me, ‘I love what you did. Come do my house,’ I usually agree to do it, but it’s not going to look like the house they saw. Another thought’s going to come to me.” Korfhage has tremendous conviction in his abilities and his work. Not only that, but he values the end result for his client, which makes him an incredible asset to the Louisville landscaping community as well as a treasured source of knowledge and advice for the rest of us: “I like to create an environment that is pleasing to be in but also pleasing to look at, and when I do, I feel fulfilled. I feel like I’ve done something nice.” VT

You can contact John Korfhage by calling 502.267.0001 or 502.267.0541 or by visiting korfhagelandscape.com.