Joshua Gibson-Roark’s first childhood memories involve him gardening with his grandmother. This Pampa native grew up loving the outdoors, flowers and green spaces, and found himself wanting to share that love with people in a meaningful way. Today, he’s the owner of Gibson-Roark Outdoors and Installs, an Amarillo-based landscaping company with hundreds of clients in the Amarillo/Canyon area and neighboring Panhandle towns.

“It organically grew over time,” he says about his career, and whether it’s intentional or not, the landscaping metaphor feels just right. Several years ago, Gibson-Roark was working as an assistant to local designer Reese Beddingfield (click here). Gibson-Roark had been immersed in the world of interior decór—the business of making indoor spaces feel just right—but also felt the pull from the living room into the front lawn. 

He’d been helping to create beautiful spaces inside. He found himself wanting to “translate that [knowledge] to creating beautiful spaces outside,” he says.

Gibson-Roark began turning his attention to the lawns and gardens of his friends and colleagues. Thrilled with the results, they began recommending his work to their friends, and before long, the word of mouth had transformed into an actual job. “I was being pushed into it,” he says, “and I was happy about being pushed into it.”

Four years ago, he took the leap and launched Gibson-Roark Outdoors. Joshua’s client-specific approach is fully customized, taking into account the client’s budget, needs and wants, how the space will be used, and how much maintenance the client wants to allocate to the greenery. 

Interior design is intensely personal, and Gibson-Roark believes that intimate approach should also apply to exterior design. He draws upon his clients’ feelings and memories when planning their outdoor spaces. Roses might make one client sad because they remind her of her late mother. A family member might have a bee sting allergy, in which case Gibson-Roark researches colors that don’t attract bees. Another client may just, well, hate the color yellow. 

He takes those personal preferences seriously, using his creativity and experience to come up with landscaping solutions that work within the clients’ specific tastes.

That attention to detail has brought him a variety of opportunities extending beyond greenery, incorporating details like koi ponds, stone paths, flower and vegetable beds and much more. Generally, he says, he likes to push things toward a green look and give the space some year-round interest through color. 

Gibson-Roark has young children at home, and has now reached a point in his business in which it’s more possible to balance his workload with family time. But further down the path, he dreams of someday operating a retail space for plants and outdoor furniture. 

“As far as growing the business, my plan is simply to make sure that all of my clients are happy and satisfied with the end result,” says Gibson-Roark. “That is my goal for the future—to continue with that mindset, making sure each client walks away happy from each job I take on.” click

Giving Plants a Fighting Chance

Amarillo’s weather conditions and environment aren’t always conducive for flourishing outdoor spaces. Joshua Gibson-Roark offered these suggestions to give plants what he calls “a fighting chance” to survive our wind and weather. 

TIMING IS EVERYTHING 

According to Gibson-Roark, the general rule of thumb in the Texas Panhandle is that it’s only safe to plant after Mother’s Day. “You want to get things planted out of danger of freeze but before it gets really hot,” says Gibson-Roark. “That late spring window is the crunch time to get everything in.” There are years when this might change, which is why Gibson-Roark recommends looking at the long-term forecast prior to planting annuals. 

Choose your approach 

Before gearing up with tools and plants, Gibson-Roark suggests stopping first to consider how the space will be used. For example, if someone prefers a lower-maintenance garden, Gibson-Roark suggests xeriscape might be the best option. This style of landscaping uses a variation of rocks, cactuses, grasses and other native plants that require lower water usage. Families with children should be cautious with this approach, especially when considering cactuses and plants with thorns. 

Find a focal point

When first starting out the design, Gibson-Roark suggests identifying the space’s focal point, which can be a garden bed, a pond or even a stone path. A well-balanced space also requires thinking about the plant’s mature size, plant groupings, and the plants’ specific sunlight and water needs.

Choose the right plant

“A common mistake that people make is just going into a garden center and choosing a plant because they think it’s pretty and then sticking it in the ground,” says Gibson-Roark. “It might be in full sun, but it’s something that needs to be fully shaded. And they say, ‘I keep planting things, but they keep dying.’”

He suggests going to a local garden center and, before buying anything, researching the plant’s water and sunlight needs and mature size.  

Prepare the soil

After plant selection is finished, it’s time to prepare the soil. Gibson-Roark says it’s important to break down the clay in Amarillo’s soil, which causes it to dry out quickly. Vegetables and herbs are usually grown in raised beds in the Amarillo area, he says, because these allow for more soil control. A good, high-quality soil can produce a better yield. 

To achieve this, Gibson-Roark recommends adding enriched mulch to help retain moisture, along with cotton burr to break down the naturally occurring clay soil. 

Consider combinations

Finally, coordinating different textures, sizes and shades of colors can add a lot of character to an outdoor space. “Mixing those fully in sizes and textures always ends up being a really beautiful look. [Combining] dark green leaves with something that has more of a bronzy, red-colored leaf, then you get some really good visual interest going on in your garden,” says Gibson-Roark. 

Author

  • Perla is a bilingual freelance journalist. She worked as a reporter and editor at the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, and as a multimedia journalist at ¡Ahora Sí!, the former Spanish-language newspaper of the Austin American-Statesman. She earned a Mass Communications degree from Amarillo College and a Journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin.