Cornerstone Landscaping is the place to go for all your landscape design, yard maintenance, and drainage needs. Terri Aufmuth, the owner and founder of the company, has a passion and referral-backed talent for producing quality work that you will be satisfied with for years to come. Throughout 23 years of operating her own company, Terri has learned to constantly be in communication with clients and to hold her employees accountable for their assignments. She enjoys working with nonprofits and having a positive impact on the community through Cornerstone Landscaping.
When Terri was in seventh grade, she worked on a farm for Turner Smith, a well-known attorney in Manassas, VA. She did a variety of work that included weeding the asparagus patch, helping with the cows, and folding laundry. The attorney’s wife, Lois, taught Terri everything she knew about gardening.
Terri decided to start her own business once she became a mother. “I’d gotten pregnant and I did not want to have to work for somebody else and have my child in daycare,” she says. “So I decided to start my own business. I hired my mother to do my books and watch my daughter.”
Throughout 23 years of operating her own company, Terri has learned to always be in communication and to make sure all her employees are comfortable with their job description and assignments since they are out there representing her company. Terri attributes the long-term success of Cornerstone Landscaping to their ability to balance as a team. “We don’t take on more projects than we can handle,” she says. “I make daily visits to all of our job sites to make sure everything is going as it should be going.”
The most important aspect of landscaping that people overlook is doing their research and shopping lots of different nurseries. Terri emphasizes that this is key in order “to make sure that the folks you’re dealing with know exactly what you’re looking for and that the plants they suggest will fit the space that you have.”
Common Landscaping Issues
Terri spends most of her time at Cornerstone solving issues with drainage, including improper, poor, and negative drainage. According to Terri, there are lots of new homes being built in the area, which means there is a lot of soil getting moved around, compacted and settled in.
Cornerstone Landscaping installs a lot of drainage pipe, French drains, and dry wells to make sure there is positive grade. They get a lot of requests to deal with wet basements, which primarily involves excavation and compaction of soil to combat erosion and disturbed soil. “The builders do not compact the soil around the foundation of the house when they’re done,” explains Terri. “Most houses have basements, so that soil is disturbed all the way to virgin ground to the basement floor. So over time it settles and can cause that negative grade and water finds a way. One little pinhole and water will find its way.” Due to the commonality of this issue, Terri recommends doing an annual maintenance check to make sure there are no low places where water can gather and that the downspouts are facing away from the house.
In the spring, people tend to call Cornerstone Landscaping for cleanups to dispose of leaves, weeds, and debris. They also get a lot of requests for re-mulching the edge of flower beds as well as pruning and shaping. Cornerstone Landscaping does not deal much with lawn care, however. Terri is not much of an advocate for lawns because “grass is one of the most high maintenance plants that there is, and it’s also one of the worst plants for our environment because it requires the most fertilization [and] pesticides.” Terri encourages her clients to plant either ground covers or native plants to take the place of grass.
The strangest landscaping issue Terri was ever confronted with occurred when she was installing a water garden and kept hitting metal. Cornerstone Landscaping dug up a full-size John Deere tractor, which had to be removed with a crane. This caused a lot of ground disturbance, which led to cracking in the foundation of the home and became a huge engineering issue.
Terri advises that if you are interested in getting a design done for you garden, then you should get an accurate visual of what you want before paying for it.
Cornerstone Landscaping offers free consultations that will lead to an itemized proposal. This includes a walk through to discuss colors, shapes, sizes, needs, and budgets. “I’m not as conventional as other designers who charge upfront,” Terri says. “I hear all the time, ‘Oh they didn’t listen to me. I told them I wanted an English garden, and I got a Zen Garden.’ So I want to be able to assure the client that they got what they want before I charge for it.”
Time is going to be another important factor to consider in your landscaping plans. According to Terri, “if you want a project done, you need to allow at least 6-8 weeks. We have a labor shortage in our area. Our unemployment rate is really low. I think it’s 3.8%. It is really hard to find people that want to do outdoor work, heavy lifting…I mean it’s not easy work, so it’s really hard to find folks.
On the Horizon
Terri likes to make sure that Cornerstone Landscaping maintains a heavy emphasis on the surrounding community. “We’re just going to continue maintaining what we do,” says Terri. “I hope to maintain our quality and build up our referrals and just keep on keeping on, being part of the community – that’s really important to us. We like to support our local schools and other nonprofits and just being who we are.” For more information, visit CornerstoneLandscape.com.