DESIGNER PROFILE: Bernadette Balics

Interviewed by Tina Henricksen, APLD Sacramento District President

Bernadette Balics    Ecological Landscape Design , Davis, CA APLD Sacramento District Treasurer

Bernadette Balics
Ecological Landscape Design, Davis, CA
APLD Sacramento District Treasurer

 Bernadette Balics is the founder of Ecological Landscape Design, a Davis-based garden design company that focuses on enhancing the lives of clients by creating beautiful, functional landscapes free from reliance on fertilizer, pesticides, or wastewater. She designs using sustainably produced materials, soil building, and rainwater harvesting techniques.

The boardwalk, made with durable fiberglass reinforced recycled plastic supports, leads visitors away from the shady patio refuge out into the expansive rear garden. Photo courtesy of Bernadette Balics.

What is your background, and what led you to a career in Landscape Design?

This orange themed backyard is both a relaxing setting and a fun play area for grandchildren. Photo courtesy of Thomas Taylor.

I was raised by two gardeners, and have a B.S. in plant genetics and a M.S. in Ecological Agriculture.  After working in agriculture for 10 years, I wanted to be self-employed, with a focus of working with plants and people. Since I didn't have the guts or capital to become an organic farmer, I chose to start a landscape design and gardening business. Fortunately, I've been able to use many skills from previous jobs, even from my work as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, Central Africa.  

What is the focus of your design practice?

I try to minimize the impact of landscaping on the planet, while providing habitat, watershed protection and beauty.

What city and zone do you garden in?

Davis, CA Sunset Zone 14, USDA Zone 9

A bird shower, set in a pollinator garden, with a backdrop of big sky and the Vaca hills. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Jewell.

What kinds of projects give you the most satisfaction? Tell us about one of them.  

I enjoyed a recent project whose theme was 'Punjabi Courtyard and Faerie Garden'. The clients and I were able to create a very unique and personal space together. They were willing to use sustainable materials, and we held several work parties so friends and family could help build an earth bag wall and cob earth chapel.  The clients were able to celebrate a college

graduation and a marriage in the outdoor space shortly after completion.

What is the most rewarding part and the most frustrating part of your job as a designer?

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing clients becoming stewards of their gardens - genuinely interested in nurturing plants, soil and beneficial insects under their care. I think the most frustrating part of my job is a general lack of awareness of the value and complexity of landscape design.

You’ve been a member of APLD for many years; how did you find out about it and what first led you to join?

I received invitations to APLD CA Sac District events and attended a few, enjoying the learning opportunities and mingling with colleagues. After receiving a letter from LATC  regarding wording on my website, I decided to join to help protect my right to practice.

What is the average size of gardens that you design?

Most of my projects are typical suburban lots under 1/4 acre.