Lenoir woman specializes in fine landscaping | Local News
When Alexa Smarr was a kid growing up in Gastonia, she would often cross the street to pick peas from her neighbor’s vegetable garden.
“I would come home and say, ‘Mom, we should have a vegetable garden,'” she said, laughing at the memory.
Her early outdoor experiences sparked a passion for the outdoors.
Smarr moved to Lenoir last year with her husband Blake, Trinity United Methodist Church’s newest pastor. Today she runs her own landscaping company, Alexa Gardens, offering services that help owners design and install beautiful landscaping.
Gardening is an art, said Smarr.
Her high school had no farming program, and it wasn’t until she attended classes at Clemson University that she realized she had a career in garden design.
“I didn’t know this was a career option,” she said. “It wasn’t exposed to that.”
She started out as a business major at Clemson but switched to horticulture, graduating in 2016, then moving to Maryland and earning a Masters of Professional Studies in applied entomology or the study of insects.
What she loves, Smarr said, is “fine gardening,” not mowing the lawn, but helping with the design and installation of flower beds and other landscaping, as well as pruning, weeding, and perennial maintenance.
She is currently working on a project in Charlotte to help property owners transform the landscape in their yard to help water runoff.
“In general, the things I do are the things your lawn man won’t,” she said.
Her role as a landscaper also enables Smarr to educate, identify, and teach homeowners how to cultivate plants or insects.
“This is really my biggest passion when it comes to education,” she said.
Before the pandemic, she enjoyed talking about engagements and especially teaching about sustainable landscaping or landscaping that supports and protects the environment.
“Insects suffer from habitat loss and pesticide use. There are many diseases in the honey bee community. So there are many ways we can just support and protect the ecosystem in general, especially insects,” she said. “I’m a bit of a bug nerd.”
At construction sites, she said, someone could find an insect, “and they’ll say, ‘Alexa, what is that? Alexa, what is that?'”
“When I’m your person, I want to teach you things. … That’s what I love most.” She said. “We were at a construction site the other day and there was a praying mantis egg mass in one of the trees we were planting and I was totally nuts. I was like, ‘Look at this! It’s an ootheca. We have to keep that.’ “, she said.
Starting a business, she said, was a way for her to do the things she loved.
She said the landscaping industry is largely male dominated and customers sometimes seem surprised by her.
“Some customers, I’ll go and they kind of look at me like, ‘Huh, are you going to do this?'” She said. “Like I went home to a customer … and they said, ‘Oh, you know, can you tear out these bushes?’ … They helped me and started digging, and then I said, “I think I can get it.” And I just put a shovel in it and pulled the whole bush out of the ground. She said, ‘Well, me will never underestimate you again. ‘ “
Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.