2020 Circle of Excellence: Landscape Designer Troy Shimp
Lifescape Colorado, Denver
Working the land is in Troy Shimp’s blood: His father, grandfather and great-grand- father were all farmers.
Shimp himself spent his early years on a farm in Minnesota before moving to Colorado when he was 13, so it was only natural that after graduating from high school, he worked as both a gardener at a large, private residence outside Fort Collins—mowing, irrigating, planting, pruning—and an installer for a couple of Colorado landscape companies.
Still, it wasn’t until a friend started taking landscape-design courses at CSU, he says, that “it all clicked.” Shimp enrolled at CSU, too, receiving his degree in horticulture, landscape design and construction in 1998. After graduation, he was fortunate enough to work for Phil Steinhauer at Designscapes Colorado before going out on his own and then joining Lifescape 13 years ago.
Today, Shimp says, he likes to spend time walking a space and taking in the environment—looking for what needs enhancing and what needs to be downplayed. “You have to take in the whole picture of what the experience is going to be—how the space makes you feel when you are in it and how it functions. Every project is like a new puzzle—both a mental and a physical puzzle—and that’s why I love it. You start by putting a concept on paper, but paper is forgiving. Getting into the physical realm is different. It’s like Central Park—you can look at Olmsted’s original designs and find them amazing, but when you walk through Central Park, it’s a whole new experience.”
Colorado’s grand vistas are a constant inspiration, but Shimp prefers working on smaller scales. “I favor intimate spaces. Taking an area that seems relatively insignificant and trans- forming it into something that a client wasn’t expecting is really satisfying.”
CREATING SPACES “As a kid, I enjoyed drawing, painting and writing, and I had an innate desire to create spaces. My older brother and I spent hours building forts and carving out paths in the old groves of trees around our home. I would move the furniture in my room constantly—and in any other room in the house, if my mom would let me. Even now, I’m always tinkering with some sort of project and tearing something apart to make it better.”
ENERGY FROM SYNERGY “I truly enjoy collaboration. When you work with a diverse team—the owner, architect, interior designer, builder and landscape designer—there’s this synergy and shared excitement that elevates the project to its fullest potential. You can’t help but be energized by it.”
NATIVE LANDSCAPES “This is not an easy place to grow a successful garden landscape. We have to work with the climate rather than against it and make smart, water-wise choices, because we have a role to play as conservationists, too.”
FAVORITE PLANTS “Most plants I use are interesting in at least three of the four seasons and hardy in our climate. My favorites are serviceberry, which is easy to grow and can be used as a shrub or a tree; Jack Frost false forget- me-nots, which are quick bloomers with interesting texture; fastigiate Norway spruce, which is narrow and can fit into small spaces, providing screening and color; crocosmia, which is tropical- looking so is unexpected in Colorado; and sedums, for color and texture.”
TIME MARCHES ON “It’s our responsibility as designers to resist ‘throwaway’ architecture. It’s important to think about how a project will look in 10, 20 or 30 years. What will still work, what won’t, and how will it evolve? A landscape is ‘living.’ It is never finished.”