Faces of the Industry: Tristan Parsons - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Faces of the Industry: Tristan Parsons

To Tristan Parsons, landscaping isn’t just a commodity. He sees the value that plants add to a person’s home and life.

Parsons developed a love for beautiful landscapes as he grew up helping care for his family and his grandparents’ properties.

In high school, he started knocking on doors and quickly had 15 yards that he was caring for. He continued to provide landscaping services while he was in college at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

At one point he offered to trim back a company’s shrubs because they were taking up part of the sidewalk and they asked him if he could do design work as well.

“Once I got into design and install, I really loved it and then eventually I dropped occupational therapy, which I was going to school for,” Parsons says.

However, recently Parsons has been able to reincorporate his interest in occupational therapy by earning his horticultural therapy certificate course at Colorado State University.

Parsons has only been in the industry for four years, but he says he has loved it so far. His favorite aspect is the design install side of the business.

“Using creation to glorify the Creator, that’s what I love about it,” Parsons says. “Now with the horticultural therapy part of it, I’m able to physically help people get better and just maximize their potential.”

Now as the owner of La Vida Landscapes, based in Birmingham, Alabama, his main focus is creating systems for his company. He says this has been the hardest part for him so far.

“It about killed me this past summer,” Parsons says. “I didn’t have any systems and was taking on a lot of work, which is good, but also the lack of systems was hurting me. That’s been the biggest challenge about the industry in general.”

Parsons says he hasn’t found a lot of mentors yet but is looking forward to networking and connecting with more NALP members as time goes on. He says in 2020 and 2021 he considered working with someone else to learn more about the business but decided not to since he had already established relationships as La Vida Landscapes.

“I feel like it’s about relationships,” Parsons says. “It’s not what you know, more so who you know.”  

La Vida currently has 90 percent residential customers, and 10 percent commercial clients. Parsons says he would like to grow the commercial side more. His ideal business model is to be 60 percent maintenance, and 40 percent design-build work.

He currently employs six to eight people on staff and hopes to teach those working with him financial literacy.

“I want people to come into the La Vida because they want to, not because they have to,” Parsons says. “I don’t want someone coming to work with us because they have to. I want them to enjoy it. Life is only so long.”

In the next five years, Parsons says he’d like to have a couple branches in locations like Huntsville and Smith Lake. He also wants to be installing sensory gardens throughout the Southeast as a nonprofit.

Additionally, he plans to launch Vida Gardens, which would be a place for pediatric and geriatric patients to attain their wellness goals through a variety of garden settings and activities. Vida Gardens would also be a nursery that sells plants where the profits are used to maintain the gardens.

“This is a concept that I plan to open in 2025 and possibly start franchising La Vida Landscapes and Vida Gardens as an all-in-one place nursery and contractor,” Parsons says.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the content manager for NALP.