Landscape designer’s Piedmont project wins first prize – East Bay Times

Moraga landscape designer Roxanne Wolosenko has been getting some attention on the other side of the Caldecott Tunnel.

This summer, the former computer game designer turned self-employed gardener took home first-place prizes from the San Francisco Bay Area East Chapter of the California Landscape Contractors Association for projects in Berkeley and Piedmont. She hopes to continue growing her business in the Oakland hills and Berkeley areas.

Since obtaining her contractor’s license five years ago, Wolosenko, 50, has grown her Roxy Designs business from a part-time hobby to one that employs six people despite the economic slowdown.

“I kept getting drawn back into it,” Wolosenko said, explaining how she left a high-paying job in software design for gardening. “I love plants, and when I was able to make a change, I jumped off a cliff and decided to do something completely different.” Turning tired, underused spaces into lush, sustainability-minded retreats is what keeps her going.

“This is different from software,” she said. ” You can work on a project for years and then it ends up in a box on a shelf. The work I do now feeds my soul.” Linda Okahara, a 17-year Piedmont resident, met Wolosenko through a contractor working on the home Okahara shares with husband, Balaram Puligandla.

Okahara said Wolosenko opened their eyes to possibilities they had never considered, including adding a boulder waterfall feature that won a special effects first-place prize from the contractors association. The three-month project had started out as a simple landscape project that involved fixing a large retaining wall.

“Not only does it do the job of conserving water, it just updated the whole look of the house,” Okahara said, adding that the family also enjoys the colorful drought-tolerant vegetation Wolosenko installed around the property.

This summer, Wolosenko also won a first-place award from the contractors association in the small design/build installation category for a multilevel backyard project in north Berkeley.

She added new retaining walls, fixed poor drainage under the house and added a large patio by borrowing some space from the hillside to create a play space for the owners’ 4-year-old son to play. Roxy Designs also put a stone bench into the wall and a tiered waterfall.

“It’s just really beautiful, and it’s sort of changed the whole back of the house for us,” said Cynthia Barlow, who along with husband Tony acquired the home in 2004 but didn’t use the backyard until this year.

“I love changing the lives of people through changing their gardens,” Wolosenko said. “It fits my whole very strong environmentalist identity, to be able to create habitat and really make gardens much more welcoming to bees and butterflies.” And just because it’s getting cold doesn’t mean Wolosenko is done working for a while.

“Right around the holidays people are starting to do their planning, so plans can be drawn in time for planting in March and April,” she said.

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