Staging a Comeback


Maryland landscaper branches out with new and alternative marketing initiatives

A partially-shaded pewter contorted paver patio with a perimeter rose garden and a hint of select perennials accentuates this property in Bowie, Md. An Asian fountain highlights the landscape.

Every Friday morning at 10 a.m., thousands of avid gardeners in the Washington, D.C., area tune into “Nature Boy Floyd” on urban talk radio station WOL 1450 am. His following keeps growing, especially after receiving considerable interest on an audition video for “Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star,” where winners are granted a new show on her new OWN network, and becoming a YouTube favorite with “Nature Boy Marries His Favorite Plant” and “Nature Boy Hunts for Bag Worms.” Nikita Floyd is also producing and writing a pilot script for a home and garden sitcom he’s pitching to other TV networks with the goal of not only providing gardening advice, but also delivering health and diet tips and trends with humor and entertainment.

Floyd is branching out from his traditional landscape maintenance company, Washington, D.C.-based Green Forever, as a unique celebrity gardener/entertainer. After a disappointing couple of years with his business, he is hopeful that his media exploits will provide the energy and verve necessary to stage a comeback with Green Forever.

Nikita Floyd, owner of Green Forever, based in Washington, D.C.

Green Forever Landscaping has always specialized in complete ground maintenance of commercial and residential properties, accounting for 60 percent of total business. The other 40 percent is custom landscape installations. “Our service line includes architectural design, playground and drainage system installation, water-featured landscapes, various tree operations, floral arrangements, mulching, fertilizing, sodding, seeding, general property cleanups and landscape maintenance programs,” says Floyd.

“Well before 2008, Green Forever averaged 15 installations per month. Since then, we’re down to four per month, and not the sweet high-dollar jobs either,” explains Floyd. “We enjoyed $2.5 million in sales on average before the economy tanked to an unprofitable $1 million in sales. We had to lay off two-thirds of our workforce, keeping only the seasoned workers who have been with me for over 15 years.”

A regular grass lawn is made over as a paver landscaped corridor at this property.

Now in his 40s, Floyd is used to the peaks and valleys of operating his own business and confident he will always persevere. In 1988, after leaving college, he started Green Forever with a loan from his mother to buy a walk-behind lawn mower, tiller and weed wacker. His first customer requested that he cut down a tree; he couldn’t believe he actually got paid to do something he was also passionate about.

Many of Floyd’s early jobs were cleaning the grounds of inner-city housing projects. In sharp contrast, as the years went on, his residential projects turned upscale, including high-rise luxury apartments around Silver Springs, Md., and gated golf communities around designer golf courses with estates selling upwards of $2.5 million. Floyd also managed the grounds of several area food franchises, shopping malls and mega-churches. At one point, he landed one of the most lucrative state contracts for mowing lawns, managing up to 100 miles of roadways, including 70 acres of shrubbery, perennials and 5,500 trees. The contract dried up soon after Sept. 11.

Over the past 23 years in landscaping with Green Forever, Floyd has seen residential customers go through trends from waterfalls and ponds to outdoor living spaces including outdoor kitchens to edible landscapes where people want to grow their own food. “Certainly now the trend for my residential customers is saving money on landscaping,” says Floyd. “Now I am given a budget and told to stay within it, whereas before it was, ‘Do this and send me a bill when it’s all over.'”

A perimeter low-maintenance evergreen arrangement enhances this wrought iron fence.

Landscaping for Floyd goes deeper than just winning customer contracts. “When I was growing up, I was infatuated with plants,” he says. He calls his installations “two parters:” part healing, part splendor. He not only recognizes plants for landscaping purposes, but also has an appreciation for their medicinal and nutritional properties and Biblical significance.

Landscaping is also very spiritual for Floyd. “Plants were created on the third day, and man was created on the sixth. Lilies of the field, figs, thistles, bitter herbs, grapes and hyssop are important symbols in the Bible,” he reminds his customers, including the churches he services.

Floyd’s most prized landscape installation is the one for his church, Ebenezer African Methodist in Fort Washington, Md. “I am especially proud of my flower rotations there,” he says. He has planted around 10,000 flowers on the 33-acre campus throughout the years.

Floyd’s philosophy is to take on anyone who appreciates landscaping, whether it is a $100 or $100,000 job. “It makes me feel good, and I’ve learned time and time again that what may be a little job today can grow into a big job tomorrow,” he says.

Green Forever is headquartered on Floyd’s 12-acre farm, where he lives and grows vegetables, fruits and herbs. During harvesttime, he invites friends and family to pick his favorite crops including watermelons, collard greens, beets and sweet corn. He sells the excess harvest at his local farmers’ market.

“I may have been hit hard, but I will rebuild because I love what I do,” says Floyd. “I’ll never give up what I’m passionate about.”

For the past 20 years, Tom Crain has been a regular contributor to B2B publications, including many in the green industry. He is also a marketing communications specialist for several companies in the travel, agriculture and nutrition industries.