Mariani Landscape lies 13.13 miles north by northwest from Chicago’s Union Station. Given the scurrying ant-like activity at the massive, noisy train station where I arrived, and the primly green, genteel village of Lake Bluff, Illinois, at the end of my day’s journey, it might as well have been separated by 130 miles or more. The contrast is that stark.

That particular June morning I railed to Lake Bluff (via Amtrak’s predictably late Lake Shore Limited) to hook up with the Dynamic Concepts Peer Group, a small group of landscape company owners that meet several times a year to share experiences and compare results. Friend, industry consultant and Turf magazine advisor Rick Cuddihe, the peer group leader, collected me at the Lake Bluff train station.

Let me wrap up my “here’s what I did on my summer trip” narrative, which featured the following morning spent with the group discussing business issues, and get to the highlight of the get-together: a peek into family-owned Mariani Landscape in Lake Bluff.

If you can envision the landscape contracting industry, with its 100,000-plus operators, as a pyramid, feel free to put family-owned Mariani Landscape at its peak. This is one classy operation. The firm’s 17-acre headquarters features a modern design studio along with a maintenance facility, greenhouses and holding yard. In addition it maintains an office in Bolinbrook to serve the southwest Chicago suburbs, and it grows much of the trees and ornamentals it uses in landscaping services from its nurseries in Garden Prairie, Illinois, and Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Dynamic Concepts Peer Group attendees (l. to r.): John Steele, David Rooney, Chris James, Ron Lester, Rick Cuddihe, Cory Lay, Mark Borst, Erv Denig, Mark Lay and Mariani’s Rich Forey.

Mariani Landscape operates exclusively by systems. It has to be given that it dispatches 40 maintenance crews, 11 construction crews and another 11 enhancement crews each workday. At season’s peak it numbers more than 400 employees.

The blades are sharp and the Wright Standers are lined up ready for action. PHOTOS BY RON HALL.

To keep Mariani Landscape on top of its game in the ultra-competitive, “no-excuses” North Shore market, each Thursday the company managers meet and break into their respective groups to see “who is winning and who is losing.”

Mariani Purchasing Manger Rich Forey extends a warm welcome to David Rooney, Rooney Landscape.

Indeed, the company has come a long, long way since Italian immigrant Vito Mariani founded it in 1958. Since 1972, the company has been operated by his son, Frank. Unfortunately, Frank, a fascinating person apart from being a good businessman, was away the afternoon we visited.

Because of the bitter winter, Mariani crews were still planting annuals in early June.

I hope these few photographs give you, at least, a peek into Mariani Landscape.

Ron Hall Editor-in-Chief You can contact Ron at