By Betsy Iler | Photo by Kenneth Boone
“It all started in 1993 when Brian Fuller got a speeding ticket at 16 years old,” Fuller’s Hilltop Landscaping partner, Eric Brown began. “His dad said he wasn’t going to pay for it, so Brian had to get a job. He went to work for Ricky Pope at Hilltop.”
The following year, a 17-year-old Brown joined the landscaping firm to earn gas money.
“We learned a lot from Ricky,” Brown said. “After three or four years working with Ricky, things started clicking.
We started asking him questions about how he knew where to put water features and other things about design. We were sponges, and we just soaked it all in. In the winters, we worked in the greenhouse and did propagation. We learned how fast each plant grows and how to prune. We were hands on then, and we’re still hands on.”
In 2003, 10 years after Fuller’s fortuitous brush with the law, Pope sold the landscaping business to Brown and Fuller. For 20 years now, landscaping has been their passion, and Brown said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I heard someone on the radio the other day ask the question, ‘Would you still be doing what you are doing right now if all jobs paid the same?’ Without any hesitation, I can answer, ‘Yes, absolutely!’” he said. “We get to use our imaginations. We get to turn something that is a problem or a puzzle into something really nice.”
Hilltop Landscaping L.L.C. designs and builds stunning outdoor features, including rock walls, boulder walls, sea walls, outdoor fireplaces, flagstone pads, raised beds, patios and steps, and they specialize in water features.
“Lots of people can make a yard look good the day they leave it,” Brown said. “We do our best to make a yard that is still beautiful five and 10 years down the road.”
Among Hilltop Landscaping’s credits are the waterfall feature at Larry and Beverly Morris’ Willow Point home, which was photographed for last month’s issue of Lake magazine, and a falls at the Alexander City home of Bill and Mollie Barrett. “We built that water feature just last year, but it looks like it’s been there forever,” Brown said.
“In landscaping, water is king,” he explained. “Getting water where it needs to be and keeping it away from where it doesn’t need to be – and making it look beautiful while you do it – is the biggest issue we deal with.”
Deer management is another concern the crew at Hilltop addresses. “For a lot of people, the problem is that deer eat the plants in their yard. There are things we can do to minimize or eliminate the damage that deer can do to a yard,” he said. “It’s not just what will grow in the garden zone, but our choices are sometimes narrowed by what the deer will eat.”
Brown said much of the work the company’s five-member crew does is hardly noticeable by the homeowner, but it makes a tremendous difference in the finished product.
“We put a lot into bed preparation,” he explained. “Most of the dirt around here really is ‘dirt;’ I can hardly call it ‘soil.’ It’s red clay and rocks, and it’s hard to work in. If you want the plants to thrive, you have to put in the time and labor to build up the soil, so the roots can spread out.”
The office for Hilltop Landscaping L.L.C. is located on Tallapoosa Street in Alexander City, but Brown said, “We’re never there. By 8:30 in the morning, we’re out in the field on a job. The best way to reach us is through our website at www.thehilltoplandscaping.com.”