Case Studies

The Bruce Company of Wisconsin Inc.

Designing the Best of the Outdoors

The Bruce Company of Wisconsin Inc. (TBC) provides design-build landscaping services to make outdoor living easier for each of the company’s clients. TBC has since expanded since its inception in 1952 into a full-service commercial and residential landscaping company with construction, irrigation and maintenance capabilities in addition to an aquatics division and a garden center. TBC prides itself on surpassing each client’s expectations by anticipating individual needs and designing standout solutions that not only look great season-to-season, but year after year.

“We’re totally landscape-focused,” says Steve Short, vice president and co-owner of TBC. TBC headquarters and garden center are located in Middleton, Wis., with additional branches in Milwaukee and Racine, Wis., to help the company serve clients within a few hours of the Middleton-Madison area.

Short began working at TBC in high school and continued to provide drafting services to the landscape design operations while earning his degree in landscape architecture. Short gradually worked his way up over the years and currently oversees TBC’s design/sales and CAD departments, which offer clients turnkey design-build landscaping services for residential and commercial properties alike. The company also specializes in golf course construction and remodeling, proudly boasting a portfolio of completed projects across the country.

What truly sets TBC apart is the entire team’s experience in every aspect of the company’s operations. The diverse and capable team represents a mix of registered landscape architects, landscape designers, horticulturists, aquatics specialists, lighting specialists, construction professionals, CAD drafting and measuring staff, estimators and certified irrigation contractors and designers who average 18 years of industry experience with TBC. Management at TBC believes that no professional’s training is ever complete and the company continues to provide its team with additional training and mentoring programs that build upon the team’s diverse skill sets.

A Living Landscape

TBC also manages a 600-acre nursery just south of its headquarters in Verona, Wis., which supplies the garden center with an impressive mix of trees, shrubs, evergreens and ornamentals. The nursery uses the same types of soils found in the region, ensuring plants have enough healthy microbial activity to overcome stress during transport and aid a swift root establishment once planted.

The team at TBC puts its extensive expertise to hard work at the nursery to encourage biodiversity, rotating crops and composting biomass to add nitrogen naturally and reduce soil compaction. TBC utilizes an integrated pest management team to improve the quality of the nursery by keeping pests, weeds and disease at bay. Additionally cattle are put to pasture in areas too steep or rocky to be mowed, which helps keep the local vole population under control and reduce damage to adjacent nursery operations.

Prior to the economic downturn TBC’s volume was traditionally split at a ratio of 60- to 40-percent between residential and commercial projects. However, TBC has managed to maintain a staff of roughly 100 year-round employees, which can swell as high as 400 employees during high-season plantings or major snow events, when the team mobilizes to clear snow from parking lots, roads, driveways, sidewalks and docks through the night.

The company has been able to make a bold impression in the past few years, providing the team’s expertise to the construction of the Healing Gardens at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Wis. “This was one of the most unique and challenging projects we have ever worked on,” reflects Short. “It was not only significant for its size, but it involved a few water features, lots of paving work, installation of irrigation systems and many kinds of perennials.”

The hospital’s famed archway was relocated from the main entrance to the gardens, which were deigned to create multiple gathering areas for staff, patients and families to decompress. The gardens also feature an inlaid labyrinth, extensive hardscaping and a stone path crossing a babbling brook, which is then mimicked in a decorative mosaic path complete with fish inlays. A separate winding concrete pathway leads to a children’s area, complete with child-sized furniture that references the campus’ oak trees through oak leaf impressions made into the concrete surface.

A Bold Impression

TBC’s work on the project landed the company the Wisconsin Masonry Alliance’s coveted Gold Award in 2010, which the company also took home for its work on the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery the same year. The institute is located adjacent to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and serves as a public-private biomedical research institute, which opened in 2010. The town center portion of the campus was designed with three floors of nontraditional research and lab space to foster interdepartmental collaboration between researchers. TBC was responsible for much of the center’s plantings, paving and hardscaping, which like St. Mary’s Healing Gardens will provide small spaces for the institute’s occupants to unwind.

As for the occupants of St. Mary’s, the future looks bright for the TBC team. “Our aquatics division has been growing steadily,” says Short. “Within the past year we have built maybe half a dozen rooftop gardens for clients in the Madison area, so we look forward to growing that niche as well.”

Wisconsin may not be snapping back as quickly as its residents might like, but the team at TBC has proven the company capable of weathering any storm or economic climate in its impressive 60-year history. The company’s team of multidisciplinary professionals will always push for the best landscaping solutions possible, providing the momentum for The Bruce Company of Wisconsin Inc. to continue exceeding client expectations, year after year.

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