Beautiful outdoor custom landscaping built to suit specific needs is key to Blue Water Prairie Landscape and Design’s success across the region. Initially beginning in 2005 with just a trailer and a barn for storage, the company has grown into their property in West Okoboji, and their award-winning landscape designers have developed beautiful and functional outdoor masterpieces throughout the area.
From retaining walls to pond less waterfalls to shorelines and patios, Blue Water Prairie (BWP) transforms an entire space from start to finish.
“Our niche has developed into creating custom outdoor living spaces for our customers, whether it’s stonework, restoring a shoreline or providing advice on plants and landscaping. We like to work on jobs that no one else is doing,” owner Mat Hanson shared.
Growing up east of Spencer and graduating from Terril High School in 1995, Hanson received his degree from Iowa State in horticulture and landscape design. After college, he spent time working for a landscape design firm out of Dallas, TX.
“It was a really neat experience and a big change, learning about their climate and landscape compared to what you find in Northwest Iowa. I learned a lot from the husband-and-wife team and helped them with their company’s expansion,” Hanson said.
About 16 years ago, Hanson moved back to Iowa and started 4evergreen out of Ruthven with partners. After several years, he sold the company and started BWP, equipped with his tools and a mobile job trailer.
“We stored a lot of things at my parents’ farm, east of Spencer, but everything became a lot easier when we built the shop in West Okoboji four years ago,” he added.
Why Blue Water Prairie?
The name Hanson said stems from the area’s natural landscape.
“We live in a unique area, specifically being surrounded by blue water and prairie,” he shared. “Because of this uniqueness, we want to enhance a client’s space, while incorporating functionality and style.”
Blue Water Prairie focuses on using quality materials and products within their designs, often selecting resources that are new to the landscape scene. For one project along Big Spirit, a tree fell midway down the shoreline, pulling down the existing landscape walls. Hanson used a big reach excavator to rebuild the shoreline, while incorporating a Geotextile system, flowers and landscaping.
“We want to fix it in a way that protected the area, but our client also loved flowers and gardening, so we used a material called Strataweb to provide structure in the bank,” he explained. “This material has different cells that overlap over the dirt and rocks. Then you can plant seed and flowers within the open cells to provide color, greenery, and added protection.”
Hanson said it’s important to know the regulations of where you’re building or adding custom landscaping, as each city or lake has different rules. “I make sure to go and meet with the city administration to know what I can and can’t do, because I also grew up on this lake and I want to keep it beautiful and protected.”
Custom Landscaping Solutions
Blue Water Prairie Landscape and Design has become known to complete jobs many others turn down. Their niche is custom stonework and outdoor living spaces, preserving the integrity of the space through custom landscape solutions.
Shoreline renovations are never easy, but through specialized tools and equipment BWP can build block and boulder walls, steps and flowers beds. Hanson said he works closely with the client, ensuring the shoreline is protected but also looks beautiful once completed.
“Some people prefer greenery over rock or stone to protect their shoreline or space,” he added. “Others like a natural or more modern look.”
Because of Hanson’s landscaping and horticulture degree, the landscaping company provides expert advice in a variety of areas.
“Some clients are surprised at how well I know plants,” he said. “When I had time, for a few years, I taught horticulture and landscape design classes at Iowa Lakes Community College.”
He also has two full time staff, including another landscape designer Cody Mosbach.
“We work well together and he has been a perfect fit to our company,” Hanson said. “He received his degree from Hawkeye in Landscape and Horticulture, growing up on a small-town farm where he baled hay and picked up rocks! He knows how to work hard.”
During the summer, BWP also hires seven to 10 college and high school kids.
“We are always looking for quality workers willing to work hard,” he added.
Helping Clients Make Decisions
Depending on what the client prefers, Hanson will provide a free consultation to learn the lay of the land. He finds out what plants a client likes, as well as favorite colors and if there are plants someone doesn’t like.
He said he is old school and creates a functional diagram, conceptual design, and final design on paper and then shows which plants would do best in specific areas. Other questions he asks are whether the client is a gardener and knows how to take care of the plants.
“My favorite plants are ones with textures and leaf color changes, as well as contrasting grasses,” Hanson shared. “You also look at height and whether the space is in full sun or shade. Are they a gardener and going to know how to take care of roses?”
He said there are so many options that he will narrow down the selection process by the previous answers given and show them pictures and ideas. He brings catalogs with material ideas and helps them understand their space they will be renovating. Flowers, shrubbery, and trees can bring a yard to life, while the versatility of plants can allow for the masking of less attractive areas or can draw the eye towards focal areas of the landscape with bright colors and shapes.
“If they want a firepit and the space is limited, they need to consider traffic points and remember you need room for walking. You don’t want to fall off the patio or have the wood or gas firepit too close,” he said. “We ask questions about how many people will be there and how will the space be regularly used. We also talk about budget and what works best within what you want to spend. Then we will help you create a custom outdoor space you really enjoy.”
BWP has also become known for their stonework, incorporating block retaining walls, fireplaces, or flower beds. Available in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, block retaining walls can easily be integrated into all types of landscaping. The walls add functionality and style along the shoreline or as accent walls. Many times, greenery can be incorporated within the walls as well.
Other clients have chosen a boulder wall to provide a more timeless, natural look.
“The beautiful colors of the rocks can really bring landscaping to another level, and when installed correctly, boulder walls can last for generations,” Hanson added.
Drainage systems and waterscapes can be included, as well as pavers. Blue Water Prairie Landscape and Design was awarded the Imagine Project to complete Lake Street in front of Arnolds Park Amusement Park this spring. Hanson has a paver laying machine that will lay sections of pavers at a time. These pavers can handle the rain and sun.
“We are excited about the project, and it will look really nice when it’s complete,” he shared.
Besides creating custom paver outdoor patios, Hanson said they can also lay a paver deck system. The metal structure uses concrete pavers and eliminates wood.
“Once complete, the deck will last for a long time. It’s really more bang for your buck,” Hanson explained.
Through any project Hanson oversees, with the help of his trusted staff, Blue Water Prairie creates a beautiful functional space that you won’t want to leave.
“Big or small, if it doesn’t function, it’s not going to work,” he said. “We want to build a custom space unique to your family and needs.”
For more information on Blue Water Prairie Landscape and Design, visit bwplandscape.com or call Hanson at 712-209-2565.