People in the business of offering business tips say you should find your niche and own it. For landscape architect Robert E. Truskowski, that niche was ultra-high-end residential work.
Born in Compton, California, Truskowski moved to La Habra and attended California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He started out majoring in civil engineering but found that landscape architecture was more intriguing to him.
He started his firm in 1971 and was faced with a peculiar challenge early on. One client requested that he build and indoor-outdoor lagoon, complete with moray eels, garibaldi, oysters and lobsters that could become guests’ eventual dinner.
The house was located along Newport Beach’s Promontory Bay and Truskowski needed to figure out how to filter the polluted bay water.
He contacted renowned oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, who in turn put Truskowski in touch with biologists at the University of California Berkeley. Together they figured out the details for a filtration system.
Another project that involved a lagoon was for a palace on the Red Sea. This time the inhabitants were pointer sharks and other local aquatic life.
“He has in-house oceanographers,” Truskowski told the Orange County Register.
Because of the extremely high temperatures of the region, Truskowski had to set up a pump that would draw cooler water from a well 700 feet down and recycle the water daily.
For the landscaping, he selected subtropical trees that traveled in open containers for a month to get from Florida to the Middle East.
Truskowski has become quite the globetrotter in his 45 years of working. He estimates that he has flown 15 million miles in his career while searching for exotic plants, checking on projects and attending design summits.
In Cape Martin, France, Truskowski designed 12 interconnected gardens for the Villa Torre Clementina, a 19th century estate that had been long neglected. After restoration of the gardens, the French government gave the location national landmark status in 1993, unaware that the plants were new.
Another European restoration was carried out in the Austrian Alps, where he designed gardens for a hunting castle that had belonged to Archduke Franz Ferdinand. He even created a coat of arms of the stable roof out of red, pink and white begonias that could be seen from the castle.
He has worked on more than 2,000 gardens and landscape projects that range anywhere from $1 million to $5 million.
“A lot of the homes I do are vacation homes,” he said. “These people have four, five, six houses.”
He specializes in restoring and creating innovative design solutions. One of Truskowski’s projects can currently be bought for the price of $52 million. The late owner of the Philadelphia Flyers, Ed Snider, had his 9.4-acre estate restored by the landscape architect.
Part of the grounds were originally designed in 1947 by landscape architect Lockwood de Forest Jr. and Truskowski was able to integrate later parcels with the same style.
“My goal was to do the new overall garden to appear as it was done by the same hand,” he said.