2008 Naples Designer Show House

The 2008 Naples Designer Show House was a project that was intended to show The drama of art and design, to benefit “The Naples Players and Naples Art Association”.  Earthtech Unlimited, Inc. was fortunate to have the opportunity to install the complete xeriscape landscape for this fundraiser.



Gulfshore Life Magazine

In Home & Condo’s 1998-1999 annual issue, the article titled “Between Landscape and Architecture” was not only written by Joe Carufe, but the home featured was also landscaped by Joe’s landscape company, Earthtech Unlimited, Inc.  In the portfolio section, you can see two pictures of the home in Audubon Country Club located in North Naples.

Original can be found here:

Front yard facelift

MARY LOU SMART, At Home contributor

Saturday, July 16, 2005

I hadn’t planned on a front-yard facelift, at least not before the remodeling of my 35-year-old kitchen. Nature had a hand in forcing the project.A lightning storm in July 2004 destroyed many of my appliances, including my computer, phones and a cheap, battery-powered doorbell. A friend standing on the front porch reported that the bolt seemed to come out of the sky and down through the Norfolk pine in the yard.

To this day, the doorbell still sounds like a cat with its tail being stepped on when anyone pushes it. The computer and phones have been replaced, and my homes electrical system is now buffered by whole-house surge protection.

The Norfolk is gone. It had, in fact, been hit by lightening. On August 13, Hurricane Charley stripped most of the branches off of its south side, leaving a clearer view to the top, which was dead.

Around the same time that I was wondering if my half-bare, lightning-damaged tree would survive another storm, I called Joe Carufe, owner of Earthtech Unlimited, a landscape company, and left a message asking if he would drop a truckload of gravel in my yard so that I could spruce up my driveway.

“That Norfolk pine is dangerous,” warned the reply message on my answering machine a few days later. Joe had driven by to look at my house after hearing of my plan. “It could fall on your house and crush it. Take care of that first, and then Ill give you a few suggestions about what you should do next.”

Suggestions? I was happy with my homegrown driveway. While I agreed that maybe the tree was a hazard, the mere thought of these suggestions was troubling.

I called several tree trimmers, asking for a quote to include a slash pine on my property line that Joe had observed was diseased and liable to fall on my neighbors house. I chose Affordable #1; the company’s quote for removal of both trees and stumps was $1,070.

It is the only quote I received. Other companies were too busy cutting down hurricane-damaged trees to drive out for an estimate. Stories of trees being cut in Old Naples for between $2,000 and $3,000, so $1,070 for two trees, one of them being one of the tallest Norfolks in Naples Park, seemed reasonable.

Preparing for maintenance, too

Several meetings with Carufe followed, and the idea of doing more for my front yard than dumping gravel on the driveway began to take shape. At the first, using his “size-12 Italian tape measure” boots, he walked back and forth and jotted notes to estimate the amount of gravel needed, talked about drought-resistant plants and mentioned that some of the scraggly natives along the perimeter of the property were unhealthy. He urged me to get a sprinkler system.

I hated the idea of a sprinkler system, and was not too thrilled about spending more than the cost of a few truckloads of gravel and, okay, maybe a few plants.

“I wouldn’t want to put in a landscape on any property without a sprinkler system,” he insisted. “You’ll kill yourself watering these plants during dry season.”

Calling around, I came to realize professionals installing sprinkler systems are as popular as tree trimmers. The first person to agree to come out for a quote was a no-nonsense individual who sized up the situation and was back in his truck in less than five minutes.

“This is nothing,” said Michael Warren, owner of Warco Water. He noted that I had an outdoor outlet and a sprinkler hookup from a previous owner, both of which translated into less work, a less expensive job. Better yet, he told me that if I went with drip irrigation, I’d spend less all around.

“If we’re just talking about drought-tolerant plants and no turf, you don’t need sprinklers,” he advised. “With drip irrigation, you’re going to be using less water. It’s better for the environment and your water bill will be much lower than if you go with sprinklers.”

He told me to give him a call, that he’d return just before the landscape was installed, and he was gone.

Expect the unexpected

Earthtech’s estimate included the cost to grade the surface, remove the old shell, and install six tons of lime rock underneath six tons of gravel, Diamond black edging — the most economical alternative — around the perimeter, new plants and 35 bags of Enviro Mulch. Also included in the price, which ended up being less than $4,000, was labor to move a few trees, remove sickly plants and shape an existing mahogany.

A few weeks before the landscaping, Joe came by and sprayed a water-soluble orange paint around the perimeter of the flower beds and driveway, and we discussed the shape of things to come.

The week before the project started, I noticed bright blue lines and tiny blue flags in the vicinity of the drainage ditch in front of my property. Carufe had called the state toll-free number that dispatches companies for each utility that serves a property to mark lines before any work is done.

Any licensed contractor who digs on your property is required to call the number first, but homeowners should know to do that too, he explained. With underground electrical, cable TV, telephone and water lines, mistakes can be costly and dangerous.

The first day, when the property was being cleared and the land graded to prepare for the lime rock and gravel, he knocked on my door.

“I want you to come outside and see what happens when something goes really wrong on a project, and decisions have to be made,” he said.

Right in the center of what would be the improved parking area, a huge stump stuck out at lawn level. Even though I had paid for stump grinding when my Norfolk was cut, I had never mentioned to anyone at Affordable #1 about my landscape plans. At that stage of the project I had not even heard Joe’s suggestions, and didn’t realize that Earthtech would remove dirt before pouring gravel.

Carufe offered several options, among them the idea we chose: to follow the sound of a stump grinder already working in the area and see if that person would help us out. Within an hour a grinder from Bill’s Tree Service, a Bonita Springs company, was tackling the project for $175.

A raggedy sugar apple tree was moved to the backyard to join other fruit trees there. Shallow trenches were dug for the perimeter edging. Lime rock, which creates a solid base and keeps gravel from settling under the weight of automobiles, was packed into the ground underneath where the gravel would be poured.

Just before the plants went in, Warren returned to install the drip irrigation system and teach automatic timer fundamentals.

A landscaping head start

The entire time Carufe’s crew was shaping the landscape, dirt and shells from the front yard and mulch from the chopped trees were being moved to the back yard to raise shallow areas and mulch existing plants.

I asked why mulch from the trees that were chopped down was not put around the new foliage rather than his buying commercial mulch for them. Carufe explained: the commercial product he uses is free of weed seeds, bug-resistant and healthier for plants that are trying to establish a foothold. Organo time-release fertilizer added around the root ball of each of the new plants would also give them a better start. Carufe also gave me a schedule for fertilizing again in the spring.

Cocoplum, green and yellow Arboricola, blue Plumbago, crown of thorns, a croton and a Christmas palm were chosen because they require little maintenance. The Cocoplum is a native that will grow into a privacy hedge. Likewise, the green Arboricolas strong, glossy foliage will soon block the view of the adjacent property. The variegated yellow Arboricola adds color along the side of the house.

The blue Plumbago and red crown of thorns will flower throughout the year. Just beside the front door, a large croton is bursting with color. A focal point, the Christmas palm adds a tropical welcome to the front of the home.

One of the most striking features of the design, which will become apparent over time, is the placement of a Gumbo Limbo tree. Carufe’s suggestion was to move the handsome native with the distinctive red bark to the center of the yard where it will fan out to shade the entire area.

I love the look of my landscape, and am thrilled to have even less lawn to mow. In fact, now the thought of a backyard makeover is tempting …

Step by step to a new yard

1. Determine what you want to do and what you can afford; including:

— a contingency fund for those unexpected expenditures.

— maintenance expenditures and needs for the finished yard.

— use of existing plants that can be moved or recycled.

— Economical placement that allows for growth both horizontally and vertically.

2. Consider talking with at least one professional to do the work or part of the work. Get several estimates when its possible. Estimates should be in writing.

3. Make sure that what you’re doing is both legal and safe. Any yard structures may need to conform to city or county building codes. Check with operated by a consortium of utilities in Florida that offers free marking of underground utility lines before you dig:

Sunshine State One Call (for underground utilities marking): (800) 432-4770.

City of Naples Building and Zoning Division (structural): 213-5020 or Building Official Martin Conant, 213-5036, or Deputy Building Official Paul Bollenback, 213-5037

Collier County Plan Review (structural): 403-2400

4. Be involved at every step of the work. that you’ve contracted:

— Get a visual depiction of the landscaping layout and the plant material being used before it is installed.

— Ask about the type of mulch, irrigation and fertilizer being used and how they benefit the landscaping. Don’t be afraid to check with a number of sources, from the Collier County Extension Service to online Florida foliage Web sites, to get to know what’s going in your yard:

Collier County Master Gardener Plant Clinic — 353-2872

University of Florida Extension Service Web site:

Floridata (Florida landscaping plant site):

5. Plan far ahead — and be patient. In Florida, summer downpours and storm damage needs can divert the companies doing your work. Remember that an economical finished product is young landscaping, which may take a year or two to grow into the masterpiece you want.




    We are very pleased with our landscape for our new home. Not only did you both make every effort to obtain the best specimens possible, but you took a lot of care to make sure they were cared for and planted well. was a pleasure to work with both of you and your team.
    Thank you so much.
    Tanya and Dennis Glass

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