Susan Maybach: Putting Down Roots | Meet Your Neighbor
by Christina Callicott
May 06, 2008 | 2681 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Susan Maybach
Susan Maybach
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RIDGWAY – Susan Maybach, owner and operator of Ridgway landscaping company Earth, Wind and Rock, has been rooted in Pleasant Valley for 20 years, and she’s spent most of that time helping other people put down some roots of their own.

“When I first got here in the early 80s, the only things people were planting were spruce, aspen and potentilla,” Maybach recalled. Maybach joined forces with Liza Ferguson and Mallory Clark, former owners of Park Nursery, and the three set out to expand the regional plant palette.

“We’d say to each other, ‘Here, you go plant this and see if it makes it,’” Maybach recalled. The evidence of their work can be seen in the many types of flowers, trees and shrubs growing in gardens from Ouray to Telluride. “We’ve come a long way, baby!” Maybach exclaimed.

Maybach moved to Telluride from Idaho in 1983 with a freshly minted degree in landscape architecture. There wasn’t a lot of work available in her field at the time, but that didn’t matter. “I was willing to martyr my career to live here,” she said. For a couple of years, she did other things – like travel to Tibet as a member of the support team for the first ascent of the East Face of Mt. Everest. The journey took her from the American West through the East Coast, Europe and on to Asia.

“It was funny; the relativity of ‘ancient’ kept unfolding for me…It was so expanding for a girl who had never traveled before.”

Maybach’s travels didn’t end there. She’s been to Uganda, where she was part of an effort to create safe shelters for Rwandans during the genocide there. She’s been to Switzerland, where she fell in love with the “beautiful brown Swiss cows,” and she traveled again and again to her beloved New Zealand. “Since then, I’ve wanted to go absolutely nowhere,” she said.

After the trip to Everest, however, it was back to Telluride, where Maybach decided to use her degree and pursue a career in landscaping. For one of her first projects, she joined forces with Bill Ferguson, and they built the Telluride Town Park in 1985. With not enough design work to support her landscape architecture credentials, Maybach stuck with the landscape construction, getting her hands dirty and her back strong.

“I have come to believe that anyone who wants to call themselves a landscape engineer or architect, they need five years in the field first. That’s where the training is,” she said. “I’m grateful for it; it’s made me a better designer to know how things work from the ground up.”

Despite her expertise – or perhaps, in light of it – Maybach is no stranger to the difficulties of high-altitude gardening.

“My only regret is that I am so passionate about trees and plants, and what we really have here is a high-altitude desert,” she said. “It’s so limiting, between the deer and the bears and the high altitude sun and wind and short growing season. It’s a challenge for someone who is as passionate about plants as I am.”

Nevertheless, Maybach has found plenty of things to grow, from gardens and fruit trees to horses, chickens and now children. Her daughter, Cora, is 4 years old.

“She came to me as a big, big surprise when I was 47,” Maybach said. “She has just enriched my life indescribably. I had no idea what I was missing.”

Just as Maybach inherited her love of horticulture from her father – “He was always planting stuff,” she said – she already sees Cora inheriting her own love of horses. “I was born horse crazy. I invented horses. I tried to grow them in my closet.” As soon as her two buckskin mares give birth, she’ll have 10 horses. “I have no idea how I got so many.” She’s already picked out the gentler of her two yearling colts to be Cora’s horse when it’s older.

In between planting other people’s gardens, breeding and training horses, and raising a daughter, Maybach has a number of projects in mind.

“I want to start an effort to plant more trees in Ridgway,” she said. “Maybe start a fund for people who can’t afford it, and push the envelope on what we can grow here. It has really broken my heart to see old trees getting torn down for construction projects.”

Maybach also wants to get back into art; in college she studied everything from dance to sculpture and still sees her landscaping as the perfect blend of art and science. Her pet project: luminarias made with horse placentas.

“When my paint mare foaled a few years ago, I held the placenta up to examine it and I could see the light coming through and it was beautiful,” she said. She’ll incorporate the parchment-like material with metal and stained glass to make her luminarias.

It sure seems Maybach is rooted in Ouray County, but if things change, she knows where she’s going: back to Idaho.

“They have more and better plants there,” she said. “And they have rain.”

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