Karen Kiest Landscape Architects

Specialty: Landscape architecture
Management: Karen Kiest, owner
Year founded: 2002
Headquarters: Seattle
Current projects:Benefit Park and GAR Cemetery Park, Seattle; Sound Transit light rail, Seattle; Tamastslikt Interpretive Site, Pendleton, Ore.; Shesan residences near Shanghai, China

From upscale villas outside the megalopolis of Shanghai to a historical garden at a Umatilla Indian museum in the Oregon desert, Karen Kiest Landscape Architects covers a lot of ground for a young, three-person firm.

For its first couple years, Karen Kiest’s firm worked mostly on public projects for the city of Seattle. But since then, her firm has expanded into far-flung commercial and residential work.

Kiest said her firm is as busy as it can be, given that she’s not interested in letting it get too big.

“One thing I’ve focused on is to stay small and stay connected to your projects and your clients,” she said.

This year’s drought has made more of her clients sensitive to the benefits of drought-tolerant landscapes.

“We’re seeing a big shift,” she said. “Even our commercial private developers are wanting to use ground covers and low-maintenance shrubs instead of grass.”

Design guidelines at the Suncadia resort near Roslyn, where Kiest is working on home sites, don’t even allow the use of water-intensive plants.

Even so, the extremely dry conditions this year have forced the firm to delay putting in new plants until the fall at some of its projects.

“This spring is not a time to be putting in a lot of plant material,” Kiest said.

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