The Oakland Press
The Oakland Press
Travels Provide Inspiration For Designs
Through his travels to exotic lands ranging from Belize to Guatemala, Daryl Toby brings back treasures to grace local gardens. The 34-year-old Pleasant Ridge resident started a landscaping business about 16 years ago but turned his attention to water features and custom design after he graduated from Michigan State University.
In the beginning, Toby said he liked landscaping because it gave him a chance to travel during the off season. But his two interests became interwoven as he spied interesting artifacts and intricately designed meditative gardens in Asia.
So, he started shipping antique basins, stone pillars, Japanese lanterns and carved Buddhas back home to use in his designs. Petrified wood and stone slabs weathered with age are incorporated with ponds, stream beds and plants to create natural, serene environments. “Our ponds have a sense of permanence in them, not like they’ve been thrown there out of the air,” Toby said. “Our ponds have a natural feel to them.”
AguaFina Gardens & Imports provides custom landscaping design and construction, including driveways, retaining walls, decks, brick patios, water features, aquatic plants and gardens. Toby chose the name AguaFina, which means fine water in Portuguese and Spanish, because he loves the Brazilian culture. And he chose the name before the bottled water company Aquafina, he said.
On its 2½-acre site in Sylvan Lake, AguaFina offers Asian furnishings, imported garden accents, fountains, pond supplies and koi fish. The company even has koi “condos” to keep clients’ fish safe while their new habitats are being built.
Antique artifacts and stones range from $30 to $50,000. One spirit stone carved naturally into the uncanny shape of a sea serpent, was tagged at $23,000.
Among 14 staff members, AguaFina has two full-time designers and an expert in wildlife. Projects range from $5,000 to $700,000 and take anywhere from a few days to months to complete. (Building for new home construction can take longer.)
This winter, AguaFina will send a crew to install liners and filters for a project at a large private residence in New Delhi.
Although the business mostly does local projects, AguaFina has participated in a garden show in Chicago and does some jobs in that area. Toby said he would like to do more projects out of state because he likes to travel. Originally of Sylvan Lake, Toby said he is surprised to find himself back in his hometown running a business. But it still gives him a chance to escape each year.