Walking through Daniel Meunier’s backyard “laboratory,” it’s clear the 29-year-old Edmond man is enthusiastic about his livelihood. The longtime landscaper has a newfound burning passion for verticalscapes, otherwise known as living walls or living art.
“I’m just ate up with it,” he says. The “black sheep” in a family full of lawyers, doctors and accountants, Meunier definitely exudes a tree-hugging air.
“I was always looked at as the free-spirit hippie guy out there messing in the dirt,” Meunier says. His green thumbs are accentuated by soiled fingernails.
After working in landscape design and horticulture for nearly the past decade, Meunier opened his own company, Laurel Leaf Landscape LLC, last year. But he found that during the slow winter months, he need a way to generate income. That’s when he discovered vertical living art.
He builds frames for his pieces using materials ranging from driftwood found at Lake Arcadia, to carved-out tree stumps and hypertufa pots (Portland cement mixed with peat and vermiculite so when it dries, it’s very light).
Meunier’s backyard lab contains a greenhouse where baby plants are housed, a reserve of dozens of maturing plants nestled in a flowerbed to grow, a giant aloe vera plant given to him by a customer, and several commissioned works in progress.
He loves to use succulents in his arrangements. They are one of the easiest plants to maintain, requiring very little water. They come in so many exquisite colors and shapes, all with perfect symmetry; they’re perfect for Meunier’s art.
“I call them nature’s jewels,” he said.
Meunier flicks at a passion fruit flower climbing the backside of the home, urging it to open up and show its brilliance as he talks enthusiastically about hens and chicks. The succulents are called sempervivum, or “live forever,” because they grow and propagate so readily.
He names flora and fauna like they’re his first language — ajuga, heuchera, helleborous, Chinese ginger, Persian shield. He unpacks a delivered box full of succulents he’s ordered from California and gingerly unwraps each of his new treasures.
Meunier’s love affair with the earthly organic can only be attributed to the summers he spent as a boy, helping his grandmother, Shirlie Franzen, work her gardens in southern Nebraska. Grandson identified with his grandmother’s heart for the earth.
“She gave me that passion and spirituality about gardening,” he says. “She said that was where she went and talked with God at, and where she got all her thinking done.”
His grandparents were farmers and ranchers with 28,000 head of cattle on their land. She probably had a lot to think about.
A growing passion