Dave Graham: Exterior Ingenuity
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter
MILL VALLEY — After 35 years in the landscaping industry, Dave Graham knows a thing or two about growth—both horticultural and professional. “My father was a builder, so my roots are in construction, but I later developed an interest in the landscaping field,” he says. “After studying horticulture and arboriculture, I started a tree service company with my brother. However, I found that tree work didn’t satisfy my creative side, so I transitioned into designing and building landscapes.”
In 1985, Dave left his home country of Ireland and came to the United States, where he obtained his landscape contractor’s license and started his own business. But he wasn’t content to stop there—he went on to earn an arborist certification and a general contractor’s license. “I’ve always loved learning, so it just made sense to keep growing my knowledge base,” he says. “Plus, the more licenses and certifications I earn, the more I’m able to do professionally.”
Today, as owner of Atlas Landscapes, Dave says he continues to find fulfillment in exercising his exterior ingenuity. “I love talking to people about their gardens and outdoor spaces and getting them excited about the possibilities. Plus, the work we do really stands the test of time, so it’s satisfying to know it’s going to be around long after I leave this planet.”
A resident of Mill Valley (where he lives with his son, Sebastian), Dave expresses his appreciation for the lush and diverse Bay Area landscape. “There’s a wide variety of microclimates in the Bay Area, and it took me a few years to become familiar with them all. The types of plants that thrive in each region differ greatly, so it really keeps me on my toes.”
Outside of work, Dave likes staying physically and mentally active. “I do a lot of hiking, yoga and meditation—typical Bay Area stuff,” he laughs. “I also study taekwondo. I find that practicing yoga and martial arts keeps my brain sharp and helps me stay young.” Additionally, Dave likes spending time with his son. “Sebastian and I like going on bike rides, and we go hiking together at least once a week. We’re really lucky to live in an area where there are so many great trails and parks.”
In regard to a professional philosophy, Dave says it’s important to have a passion for your livelihood. “When you really enjoy and take pride in what you do, that’s when you do your best work. That’s why I think it’s vital to be passionate about your job and give it 100 percent every time.”
When asked what his future retirement might look like, Dave says he’ll pursue a few activities that don’t currently fit in his calendar. “I’m a pretty creative person, and I loved to paint when I was younger, so I’d like to get back into that. I’d also like to do some volunteer work in the community, as well as some traveling.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: Coffee or tea?
A: Tea. I drink green tea every day.
Q: What’s your favorite tree?
A: The Purpleleaf Plum tree. It typically flowers around the 15th of February and serves as an indication that winter has passed and summer is on its way. So, that’s something I look for every year.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: Sit by the fire and read a book.
Q: Do you have a favorite book?
A: I read a lot of poetry, and one book I’ve been reading my whole life is “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran. It’s full of great wisdom, and I think it’s kind of timeless.
Q: Do you collect anything?
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A: I collect Shona sculptures, which are made of African stone.