West End Firm Digs into Landscape

Jeremy Rust, RLA, President at Landscape Design Innovation Group, in the West End poses with his teams landscape design at the USGA Golf House in Pinehurst Friday May 10th, 2024. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

By Maggie Beamguard

Insider Editor

A sign announcing “fresh eggs” along the roadside of N.C. 211 brings curious drivers and potential clients into Jeremy Rust’s Landscape Design Innovation Group (LDIG) office.

“Three out of six customers will come in looking for eggs and ask if we are a landscape business,” Rust said. They walk out with two dozen eggs and potentially a little inspiration.”

The 20 chickens, 33 roosters, 60 seasonal turkeys and a number of lambs Rust raises live on a small farm out back and are a passion project of his. The free-range roosters help by eating ticks and ants on the property.

But the larger work of the nearly 10-year-old company is creating beauty.

While much of the West End company’s work focuses on what Rust calls the creation of “backyard oases,” his most recent project landed on the front yard of Golf House Pinehurst, a second headquarters for the U.S. Golf Association.

Landing the Shot

The newly opened facility located in the heart of Pinehurst Country Club features an administrative building on the seven-acre campus and a second building that houses the USGA Experience and the World Golf Hall of Fame. 

As the project’s landscape installer, LDIG handled all the green and living pieces of the landscape.

“The neat thing about the site is there is just as much excitement about the landscape as there is about the facility,” said Rust. 

The grounds have been designed to blend in with the Pinehurst aesthetic and includes native flora of the Sandhills.

A restored pine grove with native plants and natural herbaceous material abuts the north side of the building with the USGA Experience and World Golf Hall of Fame. A manicured front lawn welcomes visitors.  

“The facility has some very nice but understated front-of-house planting,” said Rust. “The architecture is the true beauty there. They wanted to make sure they had a chance to show off that two-story architecture.” 

Rust’s favorite landscape feature is the Glade, located between the two buildings. It is a pollinator garden and outdoor learning landscape highlighting the USGA’s efforts to make golf more sustainable. 

“There are lots of native plants for the bees and the birds and the butterflies. It was designed by two professors at N.C. State,” Rust said. The Glade also features sand paths, statuary and interpretive signage.

Behind the testing center is an event lawn engineered with complex drainage allowing the ground to lay perfectly flat. Rain water filters through toward stormwater basins at the lowest point of the southside of the site and toward bioretention cells.

“The USGA is interested in being a good steward of the environment so they are taking all the runoff from the entire site and filtering it before it is released back into the environment,” said Rust.

‘Another Level’

Landing the prestigious contract provided the team at LDIG with an opportunity to grow in knowledge and the experience of sight development. 

They put boots on the ground for the USGA project in June of last year and have been juggling this project for the better part of this year with the other work they do.

“We really came to the table with a unique skill set to help the general contractor run a lot of the aspects of the site and to help them prioritize the sequencing of how things go in,” said Rust. “It was a lot of fun and stressful at times but it stretched my professional abilities and my creativity.” 

With the scope of the project, all of the logistics involved and the aggregate detail requiring strategic thought, Rust says this project has taken LDIG’s game to “another level.”

Jeremy rust’s favorite feature is the Glade, a pollinator garden filled with native plants. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

Teeing Up

Rust’s talent for lawn care and landscape was nurtured from a young age by a kindly neighbor and his motivational mother.

His family moved out from the city in western New York when he was in second grade. Rust’s father traveled a lot, so the neighbor across the street took Rust under his wing. 

The depression-era farmer taught him at eight or nine years old how to start the lawn mower, how to check the oil, how and when to put gas in it and how to cut straight lines. Erv Buggenhagen taught Rust how to split and stack firewood and about vegetable gardening and work ethic.

“They just don’t breed them like that anymore,” said Rust. 

When another neighbor, a fireman, fell and broke his back, Rust got his first customer, mowing the injured neighbor’s yard. At the end of his first full summer of lawn mowing, he bought a cable-ready color television with a remote control for his bedroom.

And that was the start of his business. He rapidly built a clientele with weekly contracts to do lawn maintenance. After taking an AutoCAD class for computer drafting, he discovered he liked to draw landscaping. Once he got his driver’s license, he got a trailer for his truck and expanded into landscape design and installation.

If Mr. Buggenhagen taught Rust about hard labor, his mother, Susan, taught him about the finer aspects of design, aesthetics and running a business.

“My mom is the one who helped me understand that there is more to landscaping than mowing,” he said. “She told me there would be hard days and fun days and good days when you run your own business.”

She took him to nurseries and greenhouses and introduced him to farmers. She shepherded Rust and his entrepreneurial spirit, mentoring him through his teenage years into a diligent and dependable worker who could work with different kinds of people.

Rust’s mother also encouraged him to pursue a degree in landscape architecture. With an extensive portfolio, Rust was one of 15 freshmen accepted into the class of 1996 at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse.

Driving Determination

Rust launched his career in the Sandhills at a local landscape design company in 2001. After the 2008 recession, he joined the Moore County Planning Department, working in long-range planning and eventually became a planning supervisor. 

But the entrepreneurial tendencies nurtured by his mother never left him. He started LDIG in 2015 and moved into its prominent location at 5615 NC 211 in West End in November of 2017. 

“It’s been a great facility for us because we get to showcase our work to our clients,” Rust said. “They drive into a designed campus and walk up the hardscape path to our door.”

Now that its work for the USGA has wrapped, LDIG continues to fill its schedule with homeowner projects.

“The focus is back to the backyard oasis concepts we like to create. And we’re talking to some other designers in the area that have some pretty special projects to see where that goes,” he said. 

LDIG handles all aspects of landscape design for customers, including creating design concepts and handling all aspects of a project to completion.

When Rust’s feet hit the floor each morning, his mantra, “building beautiful places,” drives his determination. He wants to create beauty.

Rust is proud of everyone who works at LDIG. “It’s taken us a long time to put this team together,” said Rust. “It’s the best we’ve ever had.”

Sinking the Putt

Rust juggles many projects and plans, but he is also a husband to Kimberly and a father to Henry and Charles. Enjoying family time and attending his children’s sporting events keeps him grounded. 

But even on vacation he looks for inspiration. “I love to see how other professionals do things,” he said.

He is inspired by natural beauty. He finds great fulfillment in his work especially when he hears from satisfied customers. One customer reached out to him a year or two after they completed a project and said, “You really changed our lives. We’re using our yard like we never thought we would use it.” They described how the space enabled them to entertain and enjoy friends and family in a meaningful way.

It’s also important for Rust to give back to the community. Last year, his company sponsored a project at West Pine Middle School to build a 9/11 Memorial, including a flag pole for sporting events. 

“My biggest thing is, I want to build something beautiful,” said Rust. “No matter how big or small, I want it to be really beautiful.”

Contact Maggie Beamguard at maggie@thepilot.com.