For over a decade, the annual Belgard Contractor Challenge has been a highlight of the Indiana Flower & Patio Show. Each year, three local landscape design and installation companies are selected by the Belgard sales team and given ten days to design and install an 1,250-2,000 square foot outdoor living area, which together combine to create an expansive booth that illustrates the outdoor design possibilities of Belgard’s hardscape products.

“The installations are always phenomenal and over the top,” says local Belgard Sales Manager Brock Harmon. “It’s a lot of fun to see their creative and unconventional uses of our products. They have free rein on the hardscape design, and we never know what they’re going to come up with.”

In an effort to help transform the Indiana State Fairgrounds West Pavilion into a lush outdoor haven for the show, competitors are required to incorporate 60 percent green material in their designs, with 99 percent of the hardscapes required to be Belgard products, leaving some allowance for natural stone. However, the remainder of the design is up to each competitor. Competitors are encouraged to incorporate a variety of design elements, including lighting, water features, pergolas, retaining walls and an unlimited use of imagination. In year’s past, designs have included live animals, bridges, coy ponds, waterfalls and even an amphitheater.

“One of my favorites was the year one of the competitors installed LED lights randomly throughout their countertop, creating the illusion of starlight,” Harmon said.

The champions from each year’s competition earn the right to defend their title at the following year’s event. This year, reigning champs Hoosier Lawn Maintenance snagged the top prize for the second consecutive year with their creative design titled, “The Hoosier Honeymoon Hideaway,” which evoked the sense of a hidden garden and tied in with the show theme of “Old, New, Borrowed and Blue.”

At the entrance of the Honeymoon Hideaway display, visitors were led down a quaint lantern-lit Rinn™ Padio™ paver path flanked by Tandem® retaining walls and a natural stone wall, layered with lush tropical flora. Lighted wooden and wrought iron partitions helped create a sense of intimacy throughout the gardens. Upon entering the hideaway, the display opened onto a patio that was divided into two distinct outdoor rooms: a spa and a kitchen.

The spa room incorporated an outdoor shower and a raised soaking pool, constructed with untumbled Weston Stone® Universal, some of which was split to create a rough-hewn look. The spilt and smooth face blocks were installed with a staggered pattern to create a textural design. To develop the spa-like atmosphere, the pool was surrounded with Quarziti Porcelain Pavers and jointed with smooth natural stones. Behind the pool, a layered wall of natural stone and tropical greenery created an intimate and relaxing mood.

The outdoor kitchen was defined by a dramatic triangular shaped arbor that centered on a dual-sided bar and a Bordeaux Belgard Elements Fireplace. The kitchen was completed with a retro Coca-Cola drink machine and a Bordeaux grill station that included both a gas grill and a Big Green Egg®. The kitchen area was flanked by colorful gardens containing a wide variety of annuals, perennials and evergreens.

“Our inspiration for the design centered on the Bordeaux fireplace,” Matt Fromelius of Hoosier Lawn Maintenance said. “We liked the Lamina® Stone veneer used on the exterior and decided to extend that outward. We got a lot of great feedback on that aspect of the design.”

This marked Hoosier Lawn & Maintenance’s third year in the competition and second consecutive win, with the winning design selected each year by attendee vote.

“We get a tremendous amount of exposure each year we compete,” Fromelius said. “Between the leads and referrals, we grow our business exponentially each time. We’ll end up with over $300,000 in new business from this year’s show. The key is to qualify the leads.”

The prize for Hoosier Lawn Maintenance’s efforts includes a trophy, promotional and branding opportunities, and the ability to return as reigning champs to next year’s event, where they will receive the largest competition display space. By participating in the competition, they also benefit from a higher level of exposure in a more prominent location than a standard show booth.

Attempting to usurp Hoosier’s crown, this year’s challengers Ladd Scape and Allen & Scott Enterprises brought a great deal of creativity to the table, but fell slightly short of the popular vote during the course of the 10-day show, losing by a narrow margin.

The Ladd Scape display was a tiki-inspired outdoor kitchen and living room. To enter the display, visitors crossed a picturesque flagstone-like walkway of Mega-Arbel® pavers, which led to a wooden footbridge. Bridge floorboards were cut on the bias, for added visual interest, and traversed a multilevel natural stone pond that incorporated a lighted waterfall and two lighted fountains.

Ladd Scape’s outdoor kitchen utilized Weston Stone® retaining wall block for the base and featured twisted pier columns and poured concrete countertops. Rustic knotty pine walls, Mega-Lafitt® pavers and a thatched roof completed the look. A Brighton Belgard Elements Fireplace with matching wood boxes served as the focal point for the adjoining living room. Mega-Arbel® pavers were used to simulate the look of an area rug in front of the fireplace and tied in with the entrance walkway. Brightly colored tulips, daffodils and hydrangeas played starring roles in the surrounding garden design.

Allen & Scott Enterprises took an eclectic approach with their design, mixing contemporary, rustic and whimsical design elements. Throughout the display, walkways and patios were constructed with 8”x47” planks of Noon Porcelain Pavers, which emulated the look and feel of a wooden deck. The display included three outdoor living zones: a kitchen, a dining space and an outdoor media room.

The Allen & Scott outdoor kitchen was constructed with Weston Stone® retaining wall block and included both a grill station and an expansive bar, both boasting ample countertop space. Weston Stone® columns provided the base for both the overhead cedar arbor and a coordinating garden partition. A rustic picnic table overlooked contemporary multimedia art, which served as a backdrop for the kitchen wall. Connecting the kitchen with the media room was a Bristol Belgard Elements Fireplace. The media room consisted of a built-in seat wall opposite a tiered media wall, constructed with untumbled Weston Stone® Universal and Bullnose Coping. The surrounding gardens of the Allen & Scott display garden included a variety of vibrant tulips and other annuals, enhanced by a water pump fountain and various whimsical metal artwork pieces.

Challengers for next year’s competition have not yet been announced, but Belgard expects another great showcase of talent that will continue to add value and draw attendees to the annual Indiana Flower & Patio Show. Companies interested in competing in next year’s Belgard Contractor Challenge are instructed to contact their local Belgard rep for details.