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That’s My Job: Landscaper John Wagner is in the beauty business

Landscaper John Wagner

John Wagner of A Cut Above Wagner Lawns & Irrigation has been providing a wide scope of landscaping services to Highland Lakes residents since 1986. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

John Wagner has been transforming lawns into works of art for over 35 years. The landscaping veteran estimates he’s worked on more than 20,000 yards and gardens in the area since his company’s inception.

Wagner and his wife, Alicia, moved to the Highland Lakes after visiting Horseshoe Bay in 1985.

“I used to bass fish in tournaments a lot, and my wife and I stayed in Horseshoe Bay once,” he said. “We came across the bridge, and I looked at her and said, ‘We’re staying.’”

A Texas A&M University alumnus, the longtime landscaper said he initially went to school to be an engineer before changing course to pursue a degree in parks administration.

“I went to college for industrial engineering, but I didn’t want to sit in an office,” Wagner said. “I was supposed to end up working in San Antonio, but then I decided I didn’t want to do that either.”

Wagner took a handful of horticulture classes while in College Station but claims his botanical expertise stems from trial and error.

“I pretty much learned on my own,” he said. “I basically just tried things out until I found things that worked.”

Here’s what Wagner had to say about tending to thousands of lawns and gardens as a Highland Lakes landscaper.


Owner of A Cut Above Wagner Lawns & Irrigation

We do everything we can to beautify a yard. I’ll meet the customer and get ideas from them. That’s when I put it on paper. We’ll install plants, irrigation, rock walls, whatever the customer wants done.

My passion is to take an empty area and make it beautiful. It takes lots of plants, grass, irrigation, and time to make something look nice. I like to use different types of plants and create something that the customer has no idea how to do, but I do. 

You really have to have an eye for it. I’ll go to a house and speak with a customer and get feedback from them. Then, I step back with a pad of paper and I start scribbling and sketching everything down. I start thinking, ‘tall plants here, short plants there, row of plants here,’ and before you know it, it all comes together.

You’ve got to know your plants. You have to be able to picture all sorts of different types of plants and know what they need. You might have a real shaded area and you put a plant that needs full sunlight. Yeah, it’s going to look good when you first plant it, but then it’s going to thin out and kind of go away after the years. We like to do a 70-30 mix, so 70 percent evergreen plants and 30 percent perennial plants. Some of them will die back, but the green will still prevail during the wintertime.

We try to put plants in that will hang on in a hard freeze. Every once and awhile, you’ll get those cold, cold freezes like the snow we had two years ago, and they won’t hold up. There’s nothing we can do about those. We call that a ‘Mother Nature deal.’

The best time to plant something really depends on what you’re planting. Springtime is usually the best time to plant flowers and things like that. Real hardy stuff, like trees and other stuff that can handle the cold weather, wintertime is the best for them. It’s smart to do it then because they’re in dormancy. When you get into summer, you have to move fast and have everything ready. When you plant the plants, you have to get water on them immediately.

I like landscaping because it’s always rewarding. You take a look at a yard and then you put it in your mind. You put it on a piece of paper and then you install it. When it comes out the way you wanted, the customer is happy, which makes me happy.