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Montrose Resident Reinvents Life after a COVID Layoff

Gardening guru Dean Sowell finds his true passion after a rough 2020.

Dean Sowell (courtesy photo)

Montrose resident Dean Sowell is a Renaissance man of many talents. He grew up in Tomball, the son of a single mother whose grandmother instilled in him a love of the land and growing everything from flowers to vegetables. After working his way through Sam Houston State University and receiving a degree in psychology, he started his own company, Graffixology Graphic & Web Design. 

Then last September, his biggest client told him they wouldn’t be renewing his five-year contract due to COVID-19 layoffs. While he was struggling to find more design work, he also found time to return to his childhood love of gardening—not an easy feat, as he lives in an apartment with no yard. 

“After growing up in the countryside and living in the Caribbean for a while,” the 53-year-old says, “I missed the foliage and the color. I didn’t like looking out from my apartment at concrete. So I just started to put a few pots of flowers outside my window.” 

A few pots turned into several, and then even more as his plants stretched around the building. As a member of the Native Plant Society of Texas, Sowell knew how to mix local plants with everything from roses to plumeria, ferns, elephant ears, and birds of paradise—along with a few statues and holiday decorations. 

“My grandmother loved gardening back in Tomball,” Sowell recalls. “She could take a clipping and plant it and it would grow. She had a green thumb, and I guess I have the same gift.”

The neighbors started to notice Sowell’s Garden of Eden that had emerged from the barren concrete driveway.  

“People stopped me to say they had changed their walking route so they could come by every day,” Sowell recalls. “They said it makes them smile. Some residents said they moved into the building because of the garden.” 

Then one morning, a sign turned up in his potted garden announcing that it was selected as the First Montrose Commons Civic Association’s Yard of the Month. The sign stayed there for three months, at which point people started asking Sowell if he could do that to their yards. One neighbor admitted that her husband had been trying to win the civic club’s Yard of the Month award for years. She became one of his first clients.

And so Landscapology was born—a new business venture that gave Sowell joy. He designed a logo and a website, put up a sign, and people came. 

 “I decided to go all in on the business,” he says. “It was basically sink or swim. I thought if I was ever going to do this professionally, the time was now. I know it’s going to succeed. I have several jobs in the pipeline for December, even though it’s not the best month for gardening.” Sowell has been in a relationship with his boyfriend for a year now, and the two work together on the gardening jobs whenever they can. 

Besides Sowell’s impressive landscaping skills, he enjoys painting furniture and making jewelry. “Basically, anything artsy,” he says. From graphic design to landscaping, his eye for beauty and his intrinsic ability to create is the key to his success. He also loves Cajun food, baking, mixology, working out at the gym, and perfecting his tiramisu recipe along with a winter version of an Old Fashioned.

Stroll by the verdant and surprisingly whimsical driveway garden on Colquitt Street, and you’ll see his Landscapology sign amidst the foliage—in addition to a smaller sign he is adding. “My grandmother passed away and I want to honor her, so I’m making a sign in her honor,” Sowell says. It’s a fitting tribute to the woman who inspired his new business. 

For more information on Dean Sowell’s Landscapology, visit

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and, among others.
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