Idyllwild has been a seminal player in Kenny Gioeli’s career

Kenny Gioeli, landscape artist, in a contemplative moment in his music studio. Photo by Marshall Smith

Hard work, perseverance and recognizing opportunities others failed to see characterize Idyllwild resident Kenny Gioeli’s career. Idyllwild has been a seminal player in the way Kenny’s personal and professional journey has unfolded.

“Landscape design is my passion,” said Kenny, whose garden and family compound on Double View Drive were featured in the recent public tour of select Idyllwild gardens. But the serendipitous path Gioeli navigated to achieve a career based on his artistic passion is the real story.

“I came here when I was 10 to live with my dad [Almadeus Star Gioeli],” said Kenny. After seventh grade at Idyllwild School, his dad home-schooled him, part of the year in Idyllwild and part in Mexico, south of Puerto Vallarta.

At 17, Kenny struck out on his own, making his way north from Mexico to the Temecula and San Diego areas where he worked various jobs before landing one with Thrifty Drug. “After five years, I left as store manager,” Kenny remembered.

At 25, he was back in Idyllwild working with artist David Reid-Marr. “He taught me everything I know about design, landscaping, form and function,” said Kenny. “I arrived back in Idyllwild with a backpack, some bologna and a skateboard, but after five years of working with David, I had learned a craft. He taught me patience and helped me shape my eye for visual design. Primarily, he continued to remind me about the patience that is key to landscape design. I worked with David from 1996 to 2001.

“The second day I was back in Idyllwild, I met my wife Eva at a gallery,” he shared. “And from that point on, Eva and our family were what grounded me and gave me the strength to try new things.”

In 2001, Kenny again struck out on his own, contracting for raking and small construction projects such as fences and retaining walls. “From 2001 until 2003, the most valuable thing I did was to learn to network,” he said, “how to build a network of people sharing the workload and referrals, rather than doing 100 percent of the work myself.”

Again, timing, serendipity and being in exactly the right place at the right time played a key role in Kenny’s career evolution. “Kosha Pino taught me the art of falling trees, just before the bark beetle crisis in 2003,” he said. With the rapid death of trees in this forest and those north of I-10 in Arrowhead, felling trees and harvesting wood proved a highly profitable business for Kenny and his partner Mike Pearson. “I remembered telling Mike, ‘I’ve got the crew, and you’ve got the license, so let’s do this.’

Beautifully placed art in a garden of esthetic loveliness. Kenny and Eva Gioeli’s garden on the annual Idyllwild Garden Tour. Photo by Marshall Smith

“I lost my landscaping and my passion for design during that time,” he remembered. “And there was no artistic satisfaction in what I was doing.” But with the intense need for dead-tree removal, the seed money that Kenny used to launch his tree-removal business grew into a comfortable financial cushion. “It was constant hard work,” he remembered. “We had to live away from home in hotels while we were in Arrowhead, and the work was physically draining.” But he had been in the right place at the right time, recognized and seized the work opportunity and ran a strong operation with Mike.

Starting in 2008, he began to reestablish his landscaping business in Idyllwild. “Eva was always a part of what I did,” Kenny acknowledged. “Her advice and her eye for color and materials were always important. I can’t imagine having this life and this career without her.”

Kenny credits his growing up in Mexico and in Idyllwild with his intuitive approach to design. “Through all my career I’ve never drawn a plan. I’ve learned the simplicity of life, the patience of waiting for and seeing the design approach,” he said. “And most important for me has been the drive to have a partner and a family. That is everything. I give till it’s gone.”