A better investment and landscape, from design through construction
What is Design-Build Landscaping?
Design-Build landscaping is quite common. Unfortunately, a homeowner or building owner will often hire a landscape contractor to install plants and irrigation without design. This is not the ideal scenario. As with any type of building, it is always best to begin with a design. When you hire a landscape team that does both design and installation, that is design-build landscaping.
When done by experienced professionals, the teamwork involved in the design-build process for landscape construction can add a lot of value to your finished landscape. Often an integration of architects, designers, engineers, and builders, the design-build process takes advantage of professional, licensed experts working together from concept to finished construction. The goal of this integrated process is to fulfill your priorities of landscape design and budget. At Madrone Landscapes we believe strongly in the design-build process because the benefits are twofold: it allows us to do incredible work with and build great relationships with both our peers and our clients.
Two Major Types of Landscape Construction: What are the Differences?
Design-Bid-Build: The design-bid-build process is common in the construction industry for clients who want separate design and construction firms. A landscape designer will provide plans for you, and then you will ask contractors to bid the plans. The design can go quickly if there are no cost limitations discussed. Once the contractors provide their costs to install the project, you may be shocked to see how much it will cost to build. This is when you or the contractor decides how to change the design to fit within the construction budget (this process is called value engineering, where items are removed from a plan or less expensive options are chosen to reduce overall cost). You may also go back to the landscape designer to re-design (typically for an extra fee). In design-bid-build, you select a contractor based on the bid price. It then becomes your responsibility to orchestrate all of the design and construction activities – including introducing the contractor to the designer.
Design-Build: At Madrone Landscapes, we specialize in the design-build process. We provide construction cost estimates during the design process (for more information, see https://madronelandscapes.com/services/design/). This usually adds time to the overall design time, for good reason. Knowing construction costs during the design process allows you to make decisions on where to spend money and keeps the plan within the desired budget. A cost-informed design means the value engineering is done well before the project starts. The engineers, architects, and builders will be working together with the landscape designer to make sure that there are few unforeseen lapses between designs or construction activities. We become the expert advocate for you in design and construction and we handle scheduling and coordination with all parties involved.
Five Tips for Clients in Design-Build Landscaping
1. Know what you need/want before you start.
Often times a client will come to us with a list of items they want designed into their landscape, such as a patio, wall, fountain or pergola. What they may actually mean is that they need a shady place to entertain guests with pretty things to look at. While your spouse may want a fountain, he or she may appreciate boulders and flowers just as much. When you prioritize your goals before starting design, you can prevent being caught off guard during the design process. Design is almost always a team decision. If you can align your wants and needs before the design starts, your design will turn out better and go more quickly.
2. Establish a construction budget.
Before starting in the design process, establish a budget or range for what you intend to spend on construction, and share that information with your designer. This will help them design within range. Typically, the construction cost of landscapes is between 10 to 25 times the design fee, although this may vary.
3. Take your time with budget decisions.
During the beginning of the design process decisions are easy; we refer to this as the Honeymoon period. You may find yourself saying, “I love that stone veneer, it looks just like the picture I saw on Houzz!” After construction costs are introduced, major design elements may be on the chopping block. Do you keep the outdoor kitchen, or the stone paving? Allow yourself time, so you don’t rush these decisions.
4. Trust your gut – and your landscape team.
Taking on a big project will affect the ambiance of your daily life and the investment of your funds is hard to do alone. You need experts you can trust to help you achieve your goals. If you don’t have a level of trust with your landscape designer, it will not work. This means you need to feel comfortable giving them both positive and negative feedback, and they need to feel comfortable giving you good and bad news. Your designer will not only be helping you with the initial design, but also will be helping to navigate any obstacles encountered during construction.
5. Communicate often and clearly.
During design and construction, changes happen. In order to best facilitate these changes, we will ask a lot of questions to make sure we are designing efficiently. Whether you would like to give us artistic license on decisions, or you have particular opinions that need to be known, it is important you communicate your preferences clearly.
A Better Investment and Landscape
It’s our experience that the design-build process produces a better product with stronger teamwork and a healthy working relationship. The process takes time to do well. Expect two to six months of design before construction for custom residential updates, and often longer for new home or new commercial construction. Being well prepared can shorten this time frame. We want to establish a good relationship with you so that it can last through the design and construction. Since we’re nearly wrapping up the first quarter of 2019, getting a landscape designed and built in 2019 starts now. If you have new construction, you should consider hiring your landscape designer at the same time that you hire an architect. We strongly believe that the design-build relationship you foster with us will make you feel good about the investment and the landscape you create.
It’s a perfect day to Meet the Team! This March, we are showing some love to our amazing Maintenance Manager: Taryn Via! As head of our Maintenance department, Taryn works incredibly hard to make sure all of our current and prospective maintenance clients are well taken care of, and she does a great job! While she is often out in the field, Taryn’s warm and friendly presence is always felt at our office. They say that dogs can sense a person’s character, and all the office dogs (both regulars and visitors) flock to her office – that says a lot right there! Get to know more about Taryn below!
- How long have you been working at Madrone? I started at Madrone in May 2018
- What is your favorite thing about working at Madrone? I love the fun, family atmosphere
- What is your favorite, or least favorite, plant and why? Favorite plant/tree is the Albizia Julibrissin because of the broad, silky leafs and bright flowers. It reminds me of a tropical island.
- If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and who would you bring? If I could go anywhere it would be Ireland and I would bring my daughters. It’s such a blessing to be able to travel and see the world, and I would love to have my kids alongside me during that adventure.
- What’s one of your favorite things to do outside of work? One of my favorite things to do outside of work is exploring tide pools. There is an indescribable, mysterious peace that the ocean brings!
Top Tips for Outdoor Spaces, from Intimate to Crowd-Pleasing
Imagine RELAXING! Finally… after a week that took few prisoners. Here on the Central Coast, we like to turn to our outdoor gathering spaces to enjoy our time and recharge our batteries. It may be at home, or it may be at a winery, restaurant or bar. So, if you’re planning to improve your hospitality business or your home, here are some tips for patio landscaping:
Form Follows Function – Your outdoor gathering space needs to be beautiful AND It needs to serve its purpose. Whether used for cooking, eating, drinking, entertainment, or warming by the firepit, make sure it works; and then make sure it feels good to be there.
It’s a Material(s) World – When considering patio hardscape design, the materials need to be appropriate to complement the space, as well as fitting your style, priorities, and budget. Materials choices also determine the cost of energy over time. Obviously, these energy costs can and should be kept as low as possible. Energy savings can be greatly affected by good Site Design, careful planning of machinery use, and wise choices of the landscape materials themselves, and their embodied energy (including manufacture, extraction, shipping and life-cycle energy costing).
So Imagine Relaxing… leaning back in a comfortable patio chair, warming next to the fire pit, feet up, a glass of wine close by, enjoying the last rays of the sunset. It’s hard to beat the feeling of enjoying your outdoor environment when it suits your needs and lifestyle.
Or….visit a winery or outdoor event that has captured the essence of what makes THAT place so special. Successful patio hardscape design can do a lot to add to your relaxation and recharging, contentment and inspiration.
If we can help, let us know: 805-466-6263. MadroneLandscapes.com
Oh, wait – That’s the Getty. Never mind!
The skies are clear and it’s a beautiful day to Meet the Team! For February, we are shining the spotlight on an amazing member of our Sales team: Christy Dufault! Her warm smile greets you when you first walk into the Madrone office, and her estimating efforts are vital to our design and construction teams. If you called our office lately, you probably had the pleasure of chatting with her. Christy’s positivity is contagious, and she is an absolute joy to work with. Thanks for all your hard work, Christy! We asked her some questions about life both inside and outside of Madrone – see what she said below!
- How long have you been working at Madrone? Three years!
- What is your favorite thing about working at Madrone? The people I work with and seeing our clients’ landscapes transform into beautiful and usable spaces.
- What is your favorite plant and why? Any herb that I can successfully grow in my garden and cook with.
- If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and who would you bring? That’s a long list, but for this year I’m hoping to go to Costa Rica with my husband.
- What’s one of your favorite things to do outside of work? Right now I’m working on growing a food garden and I’m trying to bake more. I recently started experimenting with sourdoughs, which has been a fun and rewarding challenge.
Tips for Creating a Lush, Sustainable Landscape
A Guide for Central Coast Homeowners
It’s 2019! If you’re thinking about landscaping this year, keep sustainability in mind. So, what does that mean? Here’s how author and landscape architect Owen Dell describes a sustainable landscape:
“Imagine a garden that rarely needs pruning, watering or fertilizing. One where natural controls usually take care of pest problems before the gardener even becomes aware of them. A peaceful garden where the sound of blowers, power mowers, or chain saws never intrudes. Imagine a garden that also serves as a climate control for the house, keeping it cool in summer and warm in winter; a garden that traps rainwater in an attractive streambed to deeply irrigate the trees and recharge the groundwater; one that provides habitat for wildlife and food for people. Imagine a garden that truly works. This is the sustainable garden—not barren or sacrificial, but as lush and beautiful as any other without all the struggle and waste.”
In considering your landscape project, good planning is vital. Creating a design can save you time and money by coordinating your efforts to make the most of your space, time, and budget. What are the uses you’d like to incorporate? Hardscape areas like patios, play areas and structures, or water features can all make your property work for you. When contemplating how you’ll be using the areas, think about the materials. Are they sustainably produced and sourced? Consider the Embodied Energy impacts, which include everything it takes to have a material available for your use.
Any discussion of California landscaping will include irrigation. Irrigation systems need to be accurate, low-flow and timed appropriately to keep plants healthy and thriving. When thinking about the plants, whether shrubs, trees, veggies or turf, think about conserving resources, especially over time. California Native Plants can often be very good choices to include in your design. Local native plants are often the most climate compatible and lowest maintenance choices.
These are just a few of the sustainable principles you can use as guidelines to maximize your landscape efforts. And in doing so, take advantage of living in the incredible region of California’s Central Coast. Make time to get out and enjoy yourselves in your gardens. They offer unique opportunities to unwind and relieve stress. Reconnect with things natural, beautiful and up close. Even in our own gardens we are connected in a very real way to the larger landscape, and how we have a responsibility to sustain the health and beauty of our beloved Central Coast. Let’s make it work for the long run.
Want more information on Central Coast resource-friendly landscapes? Here’s a short video hosted by our own Rick Mathews.
It’s a beautiful day to Meet the Team! This month, we are highlighting one of our amazing designers: Jules Welch. When she started working at Madrone, Jules dove right in. Her eye for aesthetic is absolutely remarkable, and her positivity and warm personality are sure to make you smile! She’s already helped put some gorgeous projects in the ground, with many more to come. Thanks for sharing your creative visions with us, Jules! See what she said when we asked her some questions about herself and about being part of the team:
How long have you been working at Madrone? Since May of 2018.
What is your favorite thing about working at Madrone? Getting to sit next to Ian, Megan, and Christy every day. I love the design team!
What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why? Gampe Residence. He was a really easy going client, and it’s a small space that emphasized quality over quantity!
What is your favorite, or least favorite, plant and why? Favorite plant: Giant sequoia because the species is as old as dinosaurs and the oldest living specimen is 3200 years old- imagine having a conversation with that tree! Least favorite plant: It’s seen a lot… society garlic. It’s smelly and sticky. Bleck.
What’s one of the things on your bucket list? Design/build a prominent public art piece at a large scale for people to take selfies with!
To continue off our “Meet the Team” segment, we would like to introduce a new-ish member of our team: Coner Boaen. Coner started out as our Service Technician, but is currently running his own crew as a Project Manager for our construction team. He hit the ground running and is doing an awesome job with our clients – thanks for all you do, Coner! See what he said when we asked him some questions about himself and the job:
How long have you been working at Madrone? 5 Months!
What is your favorite thing about working at Madrone? Having the freedom to be a Landscaper!
What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why? Paso Robles Residence – Got Daniel out of his flip flops and into some boots and helped me get a rock wall started!
What is your favorite, or least favorite, plant and why? Favorite, that’s hard. I am really liking the Silk Trees right now! Least favorite, anything with thorns like agave or barberry.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and who would you bring? I have the aloha spirit in my heart. All I need is my girls and a white sandy beach in Hawaii!
At Madrone Landscapes, our partnerships with the community, our clients, and subcontractors are a priority. One of the partnerships we highly value is with subcontractor Porter Construction, Inc. For the past five years, Lucas Porter and his team have played a critical role in a variety of commercial and residential projects. As a small locally-owned business, they provide full-service general engineering contracting – including grading, excavation, and underground utilities – in addition to being masters of concrete craftsmanship.
To illustrate how the two companies work together Lucas describes, “To begin with, we do the mass grading and basically make the site look like a bomb went off,” he says with a smile. “We then put in curbing and parking lots, followed by soil in the planters and landscape areas. This is when Madrone comes in with their finesse to make the project look pristine and polished.”
Porter Construction shares a common value with Madrone – building partnerships. “We’re a small company and we work on repeat clientele business. Madrone is one of the larger landscape companies in our area, but they hold small company values,” explains Lucas. “A lot of guys in my trade, they don’t really want to have a relationship. They want to get in, get out, and get their work done. But, early on, I realized the value of truly partnering and creating working relationships.”
By having strong working relationships between contractor and subcontractor, Porter Construction and Madrone Landscapes have been successful in bidding and completing several large commercial projects. A few of these projects have been Central Coast winery and tasting rooms; however, when you ask Lucas what his favorite project has been to date, he says it’s the Cold Canyon Landfill. This was an eco-system project, consisting of wetland remediation and drainage channel cleaning. Porter graded it and removed debris, and then Madrone came in to plant. “We did very well on that project, in part due to Madrone’s organization. They were good support, asked me what I needed and didn’t start their work until we were done,” says Lucas. “That was a unique project, pretty fun.”
In addition to the commercial and winery landscaping projects, Porter Construction works with Madrone on residential landscapes. Often, they come in to construct custom concrete elements such as: radius retaining walls, decorative concrete flatwork, colored and stamped driveways and walkways, seat walls, and benches within Madrone-landscaped patios and gardens.
Lucas continues by sharing what he appreciates most about working with Madrone. “From top to bottom, they are good people to work with. Everyone is fair. It’s like a family atmosphere. It’s a team – I want to do my best to make sure they are well represented and they do that for me as well.” Here’s to working together and looking out for one another – a true business partnership. We appreciate Porter Construction and look forward to working together on many more projects in the future!
To wrap up this month, we at Madrone are celebrating our long-standing relationships. As we think back over our time in business, we are grateful for our many San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County business associations with whom we have created strong connections and shared common ideals, principals, and philosophies. One of these is Semmes & Co. Builders, a Central Coast contractor with whom we have had the honor of working with on several projects.
Just over four decades ago, Rick Mathews started hosting jazz programs at the local radio station KCBX; some of you might know him as the host of the weekly show Freedom Jazz Dance. At that time, Turko Semmes was the host of an evening blues program. In our small community, they quickly realized their shared interests extended beyond music, and included their day jobs: the design and build profession. Rick was starting Madrone Landscapes; Turko was founding Semmes & Co. Builders. “I found a kindred spirit in Turko,” says Rick, “With our similar values of quality, integrity, and sustainability, coupled with our similar experiences starting businesses, we became extended family to one another.”
Fast forward a couple of decades, and we have a generational transition taking place. Daniel Mazawa, Madrone’s General Manager, and Jessica Steely, Semmes’ General Manager, joined the companies at roughly the same time, and have formed a great working relationship. “The history is there,” states Rick, “Jessica and Daniel ‘grew up’ together, with many of the same core values.”
Madrone has worked on several projects with Semmes over the years, typically sustainable homes in San Luis Obispo county. The residences include rammed earth elements and zero net energy homes. “When we work with Semmes,” states Daniel, “we know the project will be highly customized; it won’t be like anything else.”
We look forward to our continued working relationship with Semmes & Co. Builders in the years to come!
Recently, as we searched for a dog park in Santa Rosa CA, we could plainly see the surrounding hills- still scorched from last year’s devastating fires.
In Northern California alone, nearly 9,000 buildings were destroyed in 2017 and 44 civilian lives were lost. Not to mention later in the year, we subsequently watched as the southern portion of our state endured fires so severe, that a State of Emergency was declared. It’s a sobering reminder of the threat posed by living close to nature, as record heat and low humidity continues to intensify by the year. Property owners are at risk, to be sure, but what can we do to minimize those risks? Is it possible to improve the defensibility of our properties by landscaping wisely?
The answer is yes.
At Madrone Landscapes, we have dealt with properties in high fire danger areas for decades. There are many ways to enhance the defensibility of a property, whether it is through plant selection and design, or irrigation and water system strategies. Fire-resistant plants selections are available, but it is every bit as important that your plantings be well-spaced, properly pruned, and adequately watered in order for them to perform their fire-resistance function. Also, eliminating plants entirely from around structures may do more harm than good. Properly chosen plants can catch air-born fire embers, letting them die out harmlessly, and plants’ roots are often vital to control erosion in the event of a fire.
For ways to make your home more fire safe inside and out, see the Homeowner’s Checklist of from the SLO County Fire Safe Council.
Defensible Space – Defensive Landscaping
What you plant in your yard, and where you plant it, can be just as important as how your home is built. When in the path of a wildfire, your garden and lawn can become fuel for the flames. But, by learning the different zones around your property, you can create a more fire-safe home.
ZONE 1 Garden Zone: 0-30 feet from the outside walls of the building – This is the most important zone, as fire in this area will present the greatest danger to your house. This area should be kept irrigated and clear of debris at all times.
Top Fire-Resistant Landscaping for Zone 1
- Plants up to 18 inches tall that are low-volume (not thick and bushy)
- Plants with a high moisture content, such as succulents
- Grasses a maximum of 3 inches tall
- Tree branches trimmed 10 feet up
- Area is irrigated and kept clean
ZONE 2 Greenbelt/Fuel Break: 30-50 feet from structure – The goal of this zone is to reduce the available fuel in order to slow a ground fire. Larger shrubs and trees can be introduced here, as long as a distance that is twice their height separates them. This will prevent the ‘fire ladder’ effect, where fires jump from one clump of shrubbery or trees (fuel) to another. Grass in this area should be mowed to 6”. This area should be kept irrigated and maintained.
Top Fire-Resistant Landscaping for Zone 2
- Succulents, small to medium shrubs
- Trees at least 10 feet apart and tree crowns 10 feet off the ground
- Grass a maximum of 6 inches tall
- Shrubs separated by two times their height, so a 6 foot shrub will be at least 12 feet from its neighbor
ZONE 3 Transition Zone: 50-100 feet from structure – The major effort here should be to thin existing vegetation and remove debris. Grass should be kept at 18”.
Top Fire-Resistant Landscaping for Zone 3
- Low to medium height plants
- Plants grouped in “islands” for water efficiency
- Dead branches and leaves removed
ZONE 4 Native or Neutral Zone: 100+ feet, depending on conditions – The primary goal of this area is to reduce fuel buildup by mechanical clearing or occasional prescribed fires.
Top Fire-Resistant Landscaping for Zone 4
- Grass mowed to 12 inches
- Vegetation thinned and ground kept free from litter
Landscaping in fire-prone areas should try to create a fire safe buffer – a defensive space – around your home. The home’s roof and gutters should also be cleared of any plant materials like leaves and pine needles. Taking these measures can make it easier and safer for firefighters to save homes from wildfires.
Fire Safe Demonstration Garden
The San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden has a new Fire Safe Demonstration Garden located at 3450 Dairy Creek Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405. They are open daily during daylight hours. The Gift Shop and Office are open 9 am to 5 pm Tuesday through Friday.
Get more tips from the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden’s Fire Safe Landscaping Brochure.