Meet the Team: Mike Molina

Meet the Team: Mike Molina

It’s a wonderful day to Meet the Team! For August, we are putting a spotlight on our Maintenance Foreman, Mike Molina.  This April was Mike’s 6th year with us and we can’t imagine our team without him!

1. What’s your favorite thing about working at Madrone?

Marone has a great work environment. I work with great people and spend my days working in lovely landscapes.

2. What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why?

My favorite project is Ligon, located with its rolling hills and diverse animal population.

3. What’s your favorite or least favorite plant, and why?

My favorite plant is Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea ‘Moonshine’). It’s bright yellow flowers and green foliage are beautiful. 

My least favorite is ground cover roses – too many thorns!

4. What are some of your favorite hobbies outside of work?

I enjoy spending time outside pressure washing around my house and relaxing by just watching the trees sway in the wind.  

5. Share a fun fact about yourself.

I love the outdoors and will never work indoors again!

Meet the Team: Ian Parker

Meet the Team: Ian Parker

It’s a wonderful day to Meet the Team! For July, we are putting a spotlight on our Sales Manager: Ian Parker. Ian’s strong leadership skills, great sense of humor, and wealth of knowledge of the industry make him a fantastic leader for our Sales and Design Team. This September will be his 8th year with us and we can’t imagine our team without him!

1. How did you get into the landscape industry?

 I had a passion for art and was already pursing a degree in graphic design at a local community college. I liked the idea of being a graphic designer, but found the thought of being trapped indoors in a competitive industry may not be for me. I had always enjoyed being involved with construction work, and had held several summer jobs helping on job sites growing up, so I started to think that this might be something worth pursuing. One day my Mom came across a brochure for Cal State Northridge’s Extended Learning Program, which described their Landscape Design curriculum. It sounded like the perfect blend of creative and hand-on practices, so I enrolled. I started looking for a low-level landscape labor job and was quickly hired on by a landscape contractor in Malibu: I was hooked on the first day. The sunshine, the smell of fresh cut grass… ahh it still gets me excited to this day. Now ~20 years later I’m still excited about my work, and every day seems to be a new adventure! 

2. What other positions have you held within the landscape industry?

After spending a few years working in Malibu, I founded a small landscape company in Los Angeles where I was able to incorporate my own designs into my work. I learned the business of being a Landscape Contractor during this time, and gained some experience doing real-world designs. I made a lot of rookie mistakes and learned a lot through trial and error. This was a lot of fun, but it also showed me how stressful being an independent contractor can be. Around 2008, at the height of the recession, I made the difficult decision to shut down my business and move to the Central Coast. I landed a job as Maintenance Department Manager for a local landscape firm that managed a variety of large maintenance accounts. This exposed me to a whole new level of the landscape industry that I hadn’t seen before. In 2012, I made the move over to Madrone, and spent the next 5-6 years managing landscape construction projects. From there, I’ve gone wherever Madrone has needed me; I jumped in as a Designer for a short period, and ultimately ended up as the Sales Manager in 2018.

3. What does a typical day as Sales Manager look like?

Most of my days are spent providing support for our landscape designers, estimators and construction staff. As my job title says, I manage our Sales Department  which means lots of consultations and site visits. More often than not, I am the first person that people meet when talking with Madrone about a potential project. Between meetings, my days are very reactionary based on where I’m needed. I regularly work with our designers on plan reviews and conceptual analysis ensuring that our ideas are buildable and properly described on plan. I also spend a lot of time bridging the gap between design and construction, and I try to make myself available to both our clients and our project managers. I attend most of our design review meetings, so I get to know our clients pretty well through that process, and enjoy being involved in the construction process as well. Occasionally I still get to go help out with difficult builds in the field!  

4. What about your sales process sets you apart from other firms who offer similar services?

I think that being a design/build firm is really what makes us special within our industry. Last year, over 65% of our construction work came from in-house designs. Through our design process, we are able to really listen to our client’s needs and desires and ensure that their projects are properly planned before ever breaking ground. Our design process includes several rounds of revisions, which are each accompanied by an in-depth budget analysis. This information allows clients to properly prioritize their needs, and ultimately leads to great projects that fit within a client’s desired budget. Some competitors simply send prospective clients construction bids with minimal information, and it’s basically “take it or leave it”. With our process, we really take the time to sort out all the details and create a dialogue that builds a trusting relationship with the client long before breaking ground.   

5. What inspires you when working on landscape designs?

I’ve been a student of landscape design for close to 20 years now. In my daily life, I’m constantly analyzing everything that I see in search of inspiration. What works? What doesn’t What is it about a landscape or natural space that makes me feel a certain way? I draw from this experience to help guide our clients and designers, but ultimately, it’s all about listening to the client. Everyone is different, so our goal is always to take their initial vision for their property and mold it in a way that will be beautiful and sustainable for years to come.  The old saying ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ is so true in our industry, so I just try to share my experience with my team and our clients to help them make the best decisions possible.     

6. What is your favorite thing about working for Madrone?

There’s a lot to love about Madrone, but my favorite thing is the commitment to our Core Values. It’s so important to me that we stand behind our work and treat all of our employees, clients, and the community at large, with the dignity and respect that they deserve. Some companies out there cut corners to make a buck, both in terms of how they treat their employees and how they treat their clients. But in my 8 years with Madrone, I’ve found that from top to bottom, we consider ourselves members of our community first, and it’s our reputation that matters more than anything else.   

Work From Home: Designers in Their Home Habitat

Work From Home: Designers in Their Home Habitat

Madrone’s Landscape Designers: a unique breed. Creative, social creatures; it’s not often you’ll find us alone. We tend to work in packs.

But these days are not the norm. We’re currently working from our home habitat – roaming our yards and living rooms, and keeping a safe social distance. While on one hand, it’s nice to have time to work on our own gardens and yards, it’s also been a challenge to work away from the office, field, and teammates.

#WFHLife: The Pros

For Megan Savage, working at home has some real benefits. “It’s a flexible workspace,” she says. “I usually set up at either the couch in my living room or at my dining table. But, on nice days, I can sit at my patio table in the sunshine while I work; it looks over a small greenbelt, and my neighbor’s jasmine is blooming right now so it’s very peaceful. And my dog Lily is happy I’m home!” Ian Parker, too, finds some solace in his own personal landscape, saying that one of the things he likes best as he stays at home is the opportunity to “work in my beautiful backyard and spend time with my best doggie friend Daisy.”

Megan's Workspace feat. Lily the Dog

Both Jill Bleher and Christy Dufault are enjoying the company of feline friends. Christy says that she’s “actually enjoying the solitude of working at home. Of course, having animals in the house helps. My cats are keeping me company.” For Jill, her cat Destiny has been one of the best parts of working from home, along with seeing her husband Alec throughout the workday. When sharing social isolation with anyone, from friends to family, it’s a relief to have good company.

Jill's Workspace

#WFHLife: The Cons

Even with the designers who have people or pets at home, the isolation can be a new kind of challenge, missing the company of both coworkers and social ambiance. For Megan, it’s the chatter she yearns for. She misses “being able to talk to my coworkers without having to pick up a phone.” Likewise, Christy says, “It will be nice to see everyone and be able to communicate in person!” Ian misses collaborating with his “lovely teammates”. Being unable to share ideas with one another so effortlessly is truly one of those things that we don’t realize we’ll miss until it’s gone.

Christy's Workspace feat. Viktor the Cat
Thank goodness for technology! Jill admits that “our communication remotely is relatively good with Zoom and phone calls and technology in general”—work would be strenuous without it—but it still can’t compete with physical proximity. The “long-distance communication just doesn’t match in-person connection!” she remarks. Ian finds that his home technology falls a little short – he longs to use his big computer screen.
Ian's Workspace
All in all, our Madrone Design team is still working away from their respective homes; starting new projects and continuing their efforts for current clients. We look forward to resuming work in our usual manner, but the circumstances have allowed us to grow and appreciate our working environments in fresh ways—both the old and the new.

While we all work together to make sure this pandemic passes as quickly as possible, we take solace in our surroundings and look forward to the friendships, teammates, and work spaces we’ll come back to when this is over. In the meantime, stay safe and upbeat – we look forward to seeing you in the office or field soon!

Daniel's Workspace
All About Design-Build Landscape Construction

All About Design-Build Landscape Construction

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.

Why Design-Build?

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 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.