Celebrating Ten Years with Ramiro Hernandez

Celebrating Ten Years with Ramiro Hernandez

Ramiro “Romy” Hernandez is a driven leader and a skilled craftsman who aspires to get better at everything he does.

Romy has been a project manager at Madrone Landscapes for 10 years and had decades of landscape construction experience before Madrone.

He is always jovial and looking to make people smile with a joke or a compliment. Even while having fun on his job, his dedication to doing quality work and working efficiently goes down to the minute. “Almost doesn’t count” is his famous catchphrase, because he is not satisfied until the job is done and done well. He takes enormous pride in his work and great satisfaction from a happy client.

His crew leadership is a comradery that transforms a group of people into a single body working seamlessly to complete the job. Romy’s character, discipline, and leadership have always been impressive.

After ten years, we are so proud he is part of our Madrone Family!

Celebrating Ten Years with Humberto Hernandez

Celebrating Ten Years with Humberto Hernandez

Humberto “Beto” Hernandez is one of the best crew members at Madrone. Literally any crew would take him in a heartbeat and when he does get to work with other crews, those crews perform better.

With several decades of experience in the field, he knows all aspects of landscape installation inside and out. A man of few words, Beto lets his work do the talking. His ability to know the next step and his stamina to work longer and harder than most makes him an invaluable team member.

His confidence and pride translates to his suave style, generally making him the sharpest dressed at the yearly Christmas Party.

Beto’s loyalty to his crew, commitment to hard work and pride in being a master of his craft make him an all-star. Happy 10-years, Beto!

Meet the Team: Erik Gorham

Meet the Team: Erik Gorham

It’s a wonderful day to Meet the Team! Today we are highlighting our Operations Manager Erik Gorham.

Erik has a hand in every project we build and keeps our construction department running smoothly. His vast knowledge of both construction and compost tea is an incredible asset to our team, and his great sense of humor makes him an absolute joy to work with. We are so lucky to have Erik coordinating and managing our construction teams. Thank you so much for all your hard work, Erik!

1. How long have you been working at Madrone?

Around 8 years

2. What is your favorite thing about working at Madrone?

At Madrone, I work with a diverse team that I get to both help shape and learn from.

3. What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why?

Honestly, I can’t point to one specific project. The projects I have enjoyed the most have always been with collaborative involved clients that work with our team to build their vision. I have also found that these types of jobs create lasting relationships with great people.

4. What is your favorite, or least favorite, plant and why?

While I don’t have a specific plant that stands out as my favorite, I would say plants that can serve dual purposes are my favorite. In particular, plants that can be visually appealing in the landscape and can also be served as a meal appeal to me. Asparagus, artichokes, rosemary, and fruit trees are among my favorites.

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

Currently most of my free time is taken up by planting and maintaining research gardens that allow me to experiment with organic fertilizers and pesticides while tracking their effects on soil biology.     



Mulch Madness – A Guide to Mulch

Mulch Madness – A Guide to Mulch

Key Benefits, Types, and Methods of Using Mulch in California Landscapes

It’s almost insane how many ways mulching adds to the success of California landscapes. It is easily one of the most useful practices one can do in the garden. Mulching is a great way to control weeds, retain moisture and protect your soil. It also hides and protects drip lines, keeps dust down, provides a safe, relatively clean walking surface, and looks better than bare ground. Mulches can prevent erosion on slopes, and organic mulches improve soil structure.

Saves Time and Money

One of the most important benefits of mulching is it saves time and money! By reducing weeds, especially annuals, by up to 90%, landscaping labor costs are reduced significantly. Mulching can reduce or even eliminate the need for costly and toxic herbicides. And mulch can significantly conserve soil moisture, reducing the cost of irrigation. Many California Coast gardens use surface-mounted drip irrigation and mulching serves to visually cover up and protect drip lines, which are vulnerable to damage and weathering, thus saving on costs to repair or replace.

Promotes Healthy Landscapes

Mulching promotes healthy plants and garden areas by reducing competition from weeds by preventing their germination. The decomposition of mulch also adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down, improving soil by adding organic matter that feeds beneficial organisms. Mulching reduces soil compaction and insulates plants against temperature extremes. A 2-inch mulch layer can cut summer soil evaporation by 20% and lower temperatures in the top 4 inches of soil by 10 degrees. There is a notable improvement in establishing young plants and trees when mulch is used.

Reduces Soil Erosion

Another benefit of mulch is how it reduces soil erosion. Covering the soil simply helps keep soil in place when exposed to rain and wind. This is especially true on slopes, by deflecting the impact of raindrops, which in turn reduces storm water runoff and creek erosion.

It Just Looks Good

Mulch is often the finishing touch for planting areas. In addition to the functional benefits, it just looks good! A clean, uniform mulch layer helps to really tie the garden together.

Mulching with a Multitude of Materials

There are a wide variety of materials that can be used for mulching. The style and design of your individual garden or landscape will inform as to which types might be best for you. Bark and wood products are the most common types of mulches on the Central Coast. But there are many others, such as stone – from colorful rocks and boulders down to a wide variety of gravel and even decomposed granite. An under-layer of sheet mulching can be employed using newspapers, cardboard and even plastic sheeting. Living mulches (e.g. Dutch white clover) are cover crops planted around crops or between crop rows, adding nitrogen to the soil while discouraging noxious weeds.

We want to call attention to Recycled Organic Mulches. These can include chipped or shredded wood chips, compost, simple fallen leaves or pine needles, or even grass clippings. We also favor chipper mulch from local tree trimming operations. Our endorsement of these recycled materials stems from the fact that these materials are not only potentially an attractive ground cover and mulch, but they are by-products which don’t have to be shipped long distances, and mulching with them contributes to maintaining their usefulness in another form (good for sustainability).

How Much Mulch?

Planting areas should be mulched as needed to maintain a 2- to 4-inch layer. Plan on refreshing your mulched areas periodically. An annual inspection usually keeps you apprised of how often additional mulching is needed. Keep mulch at least two to three inches away from the stems and trunks of plants to avoid moisture-related fungus and bacteria problems. When mulching individual trees planted in lawns, create a circle of mulch about 2 feet in diameter for each inch of trunk diameter, even out to the edge of the canopy of mature trees if possible. If irrigating mulched areas with overhead irrigation, make sure that the water penetrates the mulch layer. Mulch can absorb the water and prevent its ever reaching soil.

We Love Mulch!

Mulching covers and cools the soil, conserves moisture, suppresses weed growth, slows erosion and adds nutrients as it decomposes. It also hides and protects drip lines. Plus, it looks good. What’s not to love?

Meet the Team: Daniel Mazawa

Meet the Team: Daniel Mazawa

It’s a beautiful summer day to Meet the Team! This month we are highlighting our General Manager – fearless leader and plant guru – Daniel. His passion for our work is deep-rooted and contagious: it is felt by everyone who has the pleasure of working with him. Our team wouldn’t be the same without our pun-loving, surf-styling manager! Read more below to get to know a bit about him!

  1. How long have you been working at Madrone?

I have been working at Madrone for 11 ½ years.  I started in December 2007 right at the beginning of the Great Recession.  With a bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture and a couple years of running and working in small design build landscape companies, it was a tough time to be starting out on your own.  Before Madrone, work simply ran out.  I reached out to a former Landscape Architect professor, Stratton Semmes, and she told me to come and talk to Rick Mathews at Madrone Landscapes.  I interviewed with Rick in my nicest button up shirt, slacks, and shoes, willing to help out however I could as a 25-year old young adult.  The next day, I came in with work boots and jeans and started running landscape construction jobs. As time went on, I took on design, estimating, and sales while managing construction projects.  Madrone was about 10 people and we all did what we could to survive in the dismal economy of 2007-2010.  Sure enough, things turned around and the phone started ringing.  We started working with business consultants to organize our roles and the company makeup to handle more work.  We started building the team of key people we still have today and it helped us get past the hurdle of being an awkwardly small company where everyone wears a lot of hats.

Today we have about 25 people and 4 distinct departments: Design, Construction, Maintenance, and Service.  Our capability, organization, and talent has grown.  I have been the General Manager for the last 4 years and it has been an honor to work with such great people and see how much we can accomplish working together.

2. What is your favorite thing about working at Madrone?

My favorite thing about working at Madrone Landscapes is the culture.  We have some unique characters and everyone is free to be themselves.  We spend most of our adult lives at work, so it is important that we make the best of it.  The support I feel from everyone, and the comradery I see really makes me feel good about working here.

3. What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why?

My favorite project is Halter Ranch Vineyard.  Before I came on in 2007, Madrone had already installed several projects on the property.  When I started working with Halter Ranch, there were several multi-firm design and construction collaborations for various projects.  Everyone involved shared a pride in the work.  It was fun to work with the ownership and other trades with the common goal of producing the best product we could.  Halter Ranch’s internal team shares a lot of our core values like stewardship, quality, teamwork, and integrity.  Not to mention, we have installed some of the most beautiful landscapes of our portfolio there.  We have won 3 county and statewide CLCA awards in 2012 and 2016, notably 1st place Large Commercial Construction in 2016 for the Tasting Room Landscape.  Having a stoked team that works well together and produces award winning projects is a true privilege.  To add to that, the property is open to the public 7 days a week and it is great to be able to enjoy the landscape and share it with others.  Win, win, win!

4. What is your favorite, or least favorite, plant and why?

My favorite plant is ever-evolving and it really comes from emotions and horticultural nerdiness.  If you are not a plant nerd, you may want to skip this section ;). Generally, I get excited about seeing California native plants in their prime season.  Right now in summer, Mimulus aurantiacus, Mimulus ‘Cone Peak,’ Trichostema lanatum are pretty awesome mid-summer bloomers, with the Trichstema having one of the coolest scents.  In the winter and spring, Salvia spathacea is beautifully blooming and fragrant, while the Satureja douglasii is the most refreshing herby mint scent of all.  In fall, the Zauschneria (way more fun to say than Epilobium) is a showstopper.  Basically, growing up in California, then learning the plants, allows me to flash back to memories exploring the woods as a kid.  If I step on a Gnaphalium californicum, it smells just like maple syrup and brings me back to the walk home from the bus stop in 5th grade, where we would step on them.  Native trees are also very dear to me.  I grew up in a mixed evergreen forest with Quercus agrifolia, Quercus lobata, Quercus keloggii, Acer macrophyllum, Arbutus menziesii, Heteromeles arbutifolia, Umbellularia californica, and Sequoia sempervirens.  Being in a forest feels like home to me, anywhere in the world.  Finally, the almighty tomato, my first introduction to gardening.  I owe my career to growing tomatoes as a kid and developing a great appreciation for how good a home-grown tomato can taste.  The connections to plants in my youth definitely shaped me as a person.  The beauty of horticulture is that it is limitless with cool things to learn every day.

When it comes to landscape installation, I have a different set of favorites and least favorites based on performance.  As I see more landscapes mature, I tend to like to design a majority of long-lived low maintenance plants with far less perennials and high maintenance flowering plants.  There is nothing worse than showing up to a landscape 5 years later to see that it was not maintained to your vision and plants have died.  Therefore, my pragmatic favorite plants are: Rhamnus californica ‘Leatherleaf’, Chondropetalum tectorum, Carex divulsa, Arctostaphylos (several good Manzanita), Quercus (agrifolia & lobata), Pistacia chinensis, Cedrus deodora, Cistus ‘Sunset’, Muhlenbergia rigens, Pennisetum spathiolatum, Agave ‘Frosty Blue’, and of course Arbutus ‘Marina’.  My least favorite plants are invasive pests such as Cortadera selloana, Ehrhart acalcina, Arundo donax, Delairea odorata, Stipa tenuissima, and Cytisus scoparius.  These plants threaten our native California landscape – which means a lot to me.

5.   What’s one of the things on your bucket list?

On my bucket list is getting my Landscape Architecture License.  I haven’t needed it personally to do my job, but it is something I could get this year with the little I have remaining in the process.  Life has a way of changing plans, and it has been evading me thus far.  Free time to study is what it will take.  I will get it done, and hopefully very soon.