Meet the Team: Rick Mathews, Owner & Founder

Meet the Team: Rick Mathews, Owner & Founder

Enjoying a lifetime of Jazz, Blues and R&B with Central Coast music lovers via public radio KCBX (above).

How long have you worked at Madrone? 
Many decades now. Maybe right after returning from the Torre de Cala Pi job, on Mallorca (see photo below). Talk about a stacked-stone project! Blisters!

What led you to start Madrone Landscapes? 
The discovery of native plants for landscape use, combined with emphasizing environmental stewardship and sustainability, inspired me to visualize a company that tries to heal the scars of development. We moved to SLO County for Cal Poly and the opportunities to start our lives and family in a beautiful region with the potential to make a living, but without the crowding, smog, commutes, etc. we had grown up with. I already had a pickup truck, so all I needed was a shovel and I was in business. What could go wrong?

 Lake Park Native Garden volunteer work crew

What is your favorite thing about working at Madrone? 
The people of Madrone Landscapes continue to inspire me more than any other single thing. Through the considerable ups and downs that have come along, our team has thrived. We have persevered and lifted each other up amazingly well. Respect is a strong value with this group, and it shows through all of our company’s core values: Teamwork, Quality, Stewardship, Service, Innovation.

What do you enjoy most about your job/specialization?
At this stage of my working career, one of the most enjoyable aspects of work is to help guide what we’re doing, individually as well as systemically, and in the process help my co-workers learn and grow.

El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO)—donated landscape design/build for Atascadero Shelter

What is your favorite Madrone project and why?
I’m sorry to use the old cliche: That’s like asking which of your children is your favorite? So many of our projects have improved the situations beyond the sum total of materials installed. We help create environments that range from functionally enabling the use of property, to nurturing people’s souls. There is a lot to like throughout the hundreds of projects we’ve worked on.

What is your favorite plant and why?
This answer will periodically change, but for the moment, I’ll pick the entire genus of Arctostaphylos, or Manzanita. There are over 100 species of Manzanitas, from 3-inch high ground covers to 30 ft. tall trees. They all evoke Western North America, my home and favorite region on the planet.

Torre de Cala Pi is an iconic defense and observation tower on the southeastern coast of the island of Mallorca (built in 1663)

What are some of your favorite hobbies outside of work?
Family, music (still a jazz host on KCBX after many years—Freedom Jazz Dance, Mondays 8pm–10pm, KCBX fm90,, hiking, reading, and yearning to enjoy gathering with friends, live music, and traveling soon.

Give us a fun fact about you!
I first volunteered at KCBX Public Radio (90.1 FM or in the summer of 1977, and have continued hosting weekly shows and volunteering ever since.

Meet the Team: Jose Benitez

Meet the Team: Jose Benitez

Jose Benitez, a project manager especially skilled in landscape and hardscape, has been working with Madrone for just over five years now. We’ve enjoyed his mind, work ethic, and skill in our building aspect of design-build landscapes, and his talent and hard-working mindset have been evident since his first time working with us at 18.

Though he can’t put a finger on his favorite project yet, his favorite plant to work with is the beautiful Central Coast native Arbutus tree, well-known for its red bark and edible berries. Did you know we share our name with them? They can also be called madrones or madronas.

Sycamores, on the other hand, are “nasty” but “necessary” in his opinion—they really are a tricky tree to maintain with their sticky green buds and many secondary trunks.

When Jose has free time, he likes road trips, riding his bike, and playing soccer with his daughter!

We’re grateful to have him on our team, and we look forward to continuing to work alongside him.

Meet the Team: Vanessa Queen

Meet the Team: Vanessa Queen

It’s a wonderful day to Meet the Team! For December, we are happy to spotlight Vanessa Queen, our Controller. Vanessa keeps our finances going smoothly. We appreciate you Vanessa!

1. How long have you worked at Madrone?

Over a year. I started at Madrone in August 2019.

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

The teamwork and values everyone at Madrone has/holds. From work ethic to environmental concern, everyone is all-around awesome.

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

Any project where the client is enthusiastic and excited to work with us is great!

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

My favorite plant is agave or echevena succulents. My least favorite is shrubs – all shrubs. They get filled with spiders and then in the morning you can see all the webs.

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

I love refinishing furniture and being crafty. My husband will tell you that I always have at least one half-finished project in our garage — it’s currently a dining table and four chairs that I’m repainting and two benches we made form a headboard/footboard!

6. Give us a fun fact about you:

  • My husband and I only dated for six months before we got married and have been married for 15 years. We went to the same high school but didn’t really know each other.
  • I’ve never broken a bone.
  • I’m a pen clicker.
Meet the Team: Jill Bleher

Meet the Team: Jill Bleher

For November we are highlighting landscape designer Jill Bleher, who has been with Madrone for nine glorious months. She says one of her favorite things about working at Madrone is the positive team energy. We feel the same way about you, Jill – we’re so glad you joined our team!

What is your favorite thing about working at Madrone?

What I enjoy most about working at Madrone is the positive team energy and the fact that every day I get to work on interesting projects.

I really appreciate being able to bounce ideas off of my teammates. The feedback I receive from my managers and peers helps me to delve deeper into my designs and develop my ideas. Sometimes you just need someone else to look at a design in progress and question you or offer their opinion in order to arrive at the best possible solution for a space. This creative collaboration is my favorite thing about working at Madrone.

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

I have enjoyed so many things about so many different projects, but my favorite projects are those that integrate old with new. I like the challenge of tying together existing features – especially those with history – with new aspects of a design, knitting it all together into a cohesive design.

One such project is a backyard in SLO. The property slopes steeply down to a creek and my first view of the site was just a sea of nasturtiums and weeds beneath ancient Sycamore trees. Cleanup of the site revealed several stone and mortar walls that spoke of the history of the place. These walls are featured in the new landscape, along with a new wall built to match the same rustic style. The design also blends in contemporary features such as poured in place concrete pavers of varying sizes and cable railing on the upper wood deck.

Ultimately this project reminded me of the tale of the Secret Garden. Old can be made refreshed and revitalized with love and attention to detail! What sealed this job as a favorite for me was getting to know the owners through the process of design and installation, and seeing their joy as it developed. One vision that sticks with me is of the family’s young daughter sitting on a stepping stone, feeling the plants and looking quite happy.


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

As a designer I tend to picture plants in terms of colors and textures. I’m hard pressed to pick a favorite, but these are a few plants which I come back to again and again:  

1. Calylopus (Sundrops) is a plant I love for its bright yellow pop when in bloom. I especially like using it to brighten a rockscape or spill over a wall or container.

2. Euphorbia characias (Mediterranean Spurge) is one of my favorite plant species because of its unique forms and colors. It’s a great year-round background of filler plant that will pop out at you when it blooms. ‘Blackbird’ is an especially neat specimen for interesting foliage!

3. Agave ‘Blue Glow’ is in my top plants list for its beautiful symmetry and year-round interest. This is a great stand-alone feature plant or planted en masse for a striking landscape.

My least favorite plant would be Stipa tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass), because although it is beautiful it spreads everywhere and is a pain to get rid of! Early in my design career I used it in a few landscapes only to be dismayed by how it took over everything else, so now I fervently steer clear of using it.

What are some of your favorite hobbies outside of work?

I’m an avid vegetable gardener and collector of interesting succulents. I also enjoy hiking and identifying our local native plants. Indoors you can usually find me doing something creative like knitting, baking, drawing or playing cello.

Give us a fun fact about you!

On sunny days you might see me walking around town with a lizard on my shoulder. Her name is Aurora and she’s a bearded dragon. My husband Alec and I have had her for about 5 years and love to take her places with us. It’s a great conversation starter.

Meet the Team: Angie McCamy

Meet the Team: Angie McCamy

It’s a wonderful day to Meet the Team! For October, we are happy to spotlight Angie McCamy, our Office Manager.  While many of us have worked from home, Angie has gone into the office nearly every day, making sure things run smoothly. We appreciate you Angie!

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

It’s a relaxed and productive atmosphere.

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

My favorite project is the one I’m working on currently. 

3. What’s your favorite plant and why?

My favorite plant is Plumeria – it has beautiful flowers and smells awesome!

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

Bike riding, rollerskating, hanging out with family and friends.  

5. Share a fun fact about yourself.

I’m afraid of heights … but I love to zipline!