SYNKD South | Spring 2023

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INDUSTRY LEADER Pamela Conrad | INSIDE McPlants | RESORT REHABILITATION Land Form Design Group Inc. | EDUCATION Urban Greenery | EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE Pam Dooley | TECHNOLOGIES 3D Printing for Landscape Architects SPRING 2023 SOUTH $9.99 USD


Create and control four independent zones from a single transformer.










Brilliance | 800.867.2108 brilliance.led Brilliance LED, LLC


Welcome to the spring issue of SYNKD! We can feel the excitement of the season and hope you are ready. We sure are—especially after the success of our inaugural SYNKD Live event in Atlanta in February. We enjoyed meeting so many of our audience there, plus lots of new audience members as well as supporters and advertisers. Our goal with this event is to engage the business owners and change-makers with newer ways of working, new technologies and sustainable solutions that cross the boundaries of design+build+maintain sectors of the landscape industry.

We had a great mix of disciplines—from landscape architects to landscape designers, lawn care business owners and businesses that handle everything in-house. We also featured the “first” Pod-Row™ with Naylor Taliaferro, Paul Jamison and Jeremiah


SYNKD 323 Polk St. Lafayette, LA 70501


Angelique Robb

(337) 852–6318


Aimee Almaguer


Caitlyn Wallace


Erin Z. Bass

Jennings. Now, they are doing this at other events around the country. They featured many of our special guests on their podcasts too, so look them up.

After we finished editing the educational talks given at SYNKD Live, we thought these talks should be available on our website to view, so we are making some updates to make this happen. Some of them even qualify for CEU credits!

As the spring season kicks off, you will see more changes in how we are working. For example, we are launching an educational webinar that will also be on our website for future viewing as well as starting our own podcast: SYNKD on air.

Now to our spring issue topics, we are excited to have Pamela Conrad back to talk about leading climate-positive design and how this can help our entire industry, as well as

the journey Georgia company McPlants has had throughout the years. We are thankful for our regular contributors, Deborah Cole and Damon Abdi, and we are excited to welcome a new contributor couple, Angelica and Matt Norton.

Other highlights include a residential project with a unique material, as well as a resort in Mexico that sprung back in a mere eight months after getting hit with a hurricane. The Education section has a variety of topics, including 3D printing of living walls, emotional intelligence, battery advances and urban planting problems solved.

We hope you enjoy, and please reach out to us at if you have any news or topics to share.

Happy reading!


Aimee Almaguer

Mary Kate Carson

Laura Lee

Cindy Whitt


Published by © SYNKD

SYNKD is published four times a year and distributed to 5,000 qualified members of the green industry. Postmaster: Send address changes to 323 Polk St., Lafayette, LA 70501. SYNKD verifies information as much as possible. The views expressed by editorial contributors and the products advertised herein are not necessarily endorsements of the publishers. Reproduction of any part of this magazine is strictly forbidden.

Cover image: ©2018 Kerzner

www. synkd .io 3 Spring 2023
-Angelique September|October 2022 4 synkd | our community our Spring 2023 Volume 1 Issue 4 inspirational raise the community works bar 08 10 12 News Industry News and Dates to Save Q+A What does sustainability mean to you? Industry Leader Pamela Conrad Supplier Spotlight Clean Breeze Collection A “Green” Way To Do Business Deborah Cole Protecting Pollinators Damon Abdi Day One Design Angelica & Matt Norton Mini Interviews Fun questions from our audience 18 20 21 22 24 28 38 Creation Despite Elevation Open Envelope Studio SYNKD Live Recap of our inaugural event in Atlanta in February 2023 SOUTH FEATURE STORY FROM DEVASTATION TO RESORT DESTINATION Land Form Design Group Inc. spent eight months restoring this hurricane-torn resort back into a vacation destination FEATURE STORY URBAN GREENING Root Management for Healthier Urban Planting For Latest Content, To View Digital Issues & To Find Out About Upcoming Events, Visit and/or follow us on these social media platforms: 41 INSIDE M c PLANTS CONTENTS 15 28 33



Deborah Cole

As the founder and president of a commercial landscape firm with multiple locations throughout Texas, Deborah Cole has learned the importance of a people-centric leadership and communication. She now devotes herself full time to speaking, writing and consulting with a heavy dose of visual storytelling (photography) included.

Dr. Damon Abdi, Ph.D

Dr. Damon Abdi is an assistant professor in Landscape Horticulture with the Louisiana State University AgCenter. His horticultural career stemmed from working for residential and commercial landscaping and construction companies growing up. His research and extension interests are in developing sustainable landscaping that improves green spaces and water management across a variety of environments.

Angelica & Matt Norton

Angelica and Matt Norton are landscape designers and co-owners of Open Envelope Studio, a boutique residential landscape design/build firm in Austin, Texas. They specialize in modern outdoor living spaces and custom steel work. Their designs explore how to better the lives of clients through the landscape and the built environment.

Pam Dooley

Pam Dooley began working in the green industry at the age of 13, spending Indiana summers in cornfields before joining her grandfather at the local nursery/garden center. In 2005, Plants Creative Landscapes was born. In 2021, Pam expanded Plants Creative into the North Georgia mountains, opening a second location in Blue Ridge, Georgia.

Do you have a project you would like to be featured in our Summer 2023 Better Business issue? We want to hear about it. Scan the QR code to get in contact with us!



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44 47 49
Emotional Intelligence Part Two Pam Dooley Plants Creative Landscapes 3D Printing–The Future of Landscape Design Dr. Ehsan Baharlou University of Virginia the Switch from Gas to Battery with EGO
47 49
Gerry Barnaby EGO




our community








DESIGN | PAGE 24 MINI INTERVIEWS September|October 2022 2 synkd | our community



Bringing all the facets of our industry together to learn from each other and grow. This is what SYNKD is all about. Russell Owens and Angelique Robb sit down to dive into the continued impact of SYNKD live.


The LAMMY awards are part of the Landscape Architecture Magazine’s annual awards, which is the publication for the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). Only three were handed out for 2022, and Brightview

Design Group received one of them for “Most Persuasive Ad.” The winning ad was designed to “elicit an emotional response with the ads rather than rely on our typical brand promise,” says Kelly Kraemer, BrightView marketing manager. Spring 2023 8 synkd | our community



The U.S. Department of Agriculture has granted a conditional license to Dalan Animal Health for vaccination against American Foulbrood disease caused by Paenibacillus larvae.

Honeybees are a critical component of agriculture. One-third of the global food supply relies on pollination, and healthy commercial hives are essential to secure high crop yields. However, honeybees are plagued by American Foulbrood, with previously no safe and sustainable solution for disease prevention. Overt clinical cases of American Foulbrood are notifiable in the U.S. and Canada, and the only treatment method relies on the incineration of bees and infected hives and equipment.

“Our vaccine is a breakthrough in protecting honeybees,” says Annette Kleiser, CEO of Dalan Animal Health.

To protect the beehive from American Foulbrood disease, this vaccine is a gamechanger. It will be initially available to commercial beekeepers.



Events you don’t want to miss this year



June 5–8, 2023

Location : Forth Worth, Texas

Visit their website by scanning the QR code



JULY 2023

July 15-18, 2023

Location : Columbus, Ohio


September 10–13, 2023



Location : Dallas, Texas elevate


October 17–20, 2023



Location : Louisville, Kentucky


October 27–30, 2023



Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota


November 9–13, 2023



Location : Arizona

Visit their website by scanning the QR code

www. synkd .io 9 Spring 2023 synkd | our community
JUNE 2023
We are ready to change how we care for insects , impacting food production on a global scale



Sustainability has become a buzzword in almost every industry, and the landscaping and lawncare industry is no exception. However, it is not enough to merely talk about sustainability; it requires practical action to achieve it. Education and collaboration are the keys to achieving sustainability in this industry.

In my lawncare company, for example, I believe that education and collaboration are the cornerstones of sustainability. I ensure that I am well-informed about all aspects of my company’s services and collaborate with other companies that provide services that I don’t for better understanding.

This approach not only helps my company provide high-quality and sustainable services, but also fosters a culture of sustainability within the industry. When companies work together and share their knowledge, they can develop new ideas and best practices that can benefit the entire industry.

Furthermore, educating customers about sustainable lawncare practices is crucial. The more customers are aware of the impact their actions have on the environment, the more likely they are to make sustainable choices. I understand this and actively educate my customers about sustainable lawncare practices.

In conclusion, the path to sustainability in the landscaping and lawncare industry begins with education and collaboration. By sharing knowledge and working together, companies can create a sustainable future for the industry and the planet as a whole. Spring 2023 10 synkd | our community

True sustainability is moving with the patterns of nature and not against it. It means being good stewards of nature and finding innovative ways to make profits. At Roots Down, we take Earth care very seriously and make sure to inspire and educate everyone we come into contact with. Not only do we help local governments, developers and landscapers grow greener and more sustainable landscapes, but we also hold free, public education seminars about land stewardship and good ecological practices. Our suggestion for the industry is to look closely at the market trends around more environmentally friendly options. With millions of acres under management, the landscaping industry has a huge opportunity to help grow a more abundant, beautiful and sustainable future. Let’s imagine the possibilities of our landscapes and embrace our role in cultivating environmental sustainability.

Sustainability means doing business in which your company positively impacts the community and the environment. The growth opportunities for a business to continuously increase their revenue are based on the relationships and the connections made while effectively competing in the marketplace. Our belief is that the longevity of any business is creating a great experience with customers, increased community involvement, understanding and coping with industry trends and, most importantly, doing business by the numbers.

Suggestions for the industry:

1. Always be open and ready to pivot and adjust to the market’s latest trend.

2. Know your numbers and make financial decisions based on those numbers.

3. Make sure that your systems are in place. The more that you can integrate, automate and delegate, the better life will be.

For the landscape industry, one definition is “sustainable landscaping is the practice of using multiple strategies to create an environmentally friendly and climate appropriate landscape.” This includes employment of best management practices to reduce inputs; appropriate plant selection depending on climate, rainfall, light and topography; and design/maintenance to avoid water waste and runoff. Equipment selection and use is also important, as the adoption of electric over gas-powered tools will continue to increase as technology improves—but it will take time. Sustainability is also about keeping your business healthy, productive and profitable and open communication with your employees and clients.

My experience tells me that the marketplace is not truly committed to green initiatives. Let’s face it, we all have conflicting values. We want to do what’s best for the environment, but we also want nice things and we don’t want to pay more. Just like we want to “eat clean” but love our vices.

As an industry, we follow the lead of the clients that we serve. If they demand a green solution, we will certainly respond! Bu t what I see is that the desire for sustainability is secondary to other values. And until that shifts in our culture, we will continue to employ standard practices.

We would do well to create an organized industry approach that will lead our communities forward. The reality is that if we don ’t, the government will demand it of us. They will not develop these rules in partnership with us. They will likely bring harsh require ments to us without our involvement. If we are proactive, we may avoid being forced into rules that push us into deep restrictions.

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Industry Leader | Pamela Conrad is Changing the Way the Industry Combats Climate Change

The urban built environment is responsible for 75 percent of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions. When landscape architect Pamela Conrad saw this statistic, she knew she was in the right role to make a difference. Building on her 20 years of industry experience, Pamela helps fellow landscape architects and designers take a climate-positive approach to their projects.

“We’re capable of not just offsetting the negative impact, but being part of the solution,” she says.

Pamela’s impressive resume reflects her deep passion for the landscaping industry and the environment. She’s the chair of

the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Climate Action Plan, vice chair of the International Federation of Landscape Architects Climate Change Working Group and a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. An industry expert, she represented ASLA at COP27, the United Nations Convention on climate change held last year in Egypt.

After serving as principal of CMG Landscape Architecture in San Francisco for nine years, she founded her own organization, Climate Positive Design, where she launched the innovative app Pathfinder.

synkd | our community
We want our projects to have an actual positive impact on the planet

As a landscape architect and environmental steward, Pamela has always been conscientious about her projects’ impact, but she didn’t have an accurate way to measure her carbon footprint. So she got with a team of tech and data engineers and developed Pathfinder, a free app that calculates the carbon footprint of a landscaping project. After the user inputs various information such as plants, materials, scope and size, they receive a climate-positive score showing how many years it will take to offset the project’s carbon footprint. The app also provides useful feedback on ways to lower the score.

“I launched the Pathfinder App about three years ago, and now that we have some data collected, we can start to see the progress and trends to help us going forward,” she says. “We want the tool to be quick and easy for anyone to use. It just takes a few minutes to enter in the

Once the app got off the ground, Pamela shared the new technology with key stakeholders. She’s given more than 100 lectures and attended various meetings worldwide. Pamela’s efforts have garnered support from the academic sector as well as professional organizations such as ASLA, Landscape Architecture Foundation, Australian Institute of Landscape Architects,

Architecture 2030, Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, International Federation of Landscape Architects and the Landscape Architecture Canada Foundation.

“The climate crisis is a global issue and now, thanks to advocacy efforts, 175 countries have access to our resources,” Pamela says. “Just over the past year, companies using the app have increased by 50 percent.”

So far, Pathfinder is being used by landscape architects and professionals as well as municipalities, architects and engineers. To date, 5,500 projects have been logged by 2,000 companies and 1,500 students or university representatives.

Pamela says there are two key ways to create a climate-positive project: Reduce the carbon footprint and increase carbon sequestration. The carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are emitted from fossil fuels during a landscape project, while carbon sequestration is removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it naturally in trees, grasses, soil, etc.

“So far, projects entered have included the planting of 1.7 million trees,” she says. “Our impact is 2.3 million metric tons of carbon

1 Thammasat University Urban Rooftop Farm, Pathum Thani Province, Thailand/Landprocess

2 Kotchakorn Voraakhom, International ASLA, and Pamela Conrad, ASLA at COP27

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sequestration by the year 2040—which is like taking 500,000 cars off the road.”

The materials landscaper designers select to use on their projects can impact the environment positively or negatively. Pamela says about 75 percent of the carbon emissions in a landscape project come from the creation of the extraction, transportation and construction of materials, while the rest is due to the operations on the site. The Pathfinder app helps compare the impact of using one material over another, among other recommendations which can help professionals make meaningful changes during the design process.

Concrete has a large carbon footprint compared to other materials. Not only does the process of making cement produce significant amounts of carbon dioxide, when concrete or other nonpermeable materials replace natural areas, carbon sequestration cannot occur.

The Pathfinder app steers users toward suppliers that are more transparent about their carbon footprint and that are working to produce sustainable products, such as Vestre outdoor furniture. “On the design side, professionals are getting on board, and we want to continue working together with other sectors like the manufacturers,” says Pamela.

Projects entered into the app this past year have a 12 percent reduction in emissions per square foot over the prior two years.

In addition to the app, Climate Positive Design provides a free educational toolkit available to download from the website. This information has also been included within the recent ASLA Climate Action Field Guide. “The 100-page field guide recommends specific actions, from using organic fertilizer, installing native plants to operating with battery-powered equipment and other actions we can take in our everyday work,” Pamela says. “It’s also great for designers to get the maintenance company on board and create the operations manual together to discuss how often plant materials should be watered and maintained, what amendments should be used, ways to minimize soil disturbance, etc.”

Pamela encourages professionals to try the Pathfinder app on the Climate Positive Design website and share additional benefits they’d like to see. “Users make recommendations, sometimes with a donation, and continue to give feedback on what would be helpful—this is how improvements happen,” she says. “In the future, I’d love to give a more comprehensive snapshot of the project. For instance, we could show how one acre of native plants can reduce X amount of water consumption, and support X amount of biodiversity and sequester X amount of carbon.”

As the app continues to develop and more data is added, Pamela says it will be a game changer for residential, commercial and civic projects worldwide. After all, numbers don’t lie.

“As an industry, we can start to define the maximum number of carbon emissions there should be for a project per square foot and the minimum number of carbon sequestration,” adds Pamela.

A clear path to a better future is there, right at our fingertips.

Pamela’s PRO TIPS

Plant more, pave less Install native plants

Use battery-operated or electric equipment

Leave lawn litter, like grass clippings and leaves, in place

Use organic fertilizer

Choose materials with a lower carbon footprint

Collaborate with maintenance teams before project completion

Track your carbon footprint on the free Pathfinder app


118 countries using the app

175 countries using the website resources

44,000 people accessing the toolkit

5,500 projects logged

2,000 companies represented

1,500 students/ universities participating Spring 2023 14 synkd | our community
In Touch
Positive Design
With... Climate
If we keep doing this every year, we can get to zero —that’s progress in the right direction


McPlants Inc. Opened Its Doors Nearly Four Decades Ago, But the Business Looks Very Different Today

Craig McManus’ goal after graduating from Auburn University was to find a niche where he could thrive, while serving people in his own business.

It took him a few years to settle on the garden center business.

His first challenge was that he thought he knew something about the business. He quickly realized he didn’t know anything after getting his feet wet at Pike Nursery in Atlanta.

“I followed some great advice and went to work for a successful company,” Craig says. “It put me so far ahead in opening my own business. I was there with my eyes and notebook open”.

Retail or even personal computers were not a common thing for small businesses then. The highest level of technology for a small business at that time was pushbutton, wire-connected phones.

Ready or not, two years later McManus gave birth to McPlants on a three-acre parcel in Douglasville, Georgia. The garden center was designed so a customer could get their plant fix— rain or shine—with a 4,500 square-foot retail area and a 10,000 square-foot attached greenhouse. An acre of puddle-free paths led the way for shopping.

For years, Atlanta had experienced explosive growth and was unprepared for drought. The drought solution was to ban outdoor watering. “Have you ever tried to sell plants to someone that can’t water? It’s hard,” Craig says.

McPlants pioneered computerized retail garden center point of sale in the state. “We adapted a pre-barcode system from the hardware industry,” explains Craig. “We learned some valuable lessons from that experience. Everything had to have a number attached to it for the system to work.”

After seven years in garden retail, the

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business completely transitioned into a landscape design and build company. The focus was on trees, shrubs and sod.

“Getting a subcontractor to show up when you needed them for irrigation, lighting and hardscapes became a challenge,” Craig says. “Our solution was to learn how to do it correctly ourselves and begin handling it in-house.”

Education & Experience Are Keys to Success

Today’s green industry looks a whole lot different than it did 40 years ago and has evolved with new technology, plants, better methods and new avenues to profit.

How does Craig keep up? “I believe it starts with certification and education,” he says. “My degree is not in horticulture, but I’ve learned so much by preparing and maintaining certifications. Becoming a Georgia Certified Landscape Professional and ISA Certified Arborist created a strong knowledge base from which to operate,” he says.

Why Design + Build?

McPlants Inc. primarily focuses on residential design/build projects. It is a different process than with commercial projects.

“The process tends to be more artistic,” explains Craig. “I like it because I believe it is more personable than bidding on static

themes. You’re able to diagnose challenges and then create solutions using science in creative ways.”

Considering that not all companies merge the sectors and the services that fill in-between, is there a benefit to connecting the process?

“Absolutely,” says Craig, “because then the design can become fluid and react to new information quickly. It may require new solutions and creativity. I like problem solving and implementing the solutions, bringing to reality what I see in my mind.”

Craig believes that a lack of knowledge can lead to problems and increased costs.

“A poor design impacts maintenance cost,” he says. “Wrong plants in the wrong place require constant attention to keep them in bounds and may invite plant health challenges. A person operating a mower should know the variety of grass they’re cutting and the proper cutting height and why it is important.”

“I would have never considered myself an artist 20 years ago, but today I realize there’s so much art to what we do. The art in it is using the science behind the plant material, behind the hardscape material, behind the drainage, behind the low voltage lighting and irrigation,” he says.

Bringing the Client’s Outdoor Dream to Life

McPlants focuses on making the client’s dream of their outdoor space a reality, Spring 2023 16 synkd | our community
Knowledge becomes an asset that clients value. You become a resource that will separate you from the competition & clients will seek out.
McPlants Garden Center ca 1989 Christmas Season at McPlants ca 1989 First Garden Center Point of Sale Checkout in Georgia ca 1990 Craig selecting plants for next project
Everything that
do & incorporate into spaces, there’s an art to that

while also educating and guiding. Craig starts off by discovering desires and setting the client’s expectations. “They usually don’t understand the process and the time required,” he says.

Ultimately, budget becomes the question in achieving the client’s goals. “Most people’s desires are greater than their budget,” Craig says. “Projects can be completed all at once, phased in or scaled back. We try to keep the client focused on enjoying their future garden space.”

Sharing Through Experiences

Within the Industry

McPlants has seen the green industry change. With his passion for learning and sharing experiences in mind, Craig shares some tips that could benefit up-andcoming companies.

• What level do you want to grow your company?” Bigger might not be better for you.

• Are you ready to grow your team’s knowledge and understanding to deliver a higher level of service or do you see them as just filling a position? Growing your team members as a person motivates them.

• Have a plan for generating the revenue to meet increased overhead and the capital requirements to be successful.

• Get more educated, network with folks, learn how to grow people as individuals, because that’s a key to any scalable success at whatever level you want to be.

Share the Knowledge

Craig continues to share his passion for knowledge outside of McPlants design/build services. He connects and interviews industry experts through his podcast “The Garden Question” and recently released his 100th weekly episode. The podcast’s focus is on designing, building and growing smarter gardens that work. Search and listen where you subscribe to your podcasts.

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Get In Touch With... Craig McManus McPlants Inc. SCAN TO VISIT WEBSITE Transferring 60+ tons of material in & out for interior garden rebuild Laying permeable interlocking pavers Overlaying
old concrete with pavers


Supplier Spotlight

The Clean Breeze is available online and in select stores. Units start at $299 and ship out within 24 to 48 hours of ordering.

A Clever New Invention Protects Lungs & Sinuses From Dust & Allergens

From horse massagers to anti-sting ointment, Mike Fultz has been inventing things for a while now. So, when his friend Carl Davis told him about a rudimentary system he’d created to breathe easier while mowing grass, he was intrigued. Mike tinkered with the contraption then sent the modified product to his friend John Brown, a design engineer, for a final look.

The device, known as Clean Breeze, includes a face shield and helmet that are attached to a motor that blows fresh air

be clipped to a belt for mobility while blowing, weed eating, mowing or doing other tasks.

“It keeps out the dust, pollen and allergens so you can breathe fresh air,” says Mike. “We’re not saving lives, but we’re saving sinuses and breathing issues.”

Mike had a winning design, so his next step was finding a way to mass-produce it. “We spent well over a year running all over the country talking to production companies, but we were priced out,” he says. “We just couldn’t afford to outsource. I personally believe in not going into debt or borrowing a lot of money to start a business. I believe in working your way up.”

Then, he had a brainstorm. If John had made the prototype with a 3D printer, they could just buy their own equipment. Today, they have more than a dozen 3D Spring 2023 18 synkd | our community
I knew if I could solve a problem for one, I could solve for tens of thousands

printers making parts for 75 units each day. They hope to make 10,000 units this year.

“It’s amazing watching the printers run,” Mike says. “You come back hours later, and you have a magic part laying there.”

Once he figured out the manufacturing, Mike needed a marketing strategy. One day while having lunch, a solution fell into his lap.

“I was at a restaurant and saw two familiar faces,” recalls Mike. “There were Mark Ramsey and Digger Manes, the infamous moonshiners from the Discovery Channel show.”

Mike introduced himself and told them about his product. Mark and Digger were immediately interested. Even when they’re not making liquor in the backwoods of Tennessee, Mark and Digger spend a lot of time outdoors but both suffer from allergies. Mark worked in lawn care for 19 years, and Digger spends time at his farm bush hogging.

“I told Mike if the product did what he said it would do, I would endorse it,” says Mark. “A lot of people enjoy yard work but have a hard time doing it. And everyone has had enough experience with masks to tell you that wearing them sucks. But this product helps you breathe. It has a good filter and that makes a world of difference.”

For one sales pitch at Kubota, they stirred up the gravel parking lot then

demonstrated walking through the dust cloud while wearing the device.

“For any dust-related jobs or dealing with any particulates, it’s a real salvation,” says Digger. “And it has a cooling effect. It provides an evaporating A/C for your noggin.”

Mark and Digger say they love helping a hometown business and fellow entrepreneur.

“One of the reasons we decided to do our ‘Moonshiners’ show in the first place is that it would be something positive for our county and city,” says Digger. “We are extremely proud of the fact that Mike has brought this production facility to Newport.”

What started as a business relationship is now a friendship, and they even spend holidays together. “If you have one stick, you can break it with no problem, but when you tie a bunch together to create a bundle, you can’t do it. Our team is like a bundle of sticks,” says Mike. “I’ve been very fortunate to have the right team around me.”

In addition to talented people, Mike says that starting a business and bringing a new product to market takes a tremendous amount of work and patience.

“There are always reasons to quit, but I don’t quit,” says Mike. “You can find 1,000 ways something won’t work, but you just need to find one way to make it work. Then be the best at that one thing.”

I tested the Clean Breeze system last spring

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& was very impressed with the product. The area I was mowing was very dusty & I had fresh, clean air for the entire two hours that I mowed. I could see clearly & had no issues with the mask. I would have forgotten that I was wearing the Clean Breeze, except for the very slight sound from the motor. It’s a well-built product that is very useful for anyone with breathing issues, or those who just prefer to keep dust & debris away from their face. I definitely recommend the Clean Breeze!
Wes Hubbard Bad Boy Mowers



Deborah Cole Reflects on Sustainability in the Workforce

Although we often think of the term “going green” as the use of environmentally-friendly products or the movement as a whole, we can also consider the green mindset as a way to conduct business. Eco-friendly means that a product, practice or activity won’t harm the environment, but we can also perform as business leaders who do no harm to our company culture or even to our business relationships. Sustainability means that what we do today does not deplete a potential positive environment for future generations of those who follow in our footsteps.

Questions to ask oneself as a leader of staff or even as a business partner in customer relationships are:

Am I treating this individual as a valued partner in this interaction?

Am I interacting in a way that he/she feels valued?

Am I interacting in a way that provides value to both of our businesses?

Is what I say and do sustainable and will be the standard mode of interaction from now on?

Sustainability is so much more than utilizing “green” products or using methods that do not harm the external environment.

Operating our businesses in a “green relationship” mode will sustain employeremployee relationships, which results in desired retention of valued employees and provides an environment where future employees flock to our companies to be a part of the movement. Being known as a friendly, even nurturing, workplace provides value to our world, our communities, our employees and all of the families affected by the workplace relationship.

Imagine a work environment where turnover is kept to a minimum. If the person/people tasked with seeking out and hiring staff can spend their days creating ways to enhance the work experience rather than always on the hunt for new staffers, we are in serious conservation-of-resources mode. And imagine if trainers/leaders are not constantly training new hires (except as growth dictates) because turnover exceeds standards; think of the time and money saved and waste reduced. Knowing how many resources are burned through when a new employee is brought on board, imagine our businesses where that time is at a minimum. Crews are fatigued when they are perpetually training, correcting and losing new crew members. Frustration is high, and they often feel they cannot do their jobs because they are always in training mode.

We encourage our crews to be efficient and save time and energy, and we know that a significant portion of a day/week/month is

spent onboarding again and again. But what if our work environment itself was a sustainable environment? What if we provided our workforce with the type of workplace that encouraged them to remain with us, to be appreciated, to be recognized and to grow in skill and self-respect? It is possible.

Seek out those in our industry who run these types of sustainable workplaces.

About Deborah Cole

Deborah Cole is the founder of a commercial landscape firm with multiple locations throughout Texas. She now devotes herself full-time to speaking, writing and consulting. Spring 2023 20
Follow their lead. Ask their advice. Do as they do and model this behavior on a daily basis. It is worth the effort.



Foliage, flowers and fruit are all characteristics that define a landscape. Pollinators play an essential role in bringing out that final feature. As pollinators traverse the landscape, visiting flowers in search of nectar and pollen, they inadvertently carry pollen between flowers. This transported pollen fertilizes flowers, setting in motion the process where they develop fruit and seeds. Keep in mind that not every plant requires this animal assistance to achieve fruit set. Wind can transport pollen, and some flowers are capable of self-fertilizing. However, in developing a robust landscape it is necessary to consider some principles and practices that can provide peace for our pollinator friends.

these chemicals may impact pollinators. Several chemical compounds are particularly of concern when it comes to pollinators. Pesticides with active ingredients such as the neonicotinoid “imidacloprid” or the carbamate “carbaryl” pose a threat to bees, with specific warnings and directions for using these chemicals outlined on the label. Practical considerations for proper use of pesticides include a combination of applying these chemicals after flower blooming ends and the petals have fallen off, applying pesticides when bees are less active (generally within two hours of sunrise and sunset) and informing nearby beekeepers of the intended use of these pesticides. Many of these considerations are relevant based on the pesticide formulation used, the method of applying the chemical (i.e. foliar spray or soil drench) and whether the compound is a contact or systemic pesticide. Using these common sense (and just plain polite) practices can help protect pollinators. As always, whenever you are using any pesticide, it is imperative to fully read, understand and follow the label to ensure safe, compliant use.

and insect pressure can be accomplished by ensuring good airflow (by selectively pruning plants), avoiding standing water (by improving drainage), limiting weed development (mulching, hand-weeding) and providing sufficient plant nutrition (fertilizer and proper soil pH).

The importance of protecting pollinators in our landscapes, particularly in urban environments, cannot be understated. A little bit of due diligence in chemical selection, awareness of pollinator activities, sustainable management practices and courtesy to our beekeeping friends goes a long way to maintaining exemplary environmental stewardship.

Get In Touch With...

Pesticides are oftentimes necessary in maintaining a healthy landscape; however, it is crucial to consider how

Of course, proper integrated pest management strategies can and should be employed to reduce the reliance on pesticides. Creating a healthy environment for plants to resist disease


of Landscape Horticulture at LSU AgCenter Email:

www. synkd .io 21 Spring 2023



Design consultations are tough, because in a short amount of time you have to establish yourself as an expert, show that you’re creative, organized and likable, set the framework for a respectful working relationship—and get the job. At Open Envelope Studio, we feel like we have a system in place that has a high track record for moving forward with clients but, more importantly, filtering who would be a good fit for our design process.

The first step is our consultation form. We have every prospective client, even if they’ve called to set up a consultation, fill out a form online. This ensures they’ve looked at examples of projects on our online portfolio, gives us pertinent information about their project and helps us stay organized and not lose track of client information. It also gets the client thinking about their wants and needs. And, lastly, they click a box that says they agree to pay our consultation fee, which in and of itself ensures the likelihood that clients are the type who value professional design.

When visiting the client’s house, we immediately set expectations of how the consultation will unfold to establish we’re leading the process and for the consult to move forward in a predictable way.

In our particular narrative, phase one is gathering information. Here is the chance to glean any and all info we can to know what we’re designing, who we’re designing for, what they need and their tastes. We encourage a stream of consciousness about all of the things that do and don’t work in their spaces. There is no wrong answer. This shows the client that we are capable of being good listeners and we value their input.

The next phase of the consultation is a chance to get the client excited about what their yard could be and by giving solutions they haven’t thought of. We ask for clarifications and get to the “why” on certain statements they made. This is a great time to take mental notes about what photos should be in your portfolio for further explanation. Don’t be afraid to get a bit technical here with municipal codes or best practices. It’s good to show your aptitude, but be sure to stay solution-oriented; clients can become overwhelmed if they hear a laundry list of things the city won’t allow them to do.

At this point, we head inside to go over process using our portfolio. Having a printed portfolio is incredibly important as it’s been curated to facilitate our consultation narrative. We find examples of design opportunities discussed in the

walkthrough. It is critical to have professional photos so that your work sells itself. Think quality over quantity here. Our portfolio contains examples of both design proposals and estimates to rip the bandaid off about price, so it’s a handy tool to organically dive into the tough conversation of budgets vs. design scope.

The last part of the consultation phase is the follow-up email. It includes all of our notes, which makes the client feel heard, but also is a great reference for when we get to their design as we move through our queue so scope doesn’t fall through the cracks. We attach a design proposal and have a link to a post-consultation form, which gives the client a chance to add anything we may have missed—or if the family talked about anything after the consult—and allows for a categorization of nice-to-have wants and must-have needs.

Our consultation process as a whole establishes that not only are we creative enough to envision an emotionally impactful design, but also that we are professional enough to organize all of the facets of a complex project. We think you’ll find that putting thought into the system that surrounds every step of onboarding can empower you beyond the hard sell to make a genuine connection with people, which is the foundation of a healthy project. Spring 2023 22
Landscape Architect Angelica Norton & Architect Matt Norton of Open Envelope Studio Tell Us About Their Design Process to Ensure the Job Runs Smoothly From Day One

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Flor Espinoza Rob Mumford

Landscape Designer, Bellis Pros, LLC

Dallas, Georgia

What inspired you to get into the industry?

I grew up in the industry and what inspired me was the impact every before and after made on each customer. We were solving customer issues and creating unique spaces while working outdoors.

What’s the best part of your job? Getting to create functional spaces for customers with their own personality. I ask lots of questions to learn from them.

What’s your favorite place you’ve ever visited? Guanajuato City, Mexico

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?

To be a Latina woman in a male-dominated industry.

Who do you most admire in the industry? Stanley “Dirt Monkey” Genadek and Keith Kalfas

What are you most proud of?

Being a first-generation immigrant who has created a successful career that has allowed me to grow and care for my family. I’m even more proud of the impact I’m making now being a mentor to others.

Owner, Paradise Pavers of SWFL Fort Myers, Florida

What inspired you to get into the industry? I love working outside. My office view changes daily.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?

Adapting to the ever-changing green industry and starting my business in Florida not knowing a soul.

What’s the one thing that would make the industry better?

Expanded education on proper business management so owners understand the meaning of “profitability.” Low prices are not the driver of success.

Where’s your happy place? On my boat 100 miles offshore.

What is your favorite karaoke song? “Mustang Sally”

What’s the best advice you have received for your career?

Always get a deposit on a project.

What advice would you give to someone entering the green industry?

Stand behind your work. The customer is not an interruption of your work, he’s the purpose of it. Spring 2023 24 synkd | our community

What inspired you to get into the industry?

Building physical spaces that touch people’s lives. Public spaces are my favorite, as I believe that everyone deserves access to nature, and those who build memories with nature are more motivated to preserve and care for the Earth.

What’s the best part of your job?

Seeing end-users enjoying, learning from and engaging with designs is simply the best!

What’s your favorite place you’ve ever visited?

The Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain.

What would you blow your money on? An electric tractor for my future farm.

Who do you most admire in the industry?

Kate Orff. She put landscape architects on the map as a profession that can help combat climate change. It’s up to us to step up as a larger field and prove that we can!

What’s your ideal Saturday?

Sleep late, sip a couple cups of coffee while I catch up on my favorite publications (Places Journal, LAM, SYNKD … ), explore a new bike trail around town, get crafty and end the day with a homecooked meal and either a night out dancing Brazilian Zouk or a movie in bed.

What inspired you to get into the industry?

I truly wanted to turn something that didn’t look good into a masterpiece, giving the owner something to come home to and bring them joy. And being in the outdoors and not being locked up in an office all day had so much appeal.

What’s the best part of your job? I love working with the customers. My motto is always to build partnerships and some have turned into friendships.

Where’s your happy place? Being with my family.

What’s the key to great design? Listening to what the customer wants and executing that vision. Listening is key in our industry.

What three items would you take with you on a deserted island? Matches, a water purifying system and a volleyball.

What’s the best advice you have received for your career? You can’t take customer feedback personal. You have to absorb and hear what they are saying.

www. synkd .io 25 Spring 2023 synkd | our community
Sarah Fitzgerald Chris Semko
Want To Be Featured In Our Summer 2023 Issue? Scan the QR Code Below! To Be Involved In Other Ways, Contact Us Through Our Website: contact-us
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inspirational works







Austin, Texas

Design Time

11 months

Build Time

8 months

Open Envelope Studio Tackled A Challenging Project in Texas Through the Use of Technology, Communication & Ingenuity

Landscape design projects are each unique and memorable in certain ways, but there are some jobs that create drastic changes in the way a team does business. They present unique challenges that need creative solutions and will push the boundaries of the team’s capabilities. Open Envelope Studio’s (OES) landscape design team faced this barrier when they took on a residential back yard with a harsh slope and incohesive structural features. OES Owners and husband-andwife team Angelica and Matt Norton were asked to transform an Austin, Texas-area house with starkly divided indoor and outdoor spaces.

The house’s main level sat significantly higher than the actual ground and could only be accessed through steep interior stairs. There was little space for furniture, and the yard itself was tough to navigate. The client wanted a second-story deck and pergola, though, where they could work, relax and entertain. They wanted the deck to feel like an extension of the kitchen and family rooms in the home, and they also wanted to access the yard easily, in a more direct way through the house. Their desire was to keep the trees and vegetation already in the yard, but create room for the kids to play. Finally, they wanted an outdoor shower to wash off in after a long run or day in the heat. Spring 2023 28

The job seemed fairly routine for OES, which specializes in outdoor living spaces and custom steel work. The process to completion, though, created challenges that the team hadn’t faced before.

Solving the Slope

The team began designing in April 2020. They hoped to keep certain areas as natural and original as possible and avoided changing things around the edge of the property, the lower tier of the house and the retaining walls. An existing survey provided by the homeowner was used, along with site measurements taken with a transit, to begin making early designs. But soon after, they found that the survey has missed several key aspects of the yard.

“We finished the construction documents and were about to break ground when we realized that some of the trees and parts of the slope were not represented in the surveys,” says Angelica, principle designer. “An undulating yard is really difficult to capture, and we realized the way the upper terrace connected to the grass terrace wouldn’t work. We were trusting that the survey would tell us where those topography lines were, but

instead had to do an entire new design round at the last minute.”

They researched different tools and programs that could properly survey the yard. The team needed something to get rid of any human error that comes from the traditional practice of using measuring tapes and notebooks to scale a property—and wanted something to easily track features like slopes, ways trees are leaning, hidden rock shelves and other important aspects.

“In 2022, we began using Leica BLK2GO,” explains Angelica. “Now we can scan a property in four minutes instead of roughly three days like before. It changed our process. We can trust what we see in the models and spend more time on the actual project. Our clients are also able to see the 3D models with our design and get a good sense of what the finished area will look like.”

The tool completely changed the flow of the project and is now a standard practice for OES. The construction documentation issues delayed the project timeline, though, and the team was not able to break ground until March 2021. Luckily,

they communicated any delays and challenges with the client and were able to develop a strong relationship through the process. This line of communication helped them as they moved into the construction portion, where they had to creatively select materials and collaborate with highly skilled welders and carpenters to create the client’s ideal deck area.

Transformational Mesh Material

OES’s designers thought up a ramp combination to seamlessly connect the back deck to the ground below. They used a material not often seen in landscape architecture: perforated steel. The dynamic tool is transparent when looking straight on but slightly opaque when spotted from the side. Its unique texture resembled a paper wrapping for the ramp space and helped hide some more utilitarian aspects of the home (like an AC unit and plumbing structure). The team also built the client’s desired outdoor shower into a nook created by the railing and ramp. The entire enclosed space is multi-functional, while still an attractive focal point for the yard.

“The texture is really nice and even looks delicate. You’re drawn to it,” says Matt, creative director. “It also transforms the home by making it look less monolithic. Now, there is a relationship between the house and the landscape, where it was so separated before.”

Since the deck and pergola sit in the center of the project, the team aimed to make it somewhat sculptural. This dynamic element was the perfect touch.

Advancing Operations

OES works on residential properties throughout the Austin area and sometimes branches into other parts of central Texas. Angelica and Matt are

www. synkd .io 29 Spring 2023 synkd | inspirational works

both native to Texas and graduated from the University of Texas School of Architecture, where they met more than two decades ago. Angelica initially planned to be a writer, but developed an interest in landscape architecture as she completed her undergraduate degree. She was inspired by Matt, her boyfriend at the time, and her family, who had a long history of gardening and outdoor investment. Matt knew he wanted to work in a creative and constructive outdoor role from the beginning and still oversees the creative vision of the team’s projects. They began OES in 2011 and now lead a small team with four designers, two project managers and an operations manager. Angelica calls OES a familyoriented business and says the closeknit team and the job bring her joy. This translates to the goal of their boutique residential studio: Create intimate, personalized spaces that help clients feel happy and comfortable.

Designing for the Future

OES manages a project’s design and construction phases, then pays close attention to the maintenance that comes after. They do not maintain properties themselves, but have close relationships with maintenance companies. They choose who they believe are good fits for the client and the space, and then make recommendations to the property owners. Next, handoffs for maintenance teams to describe the initial vision and contingency plans for any issues are developed. OES even offers a warranty plan to homeowners. If something goes

drastically awry, they will step in and offer redesigns or readjustments.

“We want to know if something is starting to deteriorate, if it is the wrong material or if the client just isn’t happy,” says Angelica. “There will always be a certain amount of maintenance required with plants, and a space will grow and change. Ideally, though, it will never lose the overall look that we gave it on day one.”

A Picture Perfect Property

Angelica, Matt and the OES team overcame a long design and construction process to present a redeveloped and fully-functioning back porch and yard. The client says the back yard transformed from a space that really only the dogs could enjoy into the family’s go-to spot. They use the porch daily when drinking coffee and working from home, and their kids regularly play sports in the yard after school and on the weekends. Dad uses the outdoor shower after a long run, and the creative light fixtures, outdoor fans and plant material create a lovely gathering space during warm Texas summers.

The two-year project changed the way the client uses their home and interacts with their family and friends. This back yard investment changed OES as well. The team now approaches and manages projects differently through new tools and materials. The project turned out to be what all designers hope for: something impactful and memorable for everyone involved. Spring 2023 30 Get In Touch With... Open Envelope Studio Austin, Texas Phone: ( 512) 925–0155


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Two Days of the Most Powerful Hurricane Turned into Eight Months of Full-Speed Restoration

When Landscape Architect Malcolm Miller, president of Land Form Design Group Inc. set foot on the One&Only Palmilla resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, he was shocked. After assessing many hurricane-hit resorts in Florida, the Bahamas and Mexico for landscape insurance claims, he thought that this one would be similar. It was worse than he had ever experienced before.

Hurricane Odile made landfall in Baja, California, Sept. 14-15, 2014, and was named the most powerful storm to hit the region—with an estimated damage of $1 billion. Malcolm was called by colleagues

www. synkd .io 33 Spring 2023

Sean Simm and John Galloway to come and lead the landscape restoration work, but the local airport had been hit hard by the hurricane also, so he had to fly into La Paz 150 miles away.

This boutique hotel is small—only 110keys—but large on service, with over 1,000 staff members. The hotel depended on the team to get the repair work done as quickly as possible—with a goal of eight months to welcome guests again—to, again, be an amazing experience overlooking the Sea of Cortez.

The silver lining is that the hurricane damage and subsequent shutdown did give an opportunity for upgrades and restoration to the interior and exterior of the resort. They welcome many repeat customers throughout the year and heavy renovations are critical in this competitive market. Resorts of this caliber require capital improvements every three to five years.

On day one, Malcolm determined that he could save many of the palms—over 1,200 coconut palms at 30-40-feet-high—on the resort through dedicated maintenance, thus saving a total of $3 million in tree replacement costs. Not only was this a cost savings, but it would also be critical to recreating the welcoming and established atmosphere of the resort in the short eight-month turnaround time. The coconut palms (Cocos nucifera) were trimmed and sprayed with fungicide. With regular monitoring and fertilizing, new growth appeared six to eight months after the hurricane. The understory planting had to be completely redesigned and thousands of new plants installed throughout the grounds.

“It was a huge commitment to do this job, as I live in Florida and traveling way over on the west coast of Mexico takes a whole day,” says Malcolm. “It’s pretty much a 12-hour trip door-to-door. I would go there for a week to 10 days at a time and come home for a week. So. it seemed like every time I came home, I was turning back around and heading back out there. I am very proud of what the team accomplished. It was worth it!” Spring 2023 34

The hotel staff had the option to stay home and earn partial pay or come to learn and help with restoration works. Many jumped right in to help, becoming a key workforce involved in the tidying up of the grounds and hotel premises. “The staff from Palmilla were so hardworking and efficient,” Malcolm says. “I was ultimately amazed at the craftsmanship that they put into their work.”

One of the major hardscape improvements was a conversion of a kid’s day camp area into a new space called Villa Christina. The scope included a newly built infinity edge pool with a surprising feature of a clear wall at the end of the pool to allow a glimpse the Sea of Cortez when swimming underwater. This area also includes a hanging bed under a Palapa thatched pergola. The patio area utilized local Mexican stone for the pool deck, which is the same as the rest of the resort.

The large infinity pool, Aberca Aqua, in the main resort area was resurfaced with new tile and new decor and furniture supplied by Anderson/Miller Ltd. Some of the furniture destroyed during the storm was handmade in Bali. To get more of the same furniture to match and to meet the deadline, the hotel had to figure out how to speed up the process. The solution turned out to be in the shipping. They used 747 planes to fly the furniture over.

Malcolm was invited to attend the grand opening for the hotel. “The general manager was so pleased with the gardens that we created that he asked us to continue visiting quarterly to walk the property and spend time with the maintenance and operations teams to ensure the overall vision comes to

www. synkd .io 35 Spring 2023

fruition,” Malcolm says. “I’m very passionate about the postconstruction and post-installation followup. The landscape is a living thing and when you’re done installing, it doesn’t mean it’s done. So, I take a lot of pride in planning what it will look like in two years, five years, 10 years. Those projects where I do get invited back to the properties, I keep those close to my heart.”

Even better, Malcolm and his team did meet the target for the hotel’s grand opening.

Get In Touch With... Malcolm Miller, ASLA

President of Land Form Design Group Inc.

Phone: (954) 461–6191

Email: Spring 2023 36 inspirational works
Photos courtesy of © 2018 Kerzner

raise the bar




A Look Back at Our Inaugural Event in Atlanta

& OPPORTUNITIES Spring 2023 38
Keynote Speaker Jeff McManus Deborah Cole PANEL ONE: SUSTAINABILITY–CHALLENGES MODERATOR: Paul Jamison PANELISTS: Angelica Norton, Dr. Damon Abdi, Malcolm Miller & Brandy Hall FIRST UP ON THE TECHNICAL STAGE IS Dr. Anna Paltseva Greg Niewold Tom Watson
www. synkd .io 39 Spring 2023 DIDN’T MAKE IT TO SYNKD LIVE? PURCHASE ACCESS TO ALL RECORDINGS BY SCANNING THE QR CODE SYNKD Award Winners from L-R: Newly SYNKD Award goes to ServeScape. Received by Mario Camberdella Innovatively SYNKD Award goes to Langton Group. Received by Julia Langton Environmentally SYNKD Awards goes to MonarchChem. Received by Patrick Henry
HighGrove Partners
Colah B. Tawkin, Podcast Host of Black in the Garden & Anne Marie Fruge Bob Hawkinson & Angelique Robb at SYNKD Awards
The Cumberland Landscape Group posing after Billy Van Eaton’s presentation The SYNKD Team from L-R: Anne Marie Fruge, Caitlyn Wallace, Aimee Almaguer & Angelique Robb Langton Minton & Pete Sepesi
The Clean Breeze Collection Comfortable, Lightweight & Adjustable Continuous Airflow Over Head & Face HEPA-Filtered Air Stay Cooler Protects Face & Eyes Reduces UV Exposure Mobile System - Indoor & Outdoor Use Mowing * Weedeating * Blowing * Bush Hogging * Sanding Woodworking * Woodturning * Crafting For more information Recommended & Proudly Endorsed By "Moonshiners" Mark & Digger Our covers are made to fit a wide variety of uses Simply input the surrounding hardscape into the cover Seamlessly blend into the surrounding landscape Tel. 775-400-2883 WunderCovers™ seamlessly blend manhole, drain, or utility access covers and vaults Custom covers, built to order, low volume, any size or configuration

URBAN Greening

Root Management is Key to Healthy Urban Trees

Washington Avenue, a hightraffic downtown street in St. Louis, Missouri, was redeveloped in 2016-17 from 7th Street to Memorial Drive. The vision for the first two streetscape phases was to improve lighting and maximize durability of the area which sees all four seasons, from scorching-hot summers to frigid winters. Matching the design aesthetic of the two previous phases, which had significantly higher budgets, is where the challenge was delivered. With historic buildings lining the street, bringing the design to fruition involved working with individual building owners in addition to city officials to ensure the success of the project.

To provide value and durability to the streetscape, the project designers envisioned a grove of healthy street trees along the sidewalk, providing not only the longed-for aesthetic appeal, but also the many benefits that healthy trees offer— like oxygen creation, carbon mitigation, health improvement, reduction in urban heat island effect, noise abatement and traffic calming.

Here are a few more benefits to planting trees:

• A single mature tree absorbs carbon at a rate of 47.5 lbs per year.

• Tree planting remains one the most cost-effective methods to control CO2.

• Trees buffer stormwater and prevent erosion (100 mature trees can capture over 300,000 gallons of rainwater each year).

• Mature trees and greenspaces help reduce crime levels in urban areas.

• Trees have been shown to have a positive effect on road safety. Roadside planting can also be used to improve pedestrian safety by creating a barrier between roads and sidewalks.

However, the hardscape requirements of a heavily urbanized street like Washington Avenue are in contrast to the natural needs of healthy tree establishment. Couple that with basements that extended all the way under the sidewalk and out to the street curb, as can sometimes be the case with extremely

www. synkd .io 41 Spring 2023

urban downtown landscapes, and you’ve got some very challenging and constrained planting areas. Then, the question of how to successfully integrate trees into a street like this is raised.

These challenging site conditions created a situation where every available cubic foot of space had to be fully maximized to provide the soil volume needed for the trees being planted to thrive. Soil cells were utilized, as they have the largest usable void space, which means that the readily available soil for the trees is absolutely maximized. These soil cell modules are made from 100 percent recycled plastics and are specifically designed for maximum soil and rooting volume and low environmental impact.

Extensive compression testing of these units has been carried out in highly reputable, independent testing laboratories. The complete test of each size and configuration is repeated several times to ensure reliability of data and confirm consistency of the unit’s structural performance.

The constant replacement of trees, as is often the situation with street trees, was something that the designers did not want for this space. As such, GreenBlue Urban’s ArborSystem met the challenge and was implemented to deliver the solution. Five years later, these trees are thriving on Washington Avenue, saving the city time, money and resources, all while not disturbing the historical landscape or negatively impacting the environment.

The development of this public realm has created the intended space of a sought-after streetscape. In addition to the tree elements, LED light fixtures now improve site and pedestrian lighting, and long linear promenade pavers in varying shades of gray reflect the surrounding urban context while providing a more modern aesthetic feel.

Get In Touch With...

Shane Carpani


Underground tree pit packages, which include soil cell modules, were used to link the subsurface soil volumes together where possible, ensuring a high-quality rooting space within the non-compacted soil filled RootSpace system. This tree pit system replicates the forest floor scenario as closely as possible by providing trees with the uncompacted, aerated soil crucial to their long-term health. Soil cells are engineered load-bearing modules with over 95 percent open void space, meaning they provide maximum rooting volume as well as the ability to accommodate services. This system can be used close to highways due to world-leading lateral performance. Spring 2023 42



In January/February’s edition of SYNKD , I wrote about emotional intelligence (EI), including what it means and why it reigns supreme over intellectual intelligence in the future of work. In part two, I’ll dive into the five main components of emotional intelligence, including how they show up in our companies and how we can lean into them in creating healthy cultures.

Emotional intelligence is our ability to understand and manage emotions and feelings, as well as those of others, in guiding our thinking and then our actions.

It is different from the intelligence quotient, or IQ, in that it is specific to recognizing and managing emotions. Dr. Daniel Goleman, a famous psychologist and author, developed the five following Emotional Intelligence Components:

• Self-awareness

• Self-regulation

• Motivation

• Empathy

• Social skills


Knowing what we’re feeling at any given

moment and understanding the impact our feelings have on others. Self-aware people are also capable of identifying both verbal and nonverbal emotions in others. Self-aware people understand their strengths and weaknesses and know when to offer and receive help.

We all know teamwork is critical to success. At Plants Creative, when we talk about what it means to be a good teammate, we generally focus on three things: Stay in our lanes, establish healthy boundaries and don’t wait until something becomes a crisis to ask for help. A healthy self-awareness is critical to being a good teammate, and having the courage to act within that awareness is one of our greatest opportunities to nurture healthy workplace cultures.


The ability to understand and manage our behavior at any moment. To temper our reactions to feelings such as anger, embarrassment and frustration. To calm ourselves down in the heat of the moment.

We know innovative cultures require healthy conflict. However, it’s easy to be triggered by a teammate who challenges our authority, who questions an idea we’re proud of or who pushes us outside Spring 2023 44

our comfort zone. A few years ago, I learned about David Rock’s The SCARF© Model, a wonderful tool that I regularly use to understand my own, and my team’s, hot spots. I call emotional reactions “being scarfed” or being triggered by a reaction to one of five social experience domains: status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness or fairness. When we understand the reason behind the reactions, we can more easily navigate the situation.


An inner passion that drives our outer behavior and actions. Our commitment to goals and our initiative to act on opportunities. Dr. Goleman also discusses two key attributes of remaining highly motivated: optimism and resilience.

Our teams feed off our energy, good and bad. When owners/company leaders lack an intrinsic passion—truly loving what we do—our teams will be held back in reaching their full potential. The single most important motivator is purpose. When we’re able to stay connected to what gets us out of bed every day, and continuously cast the vision, our teams can thrive. This doesn’t mean that external motivators like money and/or things are bad: I am definitely a proponent of work hard/play hard(er), and money provides the opportunity for fun experiences. Profitable outcomes also provide validation that the work we’re doing is

desired by customers and fuels our growth. However, internal motivation will always have the final say in accomplishing long-term, sustainable success.


An ability to understand and share the feelings of others by imagining the self within the same situation.

The days of encouraging employees to leave personal problems at home are no longer. We have to understand that people are people first, professionals second, and the more we’re able to develop strong, personal foundations within our teams, the more we’re able to layer on professionally. Leaders of others within our companies have to look at people through pure empathetic perspectives. We have to constantly work to prevent our own experiences from shaping the advice we give others and to understand people’s struggles within the context of individual life experiences. Growing and evolving companies must be especially skilled at empathy. Growth requires change, and change can be stressful. Regularly checking in with our teams on how they’re feeling is as important as tracking key performance indicators.

Social skills

These skills allow us the ability to connect, interact and work with others. Social intelligence takes the emotional intelligence ball and runs with it! While empathy is more outward-driven in our

relationships, social skills are inward driven and support our ability to influence and persuade others.

Developing healthy relationships within our companies is critical. People who feel connected to others, and who are working together toward a shared purpose, will run headfirst into battle for each other. Socially healthy teams are sustainable teams, built with enduring resilience and bound by genuine connections. Key social skills include how we communicate, how we resolve conflict, how engaged we are in each other’s success and how successful we are in creating collaborative solutions. Our ability to improve social skills relies on how emotionally healthy we are.

People are changing. Effective leadership is changing. Skills that were needed to maximize efficiencies 50-plus years ago are taking a backseat to enhanced human skills that are collectively known as emotional intelligence. As we enter the 5th Industrial Revolution, IR5, the world is figuring out how to best coexist with robots. We’re learning how to responsibly and proactively merge technology and human creativity to leverage the best attributes of both. As leaders, we can embrace the challenge and ride the wave toward the future or remain fixed in our comfort zone and get crushed by the wave. The choice is ours, and emotional intelligence will be rocket fuel for leaders who choose to ride the wave.

REFERENCES : scarf-model-motivate-your-employees

A bout Pam Dooley

Pam Dooley began working in the green industry at the age of 13, spending Indiana summers in cornfields before joining her grandfather at the local nursery/garden center. In 2005, Plants Creative Landscapes was born. In 2021, Pam expanded Plants Creative into the North Georgia mountains, opening a second location in Blue Ridge, Georgia.

www. synkd .io 45 Spring 2023 synkd | raise the bar We are committed to helping professionals grow their business through outdoor lighting and beyond. LET’S GROW YOUR BUSINESS, TOGETHER High-Quality Products Training & Education Continuous Support Exclusive Content Highest Quality Light Output in the Industry SIGN UP NOW for a weekly dose of exclusive industry news & insights! Scan the QR code to get on the list. INSIDER STAY IN THE KNOW WITH POWER UP YOUR SOIL Take your Lawns Level to the MAKE YOUR LANDSCAPES SHINE! DIRECT TO CONSUMER Fertility Forward® High Performance Plant Nutrients Fertilizers ▪ Specialty Products Soil Amendments ▪ Custom Blends Our bio-based fertilizers & specialty fertility products are blended to feed plants, improve soil fertility and build topsoil. BUY/SHIP DIRECT MFR/HQ: Greensboro, GA



Ateam of researchers from the University of Virginia (UVA) discovered a way to create soil structures with the help of 3D printing. The technology currently uses cement-based materials to build houses, but Ehsan Baharlou, assistant professor of architecture at UVA, created wall prototypes using soil.

“This is a development of a type of material that, first of all, is printable, and second of all, can be a structure by itself,” he says. “After that, it can provide enough nutrition for the growth of different kinds of seeds.”

With the popularity of living walls and rooftop terraces in modern landscape architecture, the ability to create green structures using a soil-based material would allow designers to build into the design rather than on top of it.

In 3D printing, structures are created by laying down multiple thin layers of a material to create a three-dimensional object. For the research project, soil was mixed with an additive to make the material. Seeds were placed in between each layer as the 3D wall was constructed. The result was a wall that sprouted greenery within four days.

The team used local soil to keep the

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Ehsan Baharlou, Dr.-Ing Photo courtesy of ©Tom Daly Top & Bottom Photo courtesy of ©Ehsan Baharlou

project sustainable. If the technology is made widely available, structures could be built anywhere using the resources from the surrounding area. It would eliminate the need to transport material to a site and help reduce the emissions associated with design and construction.

Chemical additives are not added to the soil so that the material can be used again or returned to nature. This type of circular and bio-composite construction can transform how the landscape industry sources and uses materials.

As the research continues, we could see a future where retaining walls are made of the soil around them and grows their own plants.

Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Virginia

Email: Spring 2023 48 synkd | raise the bar
All Photos On This Page courtesy of ©Ehsan Baharlou
Why we’re doing it is completely related to the amount of carbon emission [generated] & how we are going to have to develop a system to be negative carbon emission
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From regulating carbon emissions to consumer preference toward a quieter lawncare experience, multiple factors are driving the growing conversion from gas- to batterypowered outdoor power equipment (OPE). With more homeowner associations and municipalities regulating when gas-powered equipment can be used and states enacting legislation to ban the sale of new equipment that runs on gas, it may be time to consider making the switch.

With this shift comes a whole new set of questions: Is battery-powered equipment going to have enough power for my jobs? What do the different voltages mean? Is an 80-volt battery more powerful than a 56-volt battery? What are amp hours (Ah) and how do they factor into the mix?

And—the big one—which brand do I invest in?

EGO Is the No. 1-rated brand of battery-powered OPE. Its 56-volt ARC Lithium™ battery provides all the power and performance of gas without the noise, fuss or fumes associated with working with and maintaining gas-powered equipment. Every EGO battery powers all 70-plus tools in the EGO platform, so you can use the same battery to power a string trimmer or leaf blower as well as a zero-turn mower.

Dare to Compare

The best place to start your conversion journey is understanding the battery. It’s what provides power and runtime—and often comprises most of the cost of any tool.

When comparing brands, you’re going to come across a variety of voltages and amp hours (Ah). But the actual measurement of a battery’s power boils down to watts. And watts are where EGO separates itself from the competition. It’s also where things get much more complex.

can output. Higher amps means more power out. Battery cells within a battery housing are arranged in layers, referred to as ‘Ps.’ Each P can deliver a certain amount of electrical current out, and the more layers of cells you add in a battery, the higher the max power—watts—becomes.

“In the case of an EGO 10 amp-hour battery, a 4P battery, each layer of cells has a max peak current out of 20 amps,” Nick adds. “Doing the math, 20 amps multiplied by 4Ps equals 80 amps of total current. So, 80 amps multiplied 56 volts

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battery to stay cooler during use? How sophisticated is the power management system of the battery?

EGO batteries are recognized as the most-advanced and well-built batteries in OPE, with patented technology including its innovative ARC design, intelligent power management and revolutionary cooling technology for incredible power and performance.

Rather than stacking batteries into a brick formation like many industry brands, EGO fans out its battery cells into its patented ARC design to help keep the battery cool and your equipment running longer at full power. Sealed electronics and a shockresistant design protect EGO batteries from drops and the elements,

battery cell to maximize power, performance and runtime. EGO batteries also use up to four parallel layers of cells (or Ps). This innovative “4P” design evenly distributes power across the rows, so EGO batteries can handle even the most challenging conditions—and provide better performance.

There are up-front costs associated with the conversion from gas to battery, but battery-powered equipment requires much less routine maintenance as there’s no oil to change, carburetors to clean, pull strings to replace or engine parts to break. And to help offset the cost of conversion, some areas of the country, including California, are offering subsidies to ditch gas and invest in battery-powered equipment.

To better meet the needs of landscape professionals, EGO is releasing its next generation of EGO commercial tools in 2023, featuring powerful brushless motors with intelligent electronics that deliver performance of leading gas competitors, commercial-grade construction and engineering for lifelong durability. EGO Commercial is setting the new standard in power, performance and durability—and it’s no longer driven by gas.

Sign up for updates to learn more about EGO Commercial at commercial.


Setting the New Standard

Many landscape professionals converting their equipment fleet seem most comfortable with dipping their toes into the water before taking the plunge of a total gas-to-battery conversion. Many start their battery conversions with string trimmers and blowers so they can get a true feel for the power and performance of battery-powered equipment. Others outfit a single crew at first so they can begin to understand the number of batteries they’ll need to get through their workday.

We’ve spent over a decade researching, developing and perfecting our industry-leading lithium-Ion battery technology leading to the development of the POWER+ platform. We’re proud to deliver the first line of cordless outdoor power equipment with the power and performance of gas, without the noise, fuss and fumes. Designed, engineered and brought to life by a global organization with a 25year history of delivering professional quality and breakthroughs, EGO has forever changed the outdoor power equipment industry.


Gerry Barnaby

Phone: (616) 295–6221

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Mark Your Calenders for #SYNKDLIVE2024

DATE: FEBRUARY 14–15, 2024


At SYNKD Live I was surrounded by like-minded people from the industry that were there with the common goal of learning. The environment was infectious & I walked away feeling a new clarity about where our business should go next & how to get there.

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