SYNKD West Spring 2024

Page 1

Spring 2024

$15.99 USD

Mike Bogan
Michael Bernier Design
Interlocking Ends Save Time V-Shaped Stakes Stay Secure & Hidden Patented Modern Design


Welcome to the 2024 Spring Green Issue, SYNKD community! Did you miss the sun as much as I did?

Before you roll out and get swept into the seasonal action, we hope you meditate on the insights packed in this publication. On second thought, why not carry it with you?

Like those folding road maps people once kept in their glove boxes, you never know when a resource like this could point you in the right direction.

Long-time readers may be surprised to see my face appear in place of SYNKD founder Angelique Robb. I can assure you that Angelique’s influence still flows throughout this magazine. While she focuses more on leading our team, planning SYNKD Live 2025, hosting our SYNKD On Air podcast and managing the growth of our company, my role has expanded. I am honored to add the word editor to my title as a full-time journalist with SYNKD

Some of you may recognize me from SYNKD Live 2024. I was the brunette in the green vest, walking around with the camera guy and introducing herself as the writer from Montana. That week, I saw a magnolia tree for the first time, but that was far from the most memorable part of the trip.

Behind the conspicuous blue van displaying the phrase “100% Electric Landscaping,” I spoke with innovators leading the way to a battery-powered future. From the main stage, I caught a glimpse of the state of the

Making Connections

industry through the lens of a minority business owner. Among countless landscape stewardship topics, I absorbed knowledge about water, design and leadership—themes reflected in this very magazine.

The most valuable part of the event for everyone in attendance seemed to be the connections formed there. We are pleased to witness the ripples on social media and look forward to watching them morph into waves. At SYNKD, we are constantly reassessing what it means to synchronize the sectors of the landscaping industry. As an editor, I see our quarterly magazines as a vehicle to keep the momentum rising year-round.

If you are new to SYNKD, we expect these pages will demonstrate how deeply we care about the green industry. Amplifying traditionally overlooked yet knowledgeable voices is at the core of who we are as a company. Do you have something to say? Our website,, includes submission forms for our Q&A, Mini Interviews, featured project suggestions and more. Thank you for joining us on this journey.

Yours in all things landscaping,

www. synkd .io 3 SYNKD West Spring 2024
-Jenna Patrick
Diversity, Equality & Inclusion Panel FIRESIDE CHAT

Dr. Damon Abdi LSU Ag Center Constraints & Opportunities

For latest content, to view digital Issues & to find out about upcoming events, visit September|October 2022 synkd | our community @synkd.landscape @synkd_landscape @synkd-landscape @SYNKD On Air
Colorado 29 inspirational works our community 08 10 News Industry news & dates to save Q+A Sustainability & Eco-Friendly Initiatives:
are the
Follow us on these social media platforms:
French Inspiration Meets Location-Specific Needs with LeAnn Ostheimer, Chief Operating Officer for Lifescape
What are
BOGAN Mini Interviews Fun icebreakers from our audience Landscaping: An Inspirational Force for Good Aaron Michael Earth Love Gardens Sustainable Practices for Beneficial Insect Management
16 19 20 22 12 25 34 Rewriting
Longevity & Loyalty GO Designs El Paso, Texas 34 25
Angelica & Matt Norton Open Envelope Studio
the Client’s Checklist Michael Bernier Design Los Angeles, California

Next Issue: SYNKD Summer 2024 Outdoor Living Contact Angelique Robb at for more information on how you and your company can be featured in upcoming issues.

www. synkd .io 5 September|October 2022 synkd | our community
the bar SOUTH
323 Polk Street Lafayette, Louisiana 70501 PRINTED BY Sheridan 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. VOLUME 2 | ISSUE 2 THE GREEN ISSUE SPRING 2024 38 41 Seize the Moment Heather Dirksen Ascend Tree Business Consulting Quotes From SYNKD Live 2024: An Insight Charcuterie Board 38 41 FEATURE THE RISE OF BATTERY-POWERED EQUIPMENT Is this the future? Hear from three business owners in the know. 45 OWNER Angelique Robb (337) 852–6318 EDITOR & WRITER Jenna Patrick GRAPHIC DESIGNER Caitlyn Wallace SUBEDITOR Erin Z. Bass WRITERS & CONTRIBUTORS Jenna Patrick|pgs 12, 25, 29, 34 & 45 Aaron Michael | pgs 19 Dr. Damon Abdi | pg 20 Angelica & Matt Norton | pg 22 Heather Dirksen | pg 38
Hybrid HD Edging Check Us Out Invented + Provided By Pave Tool Innovators can To learn M ero Easy Install


PAGE 8 Industry News | PAGE 10 Q+A | PAGE 12 Industry Leader:

Mike Bogan | PAGE 16 Mini Interviews | PAGE 19 Aaron Michael:

Landscaping—An Inspirational Force for Good | PAGE 20 Dr. Damon Abdi: September|October 2022 7 synkd | our community
our community
Sustainable Management Practices to Support Beneficial Insects | PAGE 22
Angelica & Matt Norton: Constraints & Opportunities WEST



Did you catch our Instagram posts from the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando, Florida? We came to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Coastal Source, a name you might recognize from SYNKD Live or SYNKD magazines as a supplier of innovative outdoor lighting and audio products. Unveiled at the event were two new product lines: Coastal Source’s Bollard 1000 Speaker Series and EVO Lighting Series. Commenting on the luxury experience posed by these new additions, Coastal Source staff say “... the backyard will never be the same.” The parent company to Coastal Source, the architecture, landscape architecture, construction and interior design experts at D’Asign Source, relayed their excitement with a social post, hinting about using these products in upcoming projects.

With directional and 365-degree options, Coastal Source’s EVO Lighting Series introduces lighting modules with enhanced performance, customizable heights and compact design with maximized durability and weather resistance. Combined with the controlled output levels and color temperatures, the EVO Lighting Series shows potential to revolutionize outdoor lighting design. By the same token, the sound experience created by Bollard 1000 stackable speakers is even more pristine than anything the company has produced before. The sleek elliptical cross-section design allows sound to travel further, while emphasizing bass frequencies. Like all Coastal Source products, the ranges debuted at the event demonstrate easy connection, longevity-focused design and passionate innovation.


After 65 years in business, Mariani Premier Group, led by friend of SYNKD Frank Mariani, recently announced its 18th acquisition with Galbraith Grounds Management (GGM). Based in Atlanta, Georgia, GMM specializes in luxury residential landscape construction and maintenance. The company boasts an award-winning reputation for exceeding client expectations. In the press release, Frank conveys excitement for this new chapter with GMM. Bryan Christiansen, CEO of Mariani Premier Group, mentions how values shared by leaders at GMM led to the decision to move forward with the acquisition. Following this, GMM founder Marc Galbraith expresses gratitude and excitement for the opportunity, comparing the growth trajectory to that of a meteor. SYNKD West Spring 2024 8 synkd | our community
Photo Courtesy of ©Galbraith Grounds Management All Photos Courtesy of © Coastal Source


Electric Sheep, a California-based landscape robotics company, plans to lead the charge in automation by acquiring established lawn care companies and arming them with their autonomous technology enhanced by AI. In a recent press release published on our website (available at, Electric Sheep teased the second quarter debut of Verdie, a dancing, fully autonomous robot

that trims, edges and blows leaves alongside landscaping crews. To learn more about this technology, SYNKD sat down with Electric Sheep co-founder and COO Jarrett Herold. In our summer issues, we will unpack what it means to bring the landscaping industry into the 21st century. Stay tuned to investigate the advantages of AI in lawn care, how humans and robots can work together and more developments that may be coming down the pike.












Richard Ogawa

Roy Heintz

Kona Gray

Jeffrey Scott

Nick Carlson

Kevin Minton

Jeremy Talboy

Evan Lambert

Aaron Byer

Brandon Rust

Phil Graves












n a rare sequence of events, Bland Landscaping Company Inc., reportedly one of the USA’s top-earning commercial land care companies, has acquired Foster Lake & Pond Management. The merger reflects a growing trend of integrating stormwater and green infrastructure management into real estate development, particularly in expanding markets as seen in the Carolinas. Bland Landscaping Company—a remarkable example of design, build and maintenance functioning in one business— unpacks their perspective on the merger on page 17 in an article titled “Making a Splash” by Sandi Schwartz. There, Kurt Bland, president of Bland Landscaping Company, notes the advantages of collaboration and systems-thinking in our industry and out.


Tree health, a biodegradable solution, planning for retirement, living walls, a group episode from one of Georgia’s finest lawn care companies—Season three of SYNKD On Air has been a blast. Please join us in sending a mental round of applause to our inspiring guests and host, SYNKD founder Angelique Robb.

More insightful discussions are coming soon! Find SYNKD On Air on Turf’s Up Radio every Monday at 11 A.M. EST

Want to be a guest on our podcast? Go to and fill out the form.

www. synkd .io 9 SYNKD West Spring 2024 synkd | our community




Owner, Brendan Butler Landscape Design

Atlanta, Georgia

Implementation of legislation, requiring specific stormwater management systems on new construction homes, has been very beneficial to our company. We collect and capture stormwater and direct it into systems that then put the water back into the ground and back into the water table. This saves municipalities from processing and cleaning all the stormwater previously dumped onto the street and increases water in the ground. These processes have helped many businesses like mine and have proven to be a profitable component of our installation service.

Principal, Hawkins Landscape Architecture

Jamestown, North Carolina

I have tried to steer my customer base away from traditional lawn environments that need exceptional water and fertilizer requirements. This ‘lush green lawn’ mindset is so pervasive in my area of the country and has made the argument difficult. Even trying to educate them in the beauty of natural and native grasses and perennials in lieu of their perfect striped lawn has been quite a challenge. I have been keeping articles and pictures of beautiful natural yards without grass to show to customers in these instances. It has helped somewhat.

Los Angeles, California

Living and working in southern California, we are used to less precipitation than other areas of the U.S., and we need to be mindful of the hardscapes designed and plants specified for our projects. Designing with permeable hardscapes and drought-tolerant or native plants is the cornerstone of every project we take on, and that aspect of sustainability is synonymous with our brand. SYNKD West Spring 2024 10

Robert Groff

Chief Vision Officer & President, Groff Landscape Design Arlington,


They separated us from the competition. I say that from both a client-facing and recruiting standpoint.

Matthew Green

CEO, Blue Duck Lawn Care Indianapolis,


In the state of Indiana, the few people who have crafted the law regarding pesticides are trying to make it easier to get into the fertilization business. You can become a lawn care technician and never pass any tests or anything to prove that you know the different chemicals, how to apply the chemicals, mix rates, etc. There are new people sleeping through the class and still graduating essentially because there are now no standards and no tests that they have to abide by. I think it’s a horrible mark on the industry. It’s going to water the industry down and, ultimately, it’s going to cause massive environmental problems.

Justin Snodgrass

Landscape Designer, Dennis’ 7 Dees Landscaping

Portland, Oregon

Here in Portland, there are initiatives to outlaw gas motors on small equipment, and we are ahead of the curve. Where needed, we use propane motors and battery-operated tools. Not only does this follow local regulations, but it also helps with pollution and noise pollution, which tends to upset people nearby when gas is used on their property. Our interior design department creates green walls and live interior plantings for offices and homes to help with air quality, in addition to people’s health and attitudes. We also design bioswales and drainage systems that keep water onsite and catch water for future watering needs. As a company, we try to be ahead of trends that contribute to the wellbeing of our properties and the future of the environment.

Jarrett Herold

Co-Founder &COO, Electric Sheep

San Francisco, California

Mindset has been an obstacle, but we are turning the page. Before Electric Sheep began, my partner and I started this discussion, looking for a way to bring more efficiency to the lawn care industry, looking for a way to be kinder to our environment and to take care of the green spaces that mean so much to us. We don’t need an F250, a huge trailer and giant diesel mowers when the goal is to take care of the environment. This is the result of the pressures on businesses to squeeze out efficiencies in pursuit of being the low-bid in a highly competitive industry. Automation allows you to rethink how you’re planning work. Instead of trying to do everything all in a few hours, maybe you could have a few robots complete a task over the course of the day. Rethinking the relationship between labor and equipment, through automation, will be such a fundamental shift that will completely change the look of businesses, the service and the roles and workflows that are used to get it done. This won’t happen all at once, but AI will surely accelerate this transition and you don’t want to be caught off guard by that—you want to be in the driver’s seat within your own business.

www. synkd .io 11 SYNKD West Spring 2024 synkd | our community


synkd | our community SYNKD West Spring 2024 12
Golden Eggs
Industry Leader | Why Mike Bogan Believes Mastery, Autonomy & Purpose are Key to a Successful Business

Those familiar with LandCare know it as a powerhouse championing meaningful landscapes through 60 coast-to-coast locations.

Specializing in design, installation and maintenance, the company employs experts in diverse trades from snow and ice removal to horticultural business management. Mike Bogan, chief executive officer for LandCare, is deeply grateful to be part of this wide-reaching team. Even so, he does not shy away from the fact that the history of this company is not all sunflowers and roses.

“By the time I joined the business at the end of 2014, the revenue had declined by 80 percent, and a lot of talented people left the organization,” says Mike. “When TruGreen LandCare began in 1998-1999, it was a merger of two companies already aggressively buying landscape companies across the country. Over the next 10 years, the organization had a series of different CEOs, and they were struggling to create a consistent culture.”

Company culture is a subject that Mike’s curiosity fixated upon long ago, especially during his 23 years working with Scott Brickman at The Brickman Group. At the time, the two were fascinated by the work of author and business theorist W. Edwards Deming. Looking at the big picture and evaluating what motivates people is a pursuit Mike plans to always reckon with. He’s the sort of person who uses the golden rule like a bookmark, defining the progress in his life’s story.

Mike’s first order of business with LandCare was to recruit likeminded, experienced leaders with a clear picture of what a team-centered business model looks like. Then, he went straight to those who knew the strengths and weaknesses of the current business model more intimately than anyone else: the employees.

“I was in two different cities, sometimes twice a day,” says Mike. “I moved quickly to visit every branch and conducted a two-hour meeting at each. The goal of the meeting was to ask a series of questions. What do you enjoy about working here? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What does a great company look like and how do they act? That was the first part. Then came the hard questions. What are we doing today that makes you unhappy? What do you dislike about the way this business is managed? Honestly, they opened up much more with those last ones.”

Shabby equipment and overlooked safety protocols were causing employees to feel devalued. Those bullet points, though objectively inexcusable, were only the tip

of the iceberg. Mike was baffled to discover that, to meet financial objectives, branches were often shut down at the end of the month, leaving vulnerable hourly employees short on pay. Shockingly, some laborers also alleged being told to skip over certain services stipulated in project contracts if it was reasonable to assume the client would not notice whether or not they had occurred.

“There were a lot of bad practices going on in the business, and the team members didn’t like it,” says Mike. “They didn’t feel proud to do work that way, and they felt like they were put in a position of making excuses to their clients. When they shared these things, I immediately responded with, ‘Well, we are never doing that again.’ I was very direct and firm about that.”

Rebranding, building trust internally and externally, and feeding integrity into every fiber of the company’s journey moving forward became glaring priorities for Mike and his cohort of new leaders. Team members across the country began

www. synkd .io 13 SYNKD West Spring 2024 synkd | our community
Mike Bogan

working on new graphics right away. Within 90 days of Mike’s onboarding, they presented LandCare branded mockups to the team as a glimpse into the future. Mike knew they only had one chance to redefine themselves, and he wanted to do it right. Through 2017, that vision would become a reality, following extensive work behind the scenes to mend relationships and instill moral standards.

“We’re owned today by our leaders that work in the business every day, myself and our senior leaders,” says Mike. “We bought the business in 2019 and now have our first real chance at constancy of purpose. That term, constancy of purpose, is profoundly important to me, and it is not easy to create in a world where companies are continuously bought and sold. For LandCare, knowing that we would never belong to another business was crucial. It allowed us to build the company I always believed we could.”

Today, LandCare has doubled its size, but this is far from the only manner in which they have grown. Mike calls the business a learning organization, meaning the hunt for new operation methods is encouraged at every tier. Groups within the

organization, like WIN (Woman’s Initiative Network), along with book clubs, training programs and frequent virtual hangouts, aid the company’s objective to give every member a voice.

Fear-based motivation techniques are way too popular from Mike’s perspective. In contrast, the most effective method Mike has learned to invigorate a business through and through is most simply characterized by meeting people where they are. Hiring employees who believe doing work well is its own reward leads to a greater appreciation of landscapes on the job site and off. That positive association is as good as gold to leaders like Mike.

“If you run your business well, it is like a goose laying golden eggs,” says Mike. “You would never have to sell that goose if you tended to it, collected the golden eggs and put them to good use. That’s what we believe LandCare can be. We have never raced to a single payday to fully take advantage of how a business can be rewarding to its shareholders.”

There are few instances where a broken object surpasses its previous strength once repaired. Most of us learned the consequences of carelessness when a childhood toy became too disfigured to mend. Businesses, like landscapes, are not like objects. They evolve and change. Embracing this truth, as Mike has done, could be a stepping stone into a world of fulfillment. SYNKD West Spring 2024 14
5295 Westview Dr, Suite 100 Frederick, Maryland 21703
Phone: (877) 526–3227


How does AOS benefit landscape business owners?

I am a landscape business owner myself. When Langton Group was considering purchasing our first automated mower, I remember our CFO, my brother John Langton, had questions. What does it cost to maintain this machine? To winterize this machine? To install this machine?

With the rental and subscription model AOS uses today, I can tell a landscaper what it costs to pay AOS per acre and answer their questions typically within the first conversation.

Has your range of experience in the industry influenced your role?

Back in 2016, I said something I should have trademarked. Our industry has reached the grass ceiling. I have always been able to pay my snow removal professionals better than my lawn care professionals because clients are not willing to pay more for mowing services. The rapid growth of AOS came from my realization that automation is a scalable clone that allows companies to pay great team members more.

Does automation bring lawn care costs down significantly?

Let’s start with the glaring number. With a full subscription, AOS can set a business up to mow most grass for $25 an acre. If that number does not convince you of the savings, I would ask you to factor in overtime and environmental pressures. If automation could keep your people from having to work Saturdays and Sundays, would automation be worth it? Even in a break-even scenario, most of us would say yes.

What can a new AOS client expect from your services?

Our differentiator is that we are willing to put our money where our mouth is. AOS buys the robot, and our customers subscribe to use it. We are not just selling you something. We are here to make lifelong relationships, and we have credentials. I studied circuitry in school and was a union electrician for 11 years. My daughter, Julia, is a mini version of me. When I hang up my hat, she will be lightyears ahead of anyone else in the space because she has been in it since she was 16. You have found a pot of gold with us.

What drives you professionally?

The only way landscaping can move forward and evolve is if the professionals—people who have figured out better ways—share their knowledge with the ones just starting out. That is one driving force, but there is another. My passion is equipping business owners in this industry to pay themselves what they deserve.

21 SYNKD South Spring 2024
Phone: (847) 980–1269 Email: Automated Outdoor Solutions CEO Unpacks Adding the Human Element to Automated Mowing
ADVERTORIAL L–R: JULIA, JOE & JOHN Scan the QR code to listen to Joe’s podcast, Automating Success with Joe Langton 1595 South Eastwood Drive Woodstock, Illinois 62098 (815) 308-5077 M–F 8am-5pm


Aaron Farrer Jan Johnsen

President/Founder, Practical Products

Lafayette, Indiana

Principal, Johnsen Landscapes & Pools

Croton-On-Hudson, New York

What inspired you to get into the industry?

I was lucky to grow up working for my dad’s lawn service. We always enjoyed working together, but one part of the job that neither of us loved was loading debris onto tarps and dragging them away. After doing it so many times, though, I thought, “There’s got to be a better way” and came up with an idea for a padded strap that clips into the grommets of a tarp to make cleanup jobs easier.

What’s the best part of your job?

I like the freedom that comes with making my own schedule. It’s wonderful being able to take a day completely off if I need to, but that often means I’m making it up over the weekend or the course of a few evenings!

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

Bringing a new product to market without a pile of cash or the experience of having done it before has been incredibly challenging. I’m just a guy trying to get The ANT out there for anyone to use, but I won’t stop until it gets there.

What is something not many people know about you?

Any time I watch TV, I like to turn the subtitles on. Most of my friends hate it, but that’s just because I’m an amazing speller. Why just watch something when you can watch and read?

What age did you start in the industry?

I started as an intern in the landscape architecture office in Japan at the age of 19. From there, I finished my degree and went on to work for an award-winning French gardener-groundskeeper at Mohonk Mountain House, a resort hotel with amazing grounds in New York state. We grew 20,000 flowers from seed and planted them and maintained the gardens through the year.

Is this your first career or second career or tell us more?

Landscape design and professional horticulture has always been my career—I also got a master’s degree in urban planning and focused on greening cities as part of my studies. In fact, I won an award for rooftop greenhouses in New York and wrote my college thesis on hydroponics, which was published as a book, Gardening Without Soil , back in 1974. I was ahead of my time!

How many years in the industry? 54 years!

Do you have future career aspirations? I aim to do more speaking, writing, and I want to learn how to do video editing so I can share more tips on landscape design and gardening with others. I don’t foresee stopping any time soon. It is a passion. SYNKD West Spring 2024 16 synkd | our community

Owner, Allen Land Design Santa Rosa, California

Owner, Seargeant Landscape & Arboriculture Visalia, California

Director of Sales, Landscape Management Network Ontario, Canada

What inspired you to get into the industry?

I needed to go to college for something to use the GI Bill after the army. I was just mowing lawns to get by. At first, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. Once I found horticulture and realized I loved it, I switched my major. It’s been a much better life than being an attorney would have been.

What’s the best part of your job?

Meeting people! A lot of people collect cars, coins or this and that. I collect people. I have a lot of friends and a community.

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

Japan. Being in landscaping, I noticed there was so much attention to detail. They do some things there so perfectly with purpose, intentionality and design. In Japan, even just tree staking is an art.

What’s the key to great design?

Feel it, understand it, look at what you’re doing, listen to the clients and see what they want. Give them that and do better. I’ve been lucky to naturally be good at design. I didn’t finish high school. I had a pretty rough childhood, and now I’m very successful, and it’s just from being good with people, doing the right thing and feeling it. My daughters say I’m the straight guy with the queer eye.

What’s the best part of your job? Knowing my clients trust me to provide them with the best practices to keep their trees healthy and strong. I also love the process, the creativity in both landscape design and tree care. I love creating something out of nothing. I love bringing a tree back to “life” after an illness or unprofessional pruning.

What advice would you give to someone entering the green industry? Get a higher education. Find the best mentor you can that is knowledgeable and experienced, then practice what you’ve learned. Also keep in good physical shape. This industry is physically demanding.

What would you blow your money on? Research and experimentation on tree health. I’ve spent eight years of time and lots of money researching, formulating and [doing] trials with my fertilizer blends aimed to provide trees with elements they need to recover from ailments, loss of photosynthetic parts (over pruning) and some diseases. This spring/summer is my final test before I seek manufacturing and distribution. I’m also near a formula that enhances fall color.

What is something not many people know about you?

I wrote and produced a TV pilot, won a film festival and have written several screenplays and songs.

What inspired you to get into the industry?

I grew up in the landscape industry in a family business called OGS Landscape Services. Initially, it just kind of felt like my place in the world. It was everything I knew and everything that was comfortable. But, at a certain point in my career, I did ask myself should I be here? Is this the place for me? Looking around the industry and talking to people outside of the industry made me realize I have a deep passion for this.

What is your favorite phrase, slogan? If I said no, what could I say yes to? I live by that.

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

It’s not a quick thing, but just if the general public could understand and value what we do. It’s an underappreciated trade and industry.

What advice would you give to someone entering the green industry? Network and talk to people as much as you possibly can. That’s when my career really changed trajectories, when I decided to start going to every industry event I could. So, really just get involved with the industry. If you’re a landscaper in Boston, go to a convention in Austin, Texas, and see how they do it down there.

www. synkd .io 17 SYNKD West Spring 2024 synkd | our community
Jeff Allen Scott Seargeant Rich Thiebaud

With Varden Walls, create landscapes that captivate and inspire. These plantable blocks offer a versatile canvas for crafting unique vertical gardens that leave a lasting impression. Use

Effortless Installation

Our landscape retaining wall blocks, backed by over 30 years of expertise, are designed for simplicity. Lightweight and easy to handle, they streamline the installation process, making it a breeze to build walls up to 5 feet tall. Say goodbye to complex installations and hello to efficiency.

Embrace sustainability and beauty with Varden Walls. These living masterpieces support thriving plants, cooling the environment, and enhancing habitats. Transform boundaries into vibrant, living landscapes that evoke awe and admiration.

Inspire with Creativity
SYNKD24 to save 10% on Your Order!
Living Works of Art
Email: Office: (314) 279-8905 ELEVATE



Aaron Michael On How To Cultivate Connections Between People & Nature

Isee being in the landscape industry as being a facilitator for connecting people with nature and, thus, our true nature. I founded my garden design and creation company Earth Love Gardens in 2018 with a mission of connecting people with the Earth, genuinely within themselves and each other in a community.

As a species handling not only a changing climate but seemingly ever-increasing divisions within our society, it is imperative to reconnect with nature. We all are a part of nature at our core. Proximity to nature allows us to reconnect with our truest selves, living from our hearts. This is how indigenous peoples and our ancestors lived, and science demonstrates that healthy time spent outdoors and in nature is essential for our mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Following a passion and calling I have listened to within this industry of countless niche opportunities, Earth Love Gardens specializes in pollinator and

bird-friendly native plant landscape designs and edible landscape designs, installing raised vegetable garden beds, and more. Our gardens allow families and community organizations to have a place to touch the soil, grow food, appreciate the healing sounds of bird calls, and experience the wonders of pollinators and plant life.

The mission of Earth Love Gardens is realized through the great projects we have the opportunity to be a part of and the great partnerships we have made along the way. As partners with the Audubon Rockies, we have designed and created the Boulder Public Library’s Native Plant Demonstration Garden, the Sexual Assault Victims Advocate (SAVA) Center Healing Garden, and much more. We recently designed and built a custom-raised garden bed for children in wheelchairs at the Anchor Center for Blind Children to wheel under and work with the soil and plants.

To experience people of all ages and wildlife interacting with, enjoying, and healing through the gardens and habitats we create is a priceless, heart-warming feeling like no other. My ethos is to live a life that leads by example and inspires. Through Earth Love Gardens, this is not an ideal but a reality we live that benefits the world—both the people and the ecosystem. As landscape professionals, we are on the front lines, embodying the force for good our planet needs.



3 Boulder Library Garden


Aaron Michael

Founder & CEO of Earth Love Gardens

Phone: (720) 295–8582


www. synkd .io 19 SYNKD West Spring 2024
At the Anchor Center for Blind Children ©Lashley Rhodes



Dr. Damon Abdi, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Landscape Horticulture, LSU Ag Center

Sustaining pollinator presence and a host of other beneficial insects in the landscape requires an integrated approach. As discussed in the Spring 2023 issue of SYNKD (“Protecting Pollinators: How to Avoid Being a Buzzkill in the Landscape”), proper pesticide management can have positive impacts on the health and vitality of the pollinating species and the plants that they buzz around. Indeed, that information applies to those who apply pesticides in their landscapes, a consideration not relevant to everyone. However, we can all agree that reducing the time we spend performing tasks that might not be needed is a good thing. With that in mind, what if I told you one of the best things you can do to support pollinators is …. nothing at all.

A common practice is to remove and dispose of leaves from the lawn and garden. The reasoning behind this generally has to do with maintaining a pristine aesthetic within the landscape;

however, dispersed throughout those leaves are a host of different insects. The insect population includes pollinators, bio-control species to attack pests and, quite literally, insects that shine bright in the landscape. Insects such as lady beetles, fireflies, butterflies and bees seek shelter in leaf litter as they survive winter’s chill. By removing leaf litter, you may remove these insects from your landscape and lose out on the benefits that they bring. Beyond supporting pollinators, allowing organic material to degrade in place recycles nutrients back into landscape beds.

Another way you can support insects without taking any action involves delaying pruning ornamental grasses (in some cases and for certain ornamental grass species) until the very end of winter/very early spring. This maintains vegetative cover for insects and other critters during the colder months. Cutting back the ornamental grasses right before the new growth that emerges with a new spring allows you (and your local insect/ wildlife community) to enjoy the foliage for a little while longer through winter.

Now these bits of advice do not have to be applied uniformly throughout the entirety of the landscape and, depending on the client, may not be desired (perhaps they prefer the more pristine look,

without any leaf litter of debris). However, extolling the benefits of leaving a little leaf litter in garden beds may change some consumers’ minds. They may welcome this approach. There are a wide range of practices that one can employ to keep a sustainable landscape for insects—some more intensive than others. But these practices only require a little self-restraint when the thought of cleaning up wanders across your mind.

1 Leaf litter around a camellia shrub

2 Ornamental grasses


Dr. Damon Abdi, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Landscape

Horticulture at LSU Ag Center

Email: SYNKD West Spring 2024 20
TTPDM120S 120V/20A PDM SmartCharger Scan to learn more FOR CHARGING ON-SITE, OFF-SITE, OR ON-THE-GO, WE’RE READY WHENEVER YOU ARE. specializes in universal, brandagnostic power and charging solutions. With TOWA’s PDM SmartCharging Systems, you can charge any brand batteries at scale and now you can have power anywhere, anytime. Introducing Towa Tools BPS Systems including 1800W/3000W Battery Power Stations, 2500Wh Expansion Battery Packs, and PV200W/PV400W Solar Panels. Questions? We got answers. Contact us at THE ULTIMATE SUITE OF UNIVERSAL CHARGING & POWER SOLUTIONS Email Us Call Us (650)-204-0019 Learn More at Find a Dealer Shop Now Visit Us 480 E. McGlincy Ln. Campbell, CA 95008 Got Batteries? We can charge them all. TTPV200W/TTPV400W Foldable Solar Panels TTXP2500E 2500Wh Expansion Battery Packs - Daisy chain up to (6) Expansion Battery Packs for additional power. TTPS1800W Battery Power Station Outdoor RV or Mobile Trailer Home/Shop Backup Charge Multiple Battery Tools TOWA TOOLS 3000W PORTABLE BATTERY POWER STATION - ADD UP TO (6) EXPANSION BATTERY PACKS FOR A TOTAL OF 17.5kWh MOBILE POWER SYSTEM TOWA TOOLS ZERO-EMISSIONS POWER SOLUTIONS FOR BPS SYSTEMS Towa Industries, Inc.



Angelica & Matt Norton , Landscape Designers & Owners of

In our last article, we covered concepts and narratives in landscape design. Now we will delve into specifics on how to schematically organize a space based on a client’s wants and needs. A good sequence of decisions begins with determining where elements are allowed, where they will fit and how they will connect and, finally, identifying opportunities within the space.

To determine where design elements are allowed, we analyze the site and research code to determine their constraints. The word “constraints” doesn’t have to be a dirty word, since constraints actually serve as a useful tool in narrowing down decisions for you. City regulations, for example, limit the scope of our work to the property line, tell us that built objects must be located outside setbacks and easements, limit our impervious cover and guide us in working around the critical root zones of protected trees. With these constraints alone, our design decisions we have to make are cut in half.

To determine where different elements will fit and connect on-site, we consider standard sizes for comfort and functionality. We start with 10 feet by 12 feet or 12 feet by 12 feet for most outdoor living spaces. These are connected by a hierarchy of pathways that guide users through space. Primary pathways are typically between four or five feet, secondary pathways at three feet, and informal pathways really can’t be narrower than two feet. Pools are typically rectangular over square, and size determines whether it’s more of a plunge or lap pool. There is more flexibility for the size of sod and planting beds, but even they have minimum requirements to ensure functionality.

Once you have your design elements ready like puzzle pieces, it’s time to consider your design opportunities. You may have room for a living space in a sunny or shady area; you’d obviously choose the shady area because the client would be spending a lot of time there. If an area feels more public or private, the space may dictate whether it lends itself to entertaining or contemplation. Views and privacy screening could narrow down alignments and locations for planting beds. And, finally, we know that outdoor cooking spaces are best located closer to the gas line and indoor kitchen. It’s really common to want to stack spaces against the house, but moving a patio with a fire feature further out into the space could activate more of the yard.

This was our process for siting the pergola shown, which had to fit outside of a substantial CRZ. We had limited impervious available, and the pergola needed to be a certain size to feel comfortable for dining and lounging. It overlooks the pool, and screens on either side make it feel private.

It may all feel like threading a needle to work with code and fit everything the client wants and also make a space feel intuitive, logical and functional. But, ultimately, it all clicks together and a space will tell you where it wants to be. Next, we’ll explore taking those decisions made in 2D and reconciling them with grade.


Angelica Norton, ASLA

Owner of Open Envelope Studio LLC

Phone: (512) 925-0155

Email: SYNKD West Spring 2024 22
Open Envelope Studio , Discuss How To Craft Schematic Designs in Landscape Architecture



Michael Bernier Design: Rewriting the Client’s Checklist |

PAGE 29 Lifescape Colorado: Permeability & Patience | PAGE 34 GO

Designs: Longevity & Loyalty September|October 2022 8 synkd | our community
inspirational works WEST
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 Call for a free catalog 1-800-451-4349 45 So. Main St., Barre, VT 05641 Follow us on Facebook QUALITY LASTS. Dry-set Gothic arch with cantilevered stone stairs by Russ Beardsley of Borrowed Ground in Bellingham, Washington MADE TO LAST SINCE 1890 IN BARRE, VERMONT USA


Michael Bernier Describes the Rationale Behind This $100,000 California Zen Paradise

If you attended SYNKD Live 2024, you might have heard Michael Bernier, founder of Michael Bernier Design and Think Outside Landscape Design Academy, speak about the significance of design in landscaping. An advocate for pushing the envelope, Michael views quality design as the pulley system raising the bar for the industry as a whole. A case study for his stance, this tranquil Los Angeles bungalow exemplifies the web of influences that make for outstanding results. Understanding the client’s personality, Michael explains, was a critical first step for this project.

“He was this wild kind of guy, a real artist with trippy artwork everywhere in his home,” says Michael. “Everything about him was outside of the box. Had I not walked through the house, I would not have seen

that. The client was also tattooed from head to toe. He had a shaved head and piercings. He wore a punk rock band t-shirt.

There are clues

I picked up on that told me I can push this.

When the client initially reached out, he merely asked for a pathway leading from the patio to the pool and a solution for the grass that would lessen the burden of cleaning muddy dog paw prints off his floor. At this precursory visit, Michael learned about the client’s approach to

creativity in his profession as a Hollywood film trailer editor. When asked about hobbies, the client revealed that his partner enjoyed cooking, a small detail that later blossomed into a full outdoor kitchen, complete with a barbecue and fridge.

“Going into that initial meeting—this is something I warn other contractors and designers about, too—I didn’t want to be an

www. synkd .io 25 SYNKD West Spring 2024

order taker,” says Michael. “Of course, you should listen to what the client wants, but I caution against writing it down as a to-do list. You have to read between the lines.”

If you think about it, these people call us because we are professionals. We should be able to create a vision that goes beyond anything that they can imagine.

After gathering insights from the client and the site itself, Michael solidified his goals for the project the old-fashioned way—with pencil and paper.

“There is a visceral sort of intelligence that works between the mind and the hand,” says Michael. “For that reason, I always sketch out my thoughts. I refrain from jumping on the computer until I have some promising ideas.”

From there, Michael created a clear visual for the client, using software he mastered during his graphic design years. Besides the outdoor kitchen, Michael ultimately received the green light for adding permeable hardscaping, pool access points, a cumaru hardwood deck, a zen rock garden, Mediterranean water-wise plantings and a custom redwood wall with inset planters to the list.

“A space will tell you what it needs,” says Michael. “When I first stepped into this outdoor space, I tried to find the ‘why’ behind it all. Because if I understood the ‘why,’ I could find the ‘how.’” SYNKD West Spring 2024 26 synkd | inspirational works

Identifying the logic behind each component of the untouched backyard led Michael to unexpected conceptual conclusions. Timber bamboo, not a plant Michael would select himself due to its unruly nature, was deemed stayworthy once its purpose on the property became apparent. Like a natural privacy screen, the bamboo shoots align to block the view of the seven-story apartment complex beyond.

Following that same principle, the redwood wall hides a carport that would have otherwise clashed with the new style. A

www. synkd .io 27 SYNKD West Spring 2024 synkd | inspirational works

peculiar half-hexagon patio, installed once upon a time by others, became a distinct design element Michael emphasized by angling railroad ties in the rock garden, drawing the eye toward the pool.

“I try to use what is already there as often as I can,” says Michael. “That includes hardscape materials and plant life, especially trees. I hate ripping out trees. The big mulberry tree in the photos, we knew that was not going anywhere. First

of all, it was beautiful, and it created a great canopy. Visually, that was the anchor of the whole space.”

Illuminating that tree canopy and using light to highlight subtle creative touches was likely the most gratifying part of the process for Michael. From the babbling rock fountain to the unique light fixture above the dining table, light in this project not only carries out safety and security objectives, but gives the entertaining space an enchanting air.

“When everything, including the lighting, is done in cohesion, it creates this sense of awe, and you just want to exhale,” says Michael. “I believe less is more in all parts of landscape design. Some people are inclined to put up as many lights as possible, but it’s not about making the night feel like the day. It’s about giving the yard a comfortable evening ambiance.”

The ingenuity behind this project is in its holistic design process, addressing every transition like a seamless film edit and letting personality and site quirks shine through. The cow skulls, added later by the client, look at home in this environment, demonstrating how on-target the design truly is. The client was given precisely what he craved for this landscape—far beyond what he thought possible before meeting Michael.


Michael Bernier

Founder of Michael Bernier Design

Phone: (310) 634–1700

Email: SYNKD West Spring 2024 28


LeAnn Ostheimer Reminiscences on Melding

French Inspiration With Location-Specific Needs

In 2013, an unreal flash flood hit Boulder, Colorado, damaging properties beyond repair and forever changing public perception of the danger posed by natural disasters across the state. LeAnn Ostheimer, Lifescape Colorado’s revered chief operating officer, remembers watching a correlated downpour from her northern Denver home. Well-versed in landscape design, LeAnn could not help but envision ways strategic land planning might have mitigated the impact of the 100-year rainstorm. A few years later, adhering to the mandates set in response to the event, LeAnn and her team would find themselves in the heart of Boulder, embedding sophistication into the land surrounding this modern château and protecting it from destruction at the hands of rushing water.

“As this site resided in the flood path

running through the neighborhood, we had to create a landscape design that could handle another 100-year flood,” says LeAnn. “We consulted with and worked with a project engineer for a design that would redirect excess water in the event of a flood. In the back third of their property, we designed a 10-foot wide natural stream bed. To make the space look natural and blend with the Boulder environment, we added meandering paths and layers of xeric perennials, shrubs and trees.”

Checking off boxes for the romantic, old-world aesthetic requested by the homeowner—while supporting the architect’s objectives and earning green building points—would add another layer of complexity to the project scope. By the end, Lifescape tells us, the 34,000-squarefoot property is an 84 percent permeable landscape with only 18 percent of the lot being irrigated turf.

www. synkd .io 29 SYNKD West Spring 2024

“Going with a permeable driveway, complete with a stormwater lift station and pump, helped us offset our impact and meet those green points from the county,” says LeAnn. “At the front of the house, there is a maple tree that we knew we wanted to preserve. Aged trees give such a great look to a home, and due to the constraints of the lot and layout of the home, we had to come very close to the base of that tree. The permeability of the driveway protected that root system. We had our arborist out there to ensure no harm occurred during construction. I’m happy to report that the maple is still doing well.”

The reason LeAnn can speak to the health of that tree is that the team regularly tends to the land around it. As construction wrapped, the property transitioned to Lifescape’s ongoing property care team. Over the years, Lifescape has been able to monitor and touch up this landscape post-installation. Maintaining the fountains, giving the plantings routine nutrient boosts and updating the irrigation system (with the automated, cloud-based controller Lifescape now recommends) are a few such developments. Even so, observing the spread of the garden foliage over time is where LeAnn’s greatest takeaway stands for this project. SYNKD West Spring 2024 30 synkd | inspirational works

“There’s this soft, naturalistic palette around the stream bed: yellow, blue and lavender colors that contrast with the traditional hydrangeas, red roses, vincas and boxwoods nestled around the courtyard entry,” says LeAnn. “The client requested that we design the gardens for future growth. Instant gratification from a full garden from day one was not the intent. That perspective opened my eyes to the power of patience in landscaping.

The gardens have filled in beautifully, a testament to the fact that landscapes are evolving, living organisms.

It takes a few years for the plants to flourish and to work out the quirks.

Synthetic turf covers the rooftop living space above the garage. Without the extra weight of regular watering sessions, that space became the ideal location for a firepit. One place grass was nonnegotiable, however, was the area designated for the full-sized volleyball court. Addressing the water needs of this area in an eco-friendly way took careful contemplation due to square footage constraints.

“We wanted to design the most waterefficient irrigation zones possible,” says LeAnn. “For us, it meant using a water management system, properly amending

www. synkd .io 31 SYNKD West Spring 2024 synkd | inspirational works

the soil and adding water-efficient materials such as pressure-regulated heads. I think these green building initiatives challenge companies to design and build smarter. It does take more of an upfront investment for this more sustainable approach.”

However, these goals elevate our professionalism & raise the bar in our industry for sustainability.

Boulder is not the only city where sustainability and disaster protection initiatives have permeated building standards. Things of beauty— trickling fountains, custom fabricated gates, specialty plantings—are only a portion of what makes a landscape a success anymore. Wildlife friendly vegetation, light pollution management, best practice water management, proper soil amendments and proactive long-term

care practices are ingrained in this landscape to keep it thriving and benefiting the world around it. Learning from the land, pursuing sustainable practices at the start of every project and trusting challenges will give way to resilience. This, as LeAnn has shown, seems to be the most practical and honorable way forward for our industry.


LeAnn Ostheimer

Chief Operating Officer of Lifescape Colorado


(303) 831–8310

Email: SYNKD West Spring 2024 32 synkd | inspirational works

RootSpace® soil cell system

Root barrier products

Tree anchors

Tree soil aeration & irrigation

Tree grates, guards & fences

From concept to completion, we are with you every step of the way.

ArborSystem for successful urban tree planting Interested in learning more about soil cells? Give us a call!
Small Pools. Custom Pre-Cast Concrete Plunge Pools Hand-tiled in New Hampshire | Delivery throughout the U.S. Seeking new installation partners nationwide! | (603) 749–0665 | Pembroke, New Hampshire
Photo courtesy of ©Singing Hills


Exploring a New Mexico Secret Garden With George Ocampo

In the less-than-affluent parts of the American Southwest, a commitment to excellence in landscaping services feels irrevocably rare. Sourcing materials that last, developing a heartfelt understanding of a client’s needs and researching best practices—these pursuits are often perceived as opportunity costs to businesses in a perpetually rocky state. To George Ocampo, founder and lead designer at GO Designs in El Paso, Texas, holding tight to their values despite everything is the most empowering secret behind the company’s success.

“I opened GO Designs because there was nobody I could find that shared my appreciation for the fact that clients work hard to earn their money,” says George. “If they hire us, they should get what they pay for. At least in our neck of the woods, the mindset is people get what they get and should not throw a fit. That is just not right.”

Clients should get the best, & the best is what we bring to the table. Our service is what sets us apart.

After 20 years in the industry, George’s love for his work has reached unmeasurable heights. He wakes up every

morning eager to solve problems for clients like Chris McPeak, the owner of this home in Doña Ana County, New Mexico.

“My partner, Pete Lugo, and I visited Chris to talk about her needs, and at some point, she realized we were speaking her language,” says George. “That’s when we were able to move forward with the design. If I recall correctly, we made nine design revisions total in that process, which is more than we typically do, but she was wonderful to work with. She was and is just our type of client.”

The first phase of GO Design’s long-lasting involvement on the property would begin with the courtyard and the sunset balcony—now accessible with an ornate spiral staircase. Chris wanted the courtyard, viewable from her kitchen, to feel like an ethereal garden escape, not unlike the one described in the beloved novel The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. A charming oak door, three planter fountains, a repurposed SYNKD West Spring 2024 34

brick pathway, flowering plants, a menagerie of tree types and a stone fireplace with a hearth where Chris could read with her daughter all contributed to this vision. The pièce de résistance, however, is a remarkable 45-year-old Ascolana olive tree thriving in a desert environment.

“Watching the crane bring the olive tree in, it felt spiritual,” says George. “We were all out there, imaginary music in the background. The tree was 14 feet tall and 10 to 14 feet wide. It was scary because we knew there was a risk the tree could go into shock, and it was expensive. I told her beforehand, ‘You can do this for around $600-$1,000 or you can do this for a lot more.’ She asked what I would do, and I said I would do the 30-gallon tree, but this was important to her. We almost had tears in our eyes when that mature tree finally came in.”

When Chris’ tree started to show signs of stress, George immediately contacted the supplier to investigate what went wrong. Considering the location, the team had given the tree extra water in anticipation of the precarious first few weeks on site. Once it became clear that the tree had been over-watered, irrigation wiz Pete was quick to fix the issue.

“We valved everything—grass, perennials, trees and desert plants—separately with multiple files in our automated system,” says George. “With this technology, it is easy to make adjustments from our phones or computers. We let the olive tree dry out and tweaked the irrigation settings until the leaves returned to their former glory. If you don’t have irrigation designed by Pete, I say you don’t have irrigation period. He cares about everything he does.”

Between creating a new microclimate for the vegetation, adding proper irrigation, addressing water runoff from the nearby mountains, dealing with logistics and pandemic supply-chain issues, and terracing the nine-foot drop from Chris’ entrance to her mailbox, this multi-phase project was no walk in the park. Even so, George was determined to maximize longevity in every way possible.

My mindset is that I only want to add what will last forever, or at least as long as it can.
www. synkd .io 35 SYNKD West Spring 2024 synkd | inspirational works

captivating is how he describes the future. Take, for instance, this excerpt about the courtyard garden.

“The idea is that eventually, everything in [Chris’ garden] grows together like a forest,” says George. “We were careful not to overdo it, but the trees we picked, we placed them in a position to extend outward. Being there will one day feel like being at the edge of a grove where the walls seem to disappear.”

When you set foot in a yard, what are you thinking about? Longevity, logistics, unread emails, payroll? Becoming caught up in day-to-day hurdles as a business owner is challenging to avoid. Even so, if you, like George, believe that every client is always entitled to your best work, off days are not an excuse to leave clients unhappy when projects wrap up. Because of the team’s integrity, George tells us Chris views this place as her forever home.

“It’s about thinking about subsurfaces, drainage, material selection and the sustainability of everything. We do not take shortcuts or use subpar materials. And it is hard. You know, we are not in a wealthy area. The reclaimed brick is not the cheapest option. Same with the pine tongue and groove and cedar beams. On top of that, usually nothing we want is in town. We order materials from all over the U.S. Still, a handful of people are looking for what we offer, and we build strong relationships with those folks.”

Over the years, George has developed quite a knack for selecting long-lasting products for projects like this. The permeable hardscaping system with dry stack limestone blocks, the seal and stain for the cedar, the mulch and the automatic lighting system are a few examples. The Ocampo family backyard has become a testing lab for products like these.

Besides his unmistakable landscaping expertise, perhaps what makes hearing George speak about his work so


George & Lori Ocampo

Founders & Lead Designers of GO Designs

Phone: (915) 400–8984

Email: SYNKD West Spring 2024 36

raise the bar


PAGE 38 Heather Dirksen: Seize the Moment | PAGE 41 Quotes From SYNKD Live 2024: An Insight Charcuterie Board | PAGE 45 The Rise of Battery-Powered Equipment September|October 2022 9 synkd | our community



Boost Your Business & Optimize Profits With a Plant Health Care Program

As business owners contemplate the implementation of Plant Health Care (PHC) programs, they often grapple with reservations. Whether it’s concerns over staff expertise or past roadblocks encountered, the decision to embark on this journey can seem daunting. However, the rewards awaiting those who persevere are substantial, often prompting sentiments of missed opportunities in hindsight.

Seizing the Opportunity

The present moment presents an unparalleled opportunity to initiate PHC programs. With urban expansion on the rise and green spaces being repurposed to accommodate housing needs, the disruption of native soil poses significant challenges to maintaining plant health. Soil compaction, nutrient depletion and diminished microbial activity become pressing issues in this evolving landscape.

Overcoming Hurdles

From my experience in guiding businesses through PHC program development, I’ve identified three significant barriers: identifying a PHC champion, establishing foundational processes and prioritizing soil science.

PHC Champion

Recognizing the pivotal role of a PHC champion is paramount. This individual oversees personnel, processes and product implementation. While industry expertise is beneficial, unwavering SYNKD West Spring 2024 38

This tree underwent meticulous root pruning to eliminate girdling and advantageous roots, fostering optimal tree health and vitality.

determination and an alignment with company values are key attributes of an effective champion. People often make the mistake of hiring someone who is strong in science but lacks the tenacity to overcome obstacles. You have to find someone who is passionate about creating the program and growing your company just as much as you are.

If you question the availability of such individuals, allow me to dispel your doubts. The real challenge often stems from not putting enough effort into the recruiting process. At the heart of any successful recruitment initiative is having someone take full ownership of it. Without a dedicated individual driving the process forward, it risks being overshadowed by urgent tasks, potentially leading to the recruitment of unsuitable team members.

Foundational Processes

A prevalent pitfall in change management is leadership overlooking the critical details required to ensure the success of process changes. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to pinpoint obstacles and

remove them from your team’s path. Begin by identifying processes that could hinder your sales and production teams from achieving their goals. I always advocate starting with the sales process and working backward from there.

Facilitate your certified arborists’ efforts to educate customers by streamlining the process—determine what essential information they need to convey first. Simplify the task of estimating work by providing clear guidelines, whether it’s by the hour, gallon or diameter at breast height. In my experience, the most successful PHC programs are those designed for scalability.

Ensure your production staff are equipped to work safely and efficiently. This entails optimizing their setup for mixing tanks and applying products, providing them with the necessary tools and equipment to maximize efficiency. Crucially, foundational processes hinge on having your business management software configured appropriately. Sadly, this aspect is often overlooked, leading to missed renewals, subpar customer service and inaccurate reporting.

Starting with Soil Science

I consistently advise that every plant healthcare program begins with a solid foundation in soil science and a comprehensive understanding of the prevalent tree and shrub health issues in their specific region. This initial step enables the team to ascertain what their customers truly value most and which services should be prioritized for implementation.

With the multitude of services available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Therefore, I advocate starting with a select few basic services and mastering them before expanding further. Simplifying the offerings not only ensures clarity for customers, but also allows your team to excel in delivering exceptional service. By keeping it simple, you’ll earn appreciation from both your customers and your team for maintaining a streamlined and effective approach.

Embracing Opportunity

While obstacles may seem daunting, the rewards of initiating a PHC program far outweigh the investment. I urge business owners to seize the opportunity and embark on their PHC journey today. With profit margins reaching as high as 90 percent, the decision to invest in PHC programs is one that yields substantial returns. By embracing this opportunity, businesses can pave the path to sustainable success in the dynamic realm of plant health care.


Heather Dirksen

Owner of Ascend Tree Business Consulting

Phone: (616) 421–5709


www. synkd .io 39 SYNKD West Spring 2024 synkd | raise the bar

Offering tree care, lawn care, and pest control, Joshua Tree Experts is expanding with multiple franchise locations. Prime territories are still available, so seize this opportunity to grow with us.

Schedule a meeting today to learn more!

Tree Care
Opportunity | 610-904-9200


Business is tough. I don’t care if you’re a milliondollar company or a hundred-million-dollar company. It’s tough.


Embrace the opportunity to introduce yourself to everybody, to build some relationships … & then, learn from people’s challenges & failures

Opening Keynote

Help Yourself! Grab Some Slices of Information, While We Work on the Main Course—Launching Full-Length Videos from Our Event’s Three Stages.

I think eliminating the race to the bottom involves doing something in your marketplace that shows value & quality in your workmanship rather than in price … I don’t think [we at Lucky Landscaping] bid work, we provide proposals. A bid, to me, means that you are competing on the lowest number versus a proposal showing what you can provide for your dollar amount. We won’t bid a commercial project unless we meet with the board.

Presentation: Eliminate the “Race to the Bottom”


www. synkd .io 41 SYNKD South Spring 2024 synkd | raise the bar
| raise the bar PART ONE | QUOTES FROM SYNKD LIVE 2024 SYNKD West Spring 2024 41

If we don’t have a total solution [for going electric], it shouldn’t be forced down our throats. It should be done in a phased , responsible approach . That’s why I appreciate what [my fellow panelists] are doing … You think of your cellphone right, like how many businesses failed before the cellphone became the enabling technology to allow that business to happen? The same thing is going to happen with the [electric vehicle space] & the battery space.

Maybe you have to make organizational changes, maybe you have to change the way your sales process flows, maybe you have to change logistics in the way your business operates. Whatever it is, according to the Harvard Business Review , when you have to make structural changes to your business, 70 percent of the time those initiatives fail … Why? Because they’re skipping steps. There is a framework for this.

In our company, we flip [the chain of command] upside down.


My role is at the bottom, I’m supporting the company, by supporting my direct reports … We look at it this way at all levels of the company. If I have somebody who is too good to get out there and get dirty, they’re not going to stick around for very long. SYNKD South Spring 2024 42 SYNKD West Spring 2024 42
Presentation: Battery Vs. Gas: Opportunities & Challenges Weighed Up
Presentation: Don’t Be A Seagull: A Change Management Guide Marketing
- Claire Goldman Principal at R&R Landscaping Presentation: Giving Your Team a Voice: Communication Up & Down the Chain of Command

If you’re a frontline-first workforce, and you really care about those people that give you a livelihood and serve your company—you pay them well. You give them a career. You give them meaningful benefits, & you take care of them

Presentation: Cultivating Success: Harnessing the Power of Company Culture

We want to be successful. We want to be happy & have fun doing it, but we want to get there ethically. We don’t want to go up that greasy slope, treading on people along the way, because it’s a long, long way sliding back down.


Winners don’t get mad

What winners do is they get smarter, they get leaner, they get more precise, they get dialed in. Your attitude is directly going to affect your success.

Presentation: Eliminate the “Race to the Bottom” Through Innovation

Sustainability—I really like this about the porcelain world … What’s porcelain made out of? Well, it’s made out of the most abundant raw material on Earth. Earth! Basically, it’s made out of sand, clay, feldspar, a couple of other minerals, a little bit of water, some heat, some pressure … No Portland cement. There are no VOC [volatile organic compound] emissions in the manufacturing process or afterward. The weight of the product is roughly nine pounds a square foot. When you’re competing against some of your other legacy hardscape materials: natural stone, concrete pavers, clay brick pavers—you get a lot more square footage with porcelain on a truck than you do with those other materials.


North American Director of Sales for

Presentation: Exterior Porcelain Paving: The Ideal Option for Exteriors

www. synkd .io 43 SYNKD South Spring 2024 synkd | raise the bar
www. synkd .io 43 SYNKD West Spring 2024


Professionals need rugged durability without sacrificing features and performance. That’s why we developed the PRO-TURN® 500. Its seating, tires, mowing deck, transmission and more make it a formidable force in the commercial mowing market.



Hear That? Neither Do We. Welcome to the Future of Lawn Care.

It’s a balmy summer afternoon. Sam is glued to her laptop in her parent’s upstairs guest room, studying hard for the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). Next Tuesday is her last chance to score high enough to catch the eye of admissions staff this year. The sound of a leaf blower breaks her concentration. Try as she might, she can’t drown out the noise. Between Sam’s hospice care job and research internship, this is all the time she has to focus on this. If only someone could put the thing on mute.

Virtually every human in America has had reason to glower at the sound of loud lawn care equipment. This fact is not news, but most have accepted maintenance noise as a necessary evil. Not

Greyson Walldorff

“My goal is by the end of 2025 to be 100 percent electric on our maintenance side,” says Greyson. “The biggest hurdle for us right now is range. We have a few high-mileage routes to work out, and we are looking to make substantial progress next year with the new options becoming available. It’s landscaping. You know, you’re going to

have to overcome problems every day. The problems with electric equipment are just new.”

I would rather have charge-time logistical issues than deal with mechanical issues & gas-based costs regulary.
www. synkd .io 45 SYNKD West Spring 2024
2024 SYNKD Live speaker Greyson Walldorff, the 27-year-old business mastermind behind Lawn Capital in Georgia.

Greyson is a world traveler with a background in finance. Observing construction projects abroad has given him ground to question deep-rooted practices that few think twice about in the states. Becoming aware of the dubious consequences presented by widely used products like dyed mulch and chemical herbicides was just the beginning for Greyson. At Lawn Capital, they call their green missions Plan Zero and The Quiet Revolution.

“There has never been an option like this before,” says Greyson. “It can all be done to the standards clients expect from any lawn care company. Weeds in garden beds are still going to be curbed. We will keep delivering high-end service, just without noise, gasoline or yard chemicals. It is hard to gauge the demand precisely when this is so new, but when we explain it, people are excited.”

Five years ago in Dallas, Texas, Stephen Gault was out walking the dog with his wife. The pleasant moment was shaken by a reverberating racket behind his neighbor’s fence. He pictured the battery-powered tools the couple picked up for their home garage a few days prior. The moment gave way to a research frenzy for the longtime lawn care business owner. A total rebrand renaissance began, and EcoMow, a 100 percent emissions-free lawn and landscape company, was the result.

Business took time to grow, but the COVID-19 pandemic drastically increased the amount of calls to EcoMow. With so many Texans working from home, sound became a top-of-mind concern.

“What’s strange is that we kind of came into this whole thing thinking the big sell would be that we run on zero emissions,” says Stephen. “As we continue to understand why people call us and why they choose to stay with us, we have learned that it is more about noise pollution than anything. We have communities here in Dallas that have noise ordinances in place. They have had them for years and years, but rarely were they ever enforced. Within the last 12 months, that changed. Communities are taking action on noise ordinances. The gas-powered guys are leaving those areas in response.”

Being the only company in Dallas providing these noise-free services, EcoMow is in the catbird seat.

It would be remiss to ignore the poor reputation the electric equipment trend currently holds within the industry. The perceived expense, break-down risk, charge time and power limits cause many heads to shake at the idea. Looking at how far the technology has progressed, particularly within the last two years, electric enthusiasts like Stephen find most concerns on the topic unfounded or inconsequential today. Although he acknowledges electric mowers are behind the curve compared to other types of equipment, on the whole, Stephen is exceedingly positive about his decision to switch over to electric power.

“We kind of failed our way forward in our process,” says Stephen. “I didn’t know anything about how to build a charging setup with lithium batteries, power inverters and solar. [I had] no experience whatsoever. A tremendous amount of research was involved, particularly looking at how van lifers set up their vehicles. We built out our charging rig, and we kept destroying this equipment. So we got in touch with the manufacturer. I had a great conversation with the folks there, telling them what we were going through with equipment continuously SYNKD West Spring 2024 46 synkd | raise the bar
Stephen Gault

breaking on us. They invited us to their headquarters and set us up with heavy-duty, commercial-grade equipment. That was ultimately a game changer for EcoMow.”

To educate himself and his employees on subjects like best practices for electric equipment use, how to dispose of batteries and efficient battery charging methods, Stephen is glad he had the foresight to sign up for the American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA) certification program. Outside his AGZA community, Stephen contributes insights to a weekly podcast called “Electric Lawn Talk,” cohosted by Stephen and seven industry peers representing businesses in Texas, Colorado, Florida and Maryland.

Jarmar Dupas, one such podcast co-host, is not only the owner of Peaceful Lawn & Garden in Southwest Houston, he is also a firefighter and paramedic for the city. Shortly after moving into his first house, Jarmar’s dog broke out in hives from the supposedly pet-friendly fertilizer in his garden. At the same time, Jarmar was losing sleep. Working nights, Jarmar needed to rest when the mowers and blowers were often active in his neighborhood.

“One morning in the spring of 2020, my

wife and I were sitting on the back deck, trying to enjoy our coffee and tea, and our neighbor’s lawn guy was just making all kinds of noise, smoking the place up with the oldest backpack blower you can imagine,” says Jarmar. “It was so loud we couldn’t even hear each other speak. We thought there had to be a better way. Then it became, let’s do vegetable gardens, organic lawn fertilizer and lawn care. We can help animals and the planet. Let’s see if we can use our new batterypowered mower.”

Heart is what sets Jarmar apart in all aspects of his life. Aside from his degree in biology, Jarmar had no experience in the field before he built his business from scratch. Believing in his mission, he picked up skills and knowledge fast and now offers his customers a premium service that he can reasonably charge more for than gas-powered companies in the area. The customers, however, are not the only ones relieved about electric lawn care.

“There are tons of benefits just for your crew,” says Jarmar. “I have had guys thank me because their girlfriend or wife is no longer smelling gas when they get home. That vibration in your hand from

holding motor-powered equipment all day, they do not experience that anymore. Hearing protection, smelling the fumes, the emissions that these things put off—I know we don’t want to talk about it, but these backpack blowers are terrible.”

How can business owners set themselves up for perpetual success? It’s a question with an answer that never takes solid form. Yet, whether you swap your entire fleet with emission-free equipment or start small with a gas-to-battery conversion kit, battery-powered equipment has a promising outlook in our industry. Improving the quality of life for employees, bringing peace to communities, and reducing emissions— that is a vision of the future to look forward to.

Stephen Gault

CEO of EcoMow Lawn & Landscape, LLC

Phone: (888) 326–6691


Jarmar Dupas

Owner of Peaceful Lawn & Garden, LLC

Phone: (832) 430–2630


www. synkd .io 47 SYNKD West Spring 2024 synkd | raise the bar GET IN TOUCH WITH Greyson Walldorff President of Lawn Capital, LLC Phone: (404) 798–8871 Email:
Increase production without hiring. DMT TRAILER 888-776-8524 sec FILL TIME MULCH - STONE - COMPOST ALL ELECTRIC ZERO EMISSIONS RUNS QUIET Mounts on any landscape truck, DMT Trailer and Switch-N-Go or Hooklift container. DISPENSE MATERIAL 3X FASTER

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.