Featured Work: Artistry Goes Outdoors
When thinking of employees hired by a typical landscaping company, you might think of them as confined to just hauling topsoil and trimming foliage.
But one local business has taken a different route, seeking out the most skilled masters in the business. You might consider these workers artisan masons, craftsmen, and even pioneers reforming traditional landscaping. They’re going to greater lengths than most firms in sourcing their materials and providing customers with high-quality, locally mined stone.
The “Old World” skills we exercise are no longer taught in schools nor are they practiced by many other contractors.
That company is Live Green Landscape Associates, an 11-year-old business providing residential and commercial clients with services ranging from plantings to designing and building superior outdoor patios. We talked to Aaron Raines, residential landscape manager, to find out how this company sets itself apart from the competition.
How did you get started in this business?
Live Green was built around our mission statement “Helping People See What They Cannot See.” We preach quality, customer service, and professionalism in everything we do. Our employees take pride in their work and in the company name they wear on their shirt.
Who is your ideal employee and what is their ideal skill set? How does this differ from other landscapers?
Our ideal candidate is open-minded and willing to learn new skills. Most importantly, they must take pride in their work. Our team members are not just landscapers, they are well-versed in hardscape and masonry construction, horticultural practices, drainage, and safe equipment operation. Cross-training and the capacity to take on projects with multiple facets differentiates our crews. We are not limited to just one skill set, we pride ourselves on our ability to tackle a variety of complicated aspects on any job.
Can you give us an example of one of your crafts people?
The senior residential crew leader, Feliciano, has been with Live Green almost since we opened our doors 11 years ago. He has also worked with some of our other team members for more than two decades. Feliciano has an expert eye for natural materials that allows him to take giant, heavy blocks and pieces of stone and create a masterpiece. He chisels and works them into curves, keystones, and other geometric shapes that appear naturally formed. As if he were a puzzle master, he fits together pieces like a jigsaw puzzle and creates a masterful masonry feature.
Is it difficult to find this type of artisan?
Yes, the “Old World” skills we exercise are no longer taught in schools nor are they practiced by many other contractors. Because of this, it’s getting harder to find qualified candidates with these skills. We work hard to grow and develop employees from within our own ranks and in all positions, whether that be installation, management, or office staff.
You most likely have to compensate your workers better than most landscape staff. How does that affect pricing?
We understand that we offer a premium product and have to employ highly skilled artisan masons to install that product. This means we’re not always going to be the least expensive contractor option, but we bring the best skills to the table that not many of our competitors can offer.
How has your emphasis on skills affected the company’s growth?
We have been able to grow significantly since opening in 2008 because of our investment in our employees. Dedicated to hiring good people who are willing to learn the skills, we help our employees thrive within our company long-term. We would not have experienced such success without their dedication and talents.
How does butler stone inspire craftsmanship and your artisans? What makes it a higher quality than other materials?
We favor our uniquely branded Butler stone, locally quarried in Cockeysville, and other locally sourced natural stones because they perfectly complement the natural environment. As a landscape architect, you seek ways to connect a built environment with the natural environment around you. Using native building materials, we help facilitate this connection and reduce our environmental impact by avoiding long-distance transport of bulky materials. Because we depend on natural materials, we remain conscientious of our carbon footprint and our environment.
What awards has LGL won?
We have received 11 regional awards for our built projects from the Landscape Contractors Association, 10 national awards from the National Association of Landscape Professionals, as well as multiple craftsmanship and recognition awards that individually recognized the talents of Live Green’s employees. We love to share our awards and accomplishments and it is reassuring to prospective customers to know that they are working with a contractor who has been recognized by their peers for always maintaining quality, dependable work.
This interview originally appeared in Baltimore Magazine.