Ryan Kimbro: Celebrating 20 Years

 

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MEET Ryan Kimbro, Maintenance Division Manager, celebrating 20 years at Myatt Landscaping. Yes, you read that correctly, Ryan has been working here for twenty years! Every part of his interview reflects his incredible dedication to his work—building the maintenance division from nothing into a highly successful business representing 50% of the company. Read on to get to know the man behind it all.

“I’m pretty proud of staying at one place for 20 years, you know, not a lot of people do that anymore. [People say] it’s always greener on the other side, but I like it here. I enjoy coming to work every day.”                                                             ~Ryan Kimbro

How long have you been working here?  20 years. A big chunk of my life!

How did you start working for Myatt Landscaping?  All through college I worked on different golf courses— Devil’s Ridge, Lochmere, and a couple of other ones. When I got out of [NC] State, I went to work for a friend of mine who had a landscape business. Long story short, Scott hired another friend of mine called Mark, and then they brought me in [to Myatt Landscaping]. Mark was one of these guys that was always on to the next thing, so after about 6 weeks of working, he left to do something different and moved to Wilmington. So that just left me. When I started working at Myatt, it was just four or five Hispanic laborers, and Todd and Anna [Scott’s brother and wife]. Scott and Todd had historically done a lot of spec homes, where you install a basic landscape package, and they had never done maintenance. They used to not want to do maintenance, but people kept on asking them to do it, so they brought me and Mark in to start, and then I took over when Mark left. I was the first everything really, first foreman, first manager, first spray tech… It’s grown slowly over the years, and now we’re a lot bigger than we were when we started.

What was your progression through the company?  I was the first foreman, and I rode in the first maintenance truck with three laborers. We got our first package of about six shopping centers, and then we did a few houses for one of the owners of the [spec home construction] company, and so on and so forth. We grew the business and eventually we had two trucks. Then they pulled me out of the truck and made me a manager. When we were small, we did all the flowers ourselves, all the pruning, all the pine straw, aerification. It’s just grown in scale. It hasn’t changed so much, but the scale has for sure.

What made you stay at Myatt for 20 years?  (Laughing) People would ask me, “Why don’t you start your own business?” Well, I kind of already have. Scott doesn’t micromanage me, it’s always “answer to the clients,” and I’ve grown [to where] I’m just vested in it. And they treat me like family—we’ve become more friends than coworkers over the years. Scott was at my wedding, and when you have a kid or that kind of thing, Todd would come by the hospital. And I’m pretty proud of staying at one place for 20 years, you know, not a lot of people do that anymore. [People say] it’s always greener on the other side, but I like it here. I enjoy coming to work every day.

As you look back on your career, what do you consider your greatest success?  Growing the maintenance side of this business, and the relationships made through that process. We started with ten accounts, and now we have over two-hundred large, full-service accounts. We still have one of the original commercial accounts, and ten of the original residential accounts.

Is there any one thing you would like to take the time to learn more about?  Excel spreadsheets! We use them for bigger proposals. The billing is done off of our spreadsheets, and [the clients] always want to add more items, so I have to go back to Chris and say, “I need to add another line item here.” That’s the one thing I have to ask for help with! I don’t need to ask for any other thing.

What do you enjoy most about your job?  I still like being outside. I like the satisfaction of taking on projects that don’t look as good, and turning them around in a year’s time. Briar Chapel was really the first big one. It was in pretty tough shape when we got it and we’ve done a lot out there as far as what it looked like and how small it was and how big it is now. I enjoy turning residential properties around—when [clients are] willing to pay our premium and a year from then say, “You know, it’s really worth it. We really got what we paid for.” Currently, the fun challenges are these other [new] markets, the Wilmington market and the Summerville market. I would like to grow those books of business, and I still want to see us grow here as well.

What do you feel you have bragging rights to?  The growth of the maintenance division. It’s not all mine, it’s “ours” as far as the maintenance team. Because all my managers have been there, like Robby, who was the second foreman after me, so I’ve built it with other key people.

Looking at all the people in history, what person would you say you respect the most and why?  My father. He’s just always been there for me.

Hobbies outside of work: I like to spend time with my family, and go hunting and fishing. I usually go fishing with my wife’s side of the family in Wilmington, and I usually hunt down at Shady Grove (a large nursery in SC with a longstanding work relationship and friendship with Myatt Landscaping.—ed.). We go to see Widespread Panic a lot, which is kind of a hippy college band. We have a group of friends that gets together and travels to see them. Now that we have kids, it’s once or twice a year, but it used to be more.

Favorite food: Anything cooked on my Big Green Egg. I like to grill, and I do most of the cooking at my house. Just because it’s a hobby—my wife can cook too!

Something most people don’t know about you:  I’m a great dancer!

Is there any advice you would give to a person who is starting out in your chosen career?  Have a good attitude, be dependable, and be willing to learn!

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#TeachingTuesday: Tea Olive

Today for #TeachingTuesday, we will cover two species of tea olive: Osmanthus fragrans and Osmanthus x fortunei. Tea olive is also known as false holly, or simply ‘osmanthus.’ Personally, tea olive is one of my all-time favorite shrubs. I have fond memories of walking across the NC State campus in late October and smelling that sweet, sweet fragrance, then looking around trying to find the large shrub it was coming from (sometimes more than 50 feet away!). Plant these evergreen shrubs near windows, porches, and outdoor living areas to enjoy the enchanting scent through the fall. The shrubs/small trees are long-lived and virtually free of pests and diseases.

Osmanthus fragrans – Fragrant Tea Olive

The fragrant tea olive is, unsurprisingly, the most fragrant Osmanthus species. However, it is also the least cold hardy, and is only marginally successful in zone 8 (it prefers zones 9-11). For reference, Raleigh-Durham is zone 7b/8a, Wilmington is zone 8a, and Charleston, SC is zone 8b/9a. We see it more on coastal properties, but it can also be grown as a container plant, or in sheltered locations with winter protection.

There is also an orange-flowered form, Osmanthus fragrans f. aurantiacus, which is slightly more cold-tolerant than the species.

 

Osmanthus x fortunei – Fortune’s Tea Olive

Fortune’s osmanthus, or Fortune’s tea olive, is the most common species used in our area. It is a hybrid between Osmanthus fragrans and Osmanthus heterophyllus (false holly). Like its parent, it has small, white, highly fragrant flowers, and blooms in October-November, but is much more cold-hardy, surviving throughout zone 7. It has been around in the western horticultural trade since 1856, when it was introduced to Britain from Japan.

Fortune’s tea olive can be grown as a shrub, a small- to medium-sized tree, or even a hedge. Its spiny leaves make it very resistant to deer damage, and it is also drought tolerant, and somewhat tolerant to shade and salt.

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A large screen of Osmanthus x fortunei

ID Tips

  • Although at first glance many tea olive species may look similar to hollies, there is an easy trick to tell the difference: tea olive leaves are always in opposite pairs, while holly leaves alternate along the stem.
  • Fragrant tea olive leaves are slightly larger and longer than Fortune’s tea olive leaves, and will have either entire margins (meaning smooth edges) or dentate margins (meaning finely toothed edges). The tip of the leaf is not spiny.
  • Fortune’s tea olive leaves are smaller and more oval-shaped, and will have a spiny tip at the point of each leaf. There are three kinds of leaves on Fortune’s tea olive: the juvenile leaves (leaves near the base of the plant), which will have 10-12 triangular, spiny teeth on each side (the younger, the spinier). The mature leaves, which are found on the upper branches of the shrub/tree, will have smooth edges, but will still have the spiny point at the tip. In the middle, there will be leaves that have a few spines near the tip of the leaf, but smooth edges near the base.

Do you have more tips for identifying tea olives? Leave a comment!

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All Osmanthus species have leaves in opposite pairs.
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Note the spines disappearing toward the base.

 

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Individual flowers are very small, but very fragrant!

#FeatureFriday: West Johnson High School Field Trip

Yesterday, we hosted thirteen horticulture students, a teacher, and an assistant teacher from West Johnson High School in Benson on a field trip to learn about the landscaping industry. This was our first time hosting such an event, but we were excited to share our facilities, our experiences, and our knowledge with young people, and encourage them to consider careers in the industry in the future. Everyone had a blast, and we hope they left with a better understanding of the diverse roles and partnerships that are essential in leading a landscape company to success.

The tour started off with short talks from Scott Myatt, company founder and president; Ryan Kimbro, Maintenance Division Manager; and Herbie Champion, Install Division Manager. They shared the history of the company as well their own professional development through the years, and talked about some interesting facets of their jobs (while the students enjoyed coffee and doughnuts from Krispy Kreme!).

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Scott Myatt talks about the importance of standing behind your work.

Next, Blake Bennett led a tour of our facilities, introducing all of our support staff and explaining many of our organizational processes. Many other staff joined the tour and answered questions from the students.

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Zach Daigle explains how plant deliveries are organized.
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Blake Bennett talks about why sorting our landscape and construction waste is important.
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Blake shows the students our on-site fueling area.
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Herbie Champion talks about our different types of trucks and how we customize them.

After the tour, we had some activities with a competitive edge planned–a plant ID quiz and a paver challenge where student teams had to fill a grid with a certain pattern correctly, the fastest team earning t-shirts with our logo. The students also designed their own planters with fall flowers to take home.

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The students participated in a plant ID quiz (with no multiple choice!).
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After the quiz, Caitlin Clineff shared some ID tips and tricks for each plant.
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Each student designed their own planter to take home, with guidance from Myatt Staff.
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We love sparking creativity with hands-on learning.
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Everyone enjoyed getting their hands dirty!
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Herbie demonstrates the use of a laser level prior to starting the paver challenge.
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The two teams set up for the paver challenge.
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Every person engaged in teamwork and problem-solving.
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Matching the pattern was harder than it looked!
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Just a few errors to correct… 😉
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Pausing for a team discussion.

Both teams did a great job, and exercised their teamwork, problem-solving, decision-making, and spacial reasoning skills.

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The students were treated to gigantic sandwiches and salads from Bagels Plus, the local deli.
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Winners of the plant ID and paver challenges were given their choice of Myatt t-shirt, and everyone received a Myatt Landscaping frisbee!

We had such a great time interacting with this fantastic group of young people, and we hope that they were inspired to learn more about the myriad of unique opportunities the landscape and horticulture industries have to offer. This class was a real pleasure to host–they asked great questions and engaged fully in all of the activities. We look forward to hosting students from West Johnson and other schools in the future!

If you would like to arrange a tour of Myatt Landscaping Concepts for your class, 4-H club, FFA chapter, Boy/Girl Scout troop, etc., please contact Caitlin@myattlandscaping.com.

 

#TeachingTuesday: Chinese Pistache

This week, the Chinese pistache trees at our office burst into flaming glory, showcasing their brilliant fall color palettes of yellows, oranges, red, and even pinks and deep maroons. We couldn’t ignore it, so it’s our plant of the week!

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Chinese pistache, or, scientifically, Pistacia chinensis, is a tough, medium-sized tree that fares equally well as a landscape specimen or urban street tree. It is drought tolerant and has no serious pests or diseases. Renowned plantsman Michael Dirr describes the tree as gawky when young in his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, but it matures into a beautiful specimen tree, rivaling the sugar maple as one of the prettiest trees for fall color in the south.

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Fun Facts

  • Pistacia chinensis is a cousin to the pistachio tree (Pistacia vera), which produces the pistachio nut.
  • Chinese pistache trees have separate male and female flowers, and the flowers are on separate trees. This type of flowering is called dioecious, and some other common examples of dioecious trees include hollies and ginkgos.
  • The stems of Chinese pistache have a strong odor when bruised or crushed.

ID Tips

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Notice the 5 pairs of opposite leaflets and no terminal leaflet.
  • The leaves of Chinese pistache are compound, which means a single leaf is made up of multiple small “leaflets.” The leaflets are arranged opposite of one another, and are almost always in 5 or 6 pairs. Unlike many nut trees, such as walnut, pecan, and hickory, there is no terminal leaflet.
  • The buds are large, oval-shaped, and dark brown or blackish in color. There are multiple clustered buds at the branch tips (terminal buds).
  • The buds are arranged alternately along the stem.
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Terminal bud cluster
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Notice the alternating buds along the stem (the buds are not in pairs).
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Fruit only develops on female trees, and can range in color from blue to red. The fruit is eaten by birds.

 

 

#TeachingTuesday: Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’

Today our plant of the week is the Evergold sedge, Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold.’ We use this plant extensively in our fall & winter planter designs because the striking foliage holds up well in the cold weather. It is also used in perennial shade gardens, where grasses typically can’t grow because there isn’t enough light. Sedges are more tolerant of low light and wet soil conditions than grasses are, and can add nice texture and, in the case of Evergold and other variegated sedges, a pop of brightness. They are also deer resistant, which is good news for shade gardeners–combine sedges with heuchera (our plant of the week from last Tuesday) and you will have a good start to a deer resistant  garden.

Carex oshimensis 'Evergold'
Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’

Maintenance Tips

In our area, zone 7b/8a, Evergold sedge is typically evergreen, but may be affected by prolonged periods of cold, dry, windy weather, which may cause it to develop brown tips. Make sure to keep plants watered in the winter to help prevent this. Because Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’ is somewhat slow-growing, it typically should not be cut back in the winter, especially if being used in a winter container garden. If there is severe browning due to cold weather, wait until springtime and cut back the foliage just as the new growth is starting to emerge.

ID Tips

At first glance, the leaves of Evergold sedge and variegated liriope (Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’) may look similar, both with creamy stripes along the length of the leaves, a clumping habit, and a similar height of about 12″. Liriope is a fast grower, and should be cut back in the late winter/early spring, so make sure you learn these tips so you can tell the difference and cut back only the correct plants!

  1. The leaves of Evergold sedge are creased along the center, causing a ‘V’ shape when cut in cross-section. Liriope leaves are flat and strap-like.
  2. Evergold sedge has a single cream-colored stripe running down the center of each leaf, while Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’ leaves have a green center with cream colored margins along the edges.
  3. Evergold sedge leaves taper gradually to a very long, thin, wiry point which sometimes curls, while liriope leaves have blunt, rounded tips.
  4. If you can remember what the flowers looked like back in the summer, sedges have small, brown, tufty seedheads, similar to what you would see on an ornamental grass, while liriope has clusters of tiny, purple flowers that are quite attractive.
  5. Liriope may develop stalks of black berries that persist into the fall and winter, which you would never see on a sedge. But, these may not still be present when it’s time to cut back liriope foliage in the spring, so don’t rely on this tip by itself!

There are many other variegated sedges, grasses, and other grassy plants like liriope. The more you see and learn, the easier it will be to tell them apart!

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Long, thin, wiry tips of Evergold sedge
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Blunt, rounded tips of variegated liriope

Herbie Champion: Celebrating 15 Years

Herbie Champion

MEET Herbie Champion, Install Division Manager, celebrating 15 years at Myatt Landscaping. Herbie stands out as a true success story–he started out working as a laborer on the installation crew and rose to division manager, one of the highest positions in the company. I sat down with Herbie a few days before the 15th anniversary of his hire date, wanting to gain some insight into his journey through the ranks. I hope you are as inspired as I was by what he said.

How long have you been working here at Myatt Landscaping? 15, starting on 16 years.

What was your progression like through the company? My first position was entry labor on the install crew. I already knew plant ID from studying at NC State, but I had to learn the process at Myatt Landscaping, which was entirely different from anything I had done before. From there it was just climbing the ladder. Whether it was doing drainage, planting trees, or tree collars, I wanted to stand out and be the best. A lot of people will focus on somebody else, or somebody else’s job, but if you focus on your job and what you’re doing, and you do your job to the best of your ability, everything else will work out.

What made you stay at Myatt for 15 years? The loyalty that they provide. [The Myatt’s] treat everyone like family. It’s real close-knit and they care about everything that happens in your life. And they believe in you—when they put that much responsibility on you and give you these types of projects to do, and you’ve got the freedom to make the decisions yourself, why would you want to start over somewhere else? This is what everybody works toward, getting into this position. You’re not going to be able to go anywhere else and work on the types of projects we’ve worked on.

What do you enjoy most about your job?  The projects. Seeing it all come together to completion and saying “I had a hand in doing that.” In one of the coolest projects I worked on, we built a koi pond with a 23-foot-long stone bridge. It was concrete and set on piers, with stone veneer, and lights mounted underneath, so [the homeowner] could walk out and sit down on the bridge and have koi swimming under her. It was pretty wild…We had to jackhammer almost 2 weeks into [solid] stone to create the cavity for the pond. Another project I worked on took over a year, out-of-town, in Winston-Salem. [The clients] wanted to have full-size courts for basketball, volleyball, and tennis, and they didn’t want people to see them as they drove by. So we excavated down 20 feet [below grade] and did poured-in-place walls and built [a recessed] sport court. It had lights mounted to shine down in there, a bluestone set of stairs, and a water fountain. [Because of the drainage we installed], they could stand out there in the rain and there wouldn’t be any standing water. It was just a really neat project.

As you know, we are always growing and learning. Is there any one thing you would like to take the time to learn more about?  Plant material is always changing—there’s always new varieties coming out. I want to learn more about the latest and greatest of the hardscape industry. I’d like to see new ideas or just learn from people and try to incorporate my own ideas. The construction industry is changing at all times. It’s one thing to build a house, but when the inspections [process] changes, you want to learn how and why things are being done the way they’re being done.

Looking at all the people in history, what person would you say you respect the most and why? Jesus Christ. He made the ultimate sacrifice.

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote? “To get respect, you have to give respect. To be respected for who you are and what you do, you have to earn it.”

What are your hobbies outside of work? I love fishing, spending time with family, and koi! I used to breed them, but I don’t anymore. Just as a hobby. I would show koi—once a year, we’d go to the Carolina Classic Koi Show and we won many awards, had fun, and just learned a lot about them. I’m dwindling down now and getting rid of a lot of them. I’m probably going to take a break from it for a while, just because I’ve been so busy. But at one point I had several thousand koi that were mostly fry, back when I was breeding them. Now it’s less than two dozen, but they’re bigger.

Favorite food: Southern cooking! I like Mexican, I like Italian, but southern cooking just…Takes me home.

Something most people don’t know about you: I enjoy working out! (This is so true—Herbie is in the office gym every day for an hour after work!—Ed.).

What is something you don’t want to regret once you’re old and retired? I always believe in telling people how you feel about them.

Is there any advice you would give to a person who is starting out in a landscaping career? Be patient, it takes time to learn everything and climb the ladder. You can’t climb the ladder overnight. There’s a lot of information to learn, and it’s one thing to learn it, but you’ve got to be good at it too. A lot of people will try to install a little bit of drainage and plants and call themselves a landscaper, but it’s another thing to do it right. That makes a difference.