Lambert’s services cover anything and everything outdoors
Based in Dallas, Texas, Lambert’s, also known as Lambert Landscape Company, has been providing complete landscape architecture, installation and maintenance services since 1919. As their Web site (www.lamberts.net) states, “The design of a garden requires analysis, planning, creativity, problem solving, quality materials and artistic craftsmanship, but a garden is not static; it requires ongoing nurturing and patience to preserve and enhance its beauty and design.”
That ongoing nurturing is what the Garden Services Group of Lambert’s supplies to high-end residential clients, all clustered within “the bubble,” a 4-mile circle around Highland Park, the third wealthiest community in the state. “We call it our Fine Gardening Program,” says Jodi Joseph, director of garden services. “It’s all-inclusive, covering anything and everything that can or should be done outdoors. The program evolved from the client’s desire for more individualized landscapes and more personalized weekly service.”
A lot of companies do a very good job in landscape maintenance and Lambert’s recognizes that. Mary Beth Riddle, enhancement and sales manager for the Garden Services Group, says, “Details count, the clothes we wear, the language we use, the attitude with which we approach our work. We’re always aware that we’re a fixture right outside their windows. We take it to the next level, providing concierge service by adding the little extras above and beyond the usual scope of an excellent product.”
Joseph adds, “We refer to this internally as ‘turndown’ service, like turning down the beds and leaving a mint on the pillow at an upscale hotel. Our goal is not only to deliver impeccable horticultural maintenance, but also to leave each property party ready. Our crews carry dust cloths to wipe down the surfaces on outdoor furniture, and they always fluff the pillows before they leave.”
There’s much to coordinate at this level of service. Joseph and Riddle are joined by two others on the Garden Services Group management team. Brian Matlock serves as production manager, overseeing all the crews to make sure they are where they are supposed to be according to the master schedule, and that the work at each property is progressing as it should.
As horticultural quality manager, Bruce Blevins focuses on all the horticultural elements involved, from plant care to proper maintenance procedures, and serves as the professor of Lambert’s University, the company’s unique, in-house training program.
Each client is assigned a garden manager. These individuals have a wealth of industry experience and often degrees in horticulture or turf management, as well. Riddle meets with potential clients to sell the program. Joseph says, “Mary Beth and I will then discuss the client, and I may meet them with her to determine which of our garden managers has the best personality, working style and the availability for the best fit. We have a maximum of 20 clients per garden manager, with a blend of accounts varying in size so no individual is overloaded.”
The garden manager plays a key role as the main client contact, developing an ongoing relationship with the client that addresses all their lawn and landscape needs, continually fine-tuning the program to reflect their lifestyle choices and aesthetic preferences. For example, each garden manager presents each of their clients with the proposal for the color change-outs based on the site, the client’s personal likes and dislikes and their budgetary parameters.
The weekly on-site staff consists of the garden manager, a foreman and his crew. The number of crew members varies according to the size of the property and the services performed there. Crews are on some properties five days a week, on others once a week.
Riddle notes they don’t change foremen or crew members unless it’s impossible not to do so. Some of them have worked for a client for 10 or 12 years, meeting the client’s desire for enhanced stability, privacy and security. She says, “Since our services are year-round, the same staff is on-site 51 weeks a year, with our foremen often more familiar with the property than the client is. For some, that relationship moves beyond the comfort zone to an almost family-like attachment.”
For the Lambert’s staff, there is no such thing as after hours. Phone messages and e-mails are answered immediately. Joseph says, “If phone calls or e-mails arrive on Sunday afternoon, that’s when we respond to them. We respond quickly [within the hour, if possible] to any request, phone call or e-mail. Actually, even with requests for quick on-site action, with our services consolidated within the small geographic area, our response time often is closer to a half-hour.”
Joseph notes there’s always a topic ongoing at Lambert University. “All of our people, from me through the foreman level, now attend classes two days a week. Each topic runs for a semester, 10 weeks’ long, with testing at the end. Training covers safety issues, horticultural best management practices, technical training and hands-on lab training in the field. We also offer English classes. We will be adding the training at the crew level soon,” she says.
Joseph says Lambert’s doesn’t hire foremen, instead moving employees up as they are ready. “They must first serve on a crew to ensure they not only understand all the horticultural principles involved, but also how to deliver the entire package of services the Lambert’s way. Those with the potential to move up to a foreman position will be channeled into the learning process, prove themselves in the field and pass the appropriate testing to earn that opportunity when an opening occurs.”
Lambert’s trucks are traveling ads, painted in bold yellow, a custom blend created for the company in the late ’60s, with their signature script logo highly visible. All equipment is color-coded to each foreman, with a complete assortment of hand tools, equipment and supplies neatly labeled and organized within each of the trucks.
Joseph says, “We maintain nearly 100 properties and only use riding mowers on the few that are over 5 acres, with one zero-turn mower and one Grasshopper assigned to those. The remaining sites are mowed with Toro 21-inch, rotary, mulching, walk-behinds for the tall fescue lawns or those overseeded with cool-season grasses or with walk-behind reel mowers for the bermudagrass. We practice ‘grasscycling’, allowing the clippings to further nourish the turf. “
Lambert’s has been 100 percent organic since the late ’80s, taking a proactive, best management practices approach. Organic turf fertilization provides steady, even growth. They track the growing degree days, monitor the lifecycles of the insects and disease triggers and the windows for action and plan for preventive measures months in advance. Joseph says, “Reaction after an occurrence is not an option for our level of maintenance. Organic is an important part of what we do. Many people in the Dallas area gravitate to us for that, with their children and pets top priorities. We post signs saying, ‘Please feel free to walk on the grass. It has been treated organically.’”
All debris is taken back to Lambert’s for recycling by sister company Moore Life, and all clippings, flowers and green recyclables will be composted for use on the properties. Non-recyclables are gathered in another area for proper disposal. Moore Life collects rainwater, harvested from the building stormwater runoff, making a compost tea that is adjusted for weather and environmental conditions, with each property receiving seven applications spread throughout the active growing season.
The crews are proactive in bad weather, too. “We track weather reports so our crews are prepared to protect tender plantings from frosts or freezes. We’ve had situations where we cover at night, uncover for the day and cover again the next night, doing whatever it takes to protect the client’s investment. Several times inclement weather moved in when a client was having a holiday or dinner party and we didn’t want the plants covered when the guests arrived. We’ll wait out of sight until everyone is inside the home, then do the covering very discreetly and quietly so when the guests come out the plants are all put to bed for the evening. We’ve even waited until after the party was over to cover,” Joseph says.
Lambert’s also handles special events, from small family gatherings to extensive outdoor weddings. Joseph says, “We create the atmosphere and ambience, working with the client and whomever they wish to have involved from contractors constructing stages or other structures to florists, caterers and photographers. We’ll set up tents, coordinate plantings and even loan them plants from our inventory to provide temporary settings that fit the scene and look as though they’re part of the permanent landscape. We’ll have people on-site if they wish, and of course, we’ll handle the post-event cleanup.”
Suz Trusty is a partner in Trusty & Associates, a communications and market research firm in Council Bluffs, Iowa. She has been involved in the green industry for over 40 years.