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We have been honored to be mentioned in several articles for our work. Here are a few of our favorites!

Blending Talent with Experience

By Glenn Dinella & Jenny Agee-Aldridge. 

September 2011 Total Landscape Care

William Dickerson’s early work as a landscaper and natural creativity set him on a course for success.

As a teen, William Dickerson was on the path to his future career but didn’t know it. William Dickerson’s career choice was altered during college by a fortuitous conversation. It took the guidance of a man who would later become Dickerson’s mentor to show him the way.

Today, as owner of Dickerson Landscaping in Tallahassee, Florida, with 22 employees and more than $1 million in annual revenue, he quickly acknowledges the importance of seeking out the counsel of others to ensure a successful business. “It was life changing for me,” he says.

Serendipitous moment

When Dickerson reached his junior year at Florida State University as an economics major in the 1980s, he worked part-time caring for landscapes at residential properties and a church near campus. He enjoyed the creative aspects of the work, and had a knack for it. But at the time, landscaping was a job, not a career.

Then he got to know Manuel “Manny” Leon Ponce, a professor in FSU’s interior design department, while caring for Ponce’s yard. A respected and influential interior designer who lectured around the world, Ponce came to epitomize success to Dickerson. Yet the relationship started because of a mere offhand observation.

“I was standing in his house waiting for my check and noticed a copy of an architecture magazine on the table, and Manny was on the cover. I started to thumb through it. I asked him, ‘How do you get here?’” Dickerson says.

The two fell into an easy conversation, in which Ponce encouraged Dickerson to take some design classes at the university.

“I told him I had no interest in learning about fabrics, and he laughed,” Dickerson says. “He explained the design principles of landscape and interior design were basically the same. He was right.”
 

“I needed to learn about drafting and various design principles to be really successful in the landscape industry.”

In that moment, Dickerson began to see the potential of a career as a landscape designer. “I needed to learn about drafting and various design principles to be really successful in the landscape industry. I already knew the plants,” Dickerson says.

Ponce spoke with the dean of the interior design department, who allowed Dickerson to tailor a program of study to fit his needs. He graduated with a degree in economics, but had a slew of practical design courses under his belt.

“Manny is the reason I’m in the field today,” Dickerson says, and then adds with a laugh, “I have him to thank and him to blame.” Dickerson’s hands-on experience coupled with his formal education provided the foundation to build a successful business that would weather tough economic times.

Youthful efforts pay

Dickerson’s true beginnings in landscaping came at age 11, caring for the lawn and plants at the apartment complex in Orlando where he lived with his family. Soon after, he started maintaining private gardens around Orlando, eventually acquiring 27 accounts. He did whatever was needed to keep clients happy. “The day might start off with mowing the grass and end with washing the car,” he says.

On summer breaks from college, Dickerson worked in the landscape department and outdoor services at Disney World. He might begin work at 3:30 a.m. under spotlights, preparing an exhibit before the park opened at 10 a.m. “Or, they might close a section for 30 minutes and let us run in and replace some impatiens and get out,” he says. “I pulled out a lot of flowers in their prime because if they were on their way down, they weren’t good enough.”

After graduating from college in 1991, Dickerson started his landscaping business and nursery. One of his biggest regrets is that he didn’t work for someone else before this venture. “I could have learned a lot from my mistakes on someone else’s dime,” he says.

He shares that tip with students he mentors through various organizations.

But business was good, and it was hard to resist going out on his own. He retained many of his old clients from his earlier years and added new ones. The warm, subtropical Florida climate kept his crews busy year-round, and positive word-of-mouth made the business thrive. He even took on a project at FSU, where he landscaped part of the campus near the football stadium. It was one of several commercial projects he accepted. But he didn’t enjoy the commercial jobs as much.

“If you truly care about horticulture, you should stick to residential jobs. There is a lot more creative freedom. With commercial jobs, it’s more about the bottom line, and there are too many people involved in the decision making,” he says.

The company was such a success he stopped taking commercial jobs, opting for the residential work exclusively, where clients were paying top dollar and focused on beauty.

Adapting for tough times

Everything changed when the economic downturn hit in 2008, and so did the way Dickerson and his crews handled business. Instead of choosing projects because they might be artistically challenging or turn a large profit, Dickerson says they took what they could get. He also was forced to let go of several crew members and consolidate his office with his nursery center.

“If you care about horticulture, you should stick to residential jobs. There is a lot more creative freedom. Commercial jobs, it’s more about the bottom line, and there are too many people involved with the decision making.”

“We were in survival mode, just trying to keep the doors open and the lights on. Every job was critical,” he says.

The poor economic climate challenged Dickerson to design jobs in phases and involve clients more in the design process. A no-nonsense businessman who typically focuses more on hands-on work rather than public relations and sales, Dickerson found the extra communication taxing at first, but it soon paid off. “Clients began coming back year after year to add the next phase,” he says.

Optimistic view

Currently, Dickerson Landscaping is a full-service company, offering maintenance, renovation, design consultation and plans, plant installation and hardscaping that includes fencing, decks, patios, water features and outdoor kitchens. Dickerson also manages a retail office space/showroom near downtown, as well as a wholesale nursery in nearby Monticello, Florida.

The majority of his landscape installation projects are residential and handled by two crews. For landscape maintenance, approximately 70 percent is residential and 30 percent commercial, and is served by two crews and one “clean-up crew,” which specializes in renovating overgrown landscapes – a situation that arises often in tropical climates.

Business has picked up. And Dickerson remains optimistic about the future. “The public doesn’t seem as frightened anymore. There is an increased optimism, and people are spending more, but things will never be the same,” he says. Yet, Dickerson’s ability to observe, learn and adapt, which has served well in the past, likely ensures solid footing on the path for the future.

January!

Pipe cracking cold

On December 28th we woke up to the upper teens in our area. I literally heard PVC pipes cracking in the nursery. That sound is expensive and especially if the back-flow is involved. The lease little bit of water left still in the line will expand upon freezing and crack brittle pipes. Be sure to leave your outside faucets  dripping if we are going to be below freezing for more than four hours. If you find you're going to be out of town and you are a Dickerson Landscaping client, call us in advance and we will schedule someone to do it for you. 

Save money in less time

Your irrigation system may be running too much. Your lawn still needs water during the winter months but not as much as it does in Summer, so scale back the number of days it runs from November to April 1st. Set it to come on for once a week at most. Your lawn can get by on about half an inch a week now. This tip will save you water and electricity. If you need to schedule an irrigation optimization audit give us a call. For Veranda and Southern clients this is free, for Hammock clients this is around $85, and for non Dickerson Lawn care clients it is $135. 

Ever wanted a fruit tree?

Do you know when is the best time to plant fruit trees? Now!...During the winter the sugars in the trees are dormant and drawn back into the trunk, making it the optimum time to plant deciduous trees; so now until March is the best time. In addition to this being the best time to plant fruit trees we have been doing research in edible landscaping. As a result we have come up with a list
of several fruits trees that grow and produce fruit in our area. Growers have achieved this by graphing production buds to stock that will grow in warmer climates.

These trees are: Chestnuts and Pecans; Kaki Persimmons, Fuyu, Homestead, and Jiro; Apples: Dorsett and Anna; Peaches: Florida Crest, Florida King, and a dwarf variety called Zorrito; Plums: Gulf Coast and Gulf Ruby; Pears and Nectarines. So quite a list to chose from and if you're looking for a nice midsize shade tree that can add attractive accent to your property and provide a tasty treat.

Pruning time

Time to prune your Crape myrtles, if you so desired. Thanks to David Marshal and the research done by Gary Knox; more and more people don't really see the benefit to pruning Crape Myrtles back so drastically. There is very little to support this annual event. Here are a few reasons to prune your Crape Myrtles but not to the point of making it Crape Murder

  1. To get our any dead or damaged wood
  2. To keep the tree in scale with the surrounding landscape
  3. To keep it from rubbing against the side of your house
  4. To keep branches from blocking and interfering with security lights
  5. To free up walkways so your guests don't have to duck on the way to the front door.

If you want to have this done please call and we will get it scheduled. 

Tallahassee hospitals grappling with worst flu season in 10 years

Tallahassee hospitals have seen a rise in patients with flu symptoms, in what some are calling the worst flu season in a decade.

“The season hit us earlier than last year,” said Dr. Joseph Mazziotta, a family medicine physician at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare. “It’s the worst we’ve had in 10 years. What we’re experiencing here is being mirrored all over the country … and above normal.

“The volume is up across the board.”

This year's flu season is widespread nationwide — and has already killed 20 children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. So far Florida has not declared a state of emergency, unlike neighboring Alabama, where emergency rooms have begun restricting visitors.

This year, it appears we are seeing some strains that weren’t included in the annual flu vaccine, Mazziotta said. The CDC and the World Health Organization decide which strains of flu go into the vaccine, he said.

"At best, it’s an educated guess," he said.

Leon County Schools is taking precautions to avoid outbreaks. Alan Cox, an assistant superintendent who oversees health services for the district, said if a student's temperature reached 100 degrees or more, he or she is sent home immediately per county policy.

"We tell our parents to keep their children home" if they're sick, Cox said.

Allison Castillo, a nurse and director of emergency services at Capital Regional Medical Center, says the hospital has been seeing between 30 and 40 patients per day with a chief complaint of flu, out of an average 250 patients.

The virus brings symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, the CDC explains.

If those symptoms are exhibited, patients can simply call their physician and not necessarily come into the emergency room, said Dr. Sam Ashoo, an emergency medicine specialist at TMH.

But some people, such as the elderly and those with respiratory conditions, are at risk of complications.

If a patient is suffering from shortness of breath, chest pain and difficulty breathing — those symptoms could signal complications from the flu, Ashoo said. A visit to the emergency room can be in order.

The Florida Department of Health estimates between 15 and 40 percent of the population annually could develop illness from influenza. For those who haven’t had flu shots yet, it is not too late.

This year it appears we are seeing some strains that were left out of the vaccine, Mazziotta explained. But getting a flu vaccine could still be helpful, protecting "against a serious case of influenza and pneumonia," he said.

He advises avoiding large crowds, especially for people with risk factors, as well as frequent hand washing or sanitizing throughout the day.

Along with flu vaccinations, the CDC offers several tips for preventing the flu:

1. Avoid close contact.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

2. Stay home when you are sick.

If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.

3. Cover your mouth and nose.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

4. Clean your hands.

Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

6. Practice other good health habits.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

 Jodie Strong, the nurse manager at TMH's Family Medicine Residency Program, demonstrates the processing of a rapid flu detection test. These tests, administered to patients with flu-like symptoms, can produce results in less than 15 minutes. (Photo: Hali Tauxe/Democrat)

Jodie Strong, the nurse manager at TMH's Family Medicine Residency Program, demonstrates the processing of a rapid flu detection test. These tests, administered to patients with flu-like symptoms, can produce results in less than 15 minutes. (Photo: Hali Tauxe/Democrat)