Barry Schneider, President
Barry is a partner in one of the most successful landscape architecture and construction firms in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. His long interest in landscaping began during his childhood in Easton, PA, when he discovered a talent for growing plants. While studying landscape design and contracting in Florida, Barry started his own residential design/build landscape company. Wanting more challenges and excitement, Barry relocated to Atlanta to join one of the largest commercial landscaping companies in the Southeast. While there, Barry was given the opportunity to move to the Washington, DC area and head a start-up design/build residential branch. Barry grew this operation into a successful and profitable organization.
In 2002, armed with 25 years of experience which included his collective wisdom from his first solo venture and years with some of the biggest landscape contractors in the country, Barry knew he was ready to go out on his own again. Partnering with Howard Cohen, Registered Landscape Architect, they founded Surrounds. “Our goal at Surrounds,” Barry says, “is to turn all of our clients in to raving fans.” Barry oversees the business end of Surrounds, but still keeps in touch with his landscaping roots by regularly visiting the various job sites to ensure the work is completed with the high quality standard that is the Surrounds signature.
Barry has three daughters and is an avid sailor and snowboarder.
Howard Cohen, Vice President, Registered Landscape Architect
In 2002, Howard joined forces with Barry to co-found Surrounds. Howard says he came into his career somewhat by accident, but it was the best thing that ever happened to him. He grew up in the Baltimore suburbs and thought he would like to be an architect. Halfway through college, he concluded that although he loved the idea of architecture and buildings, his true calling was landscape architecture. As a child, he grew cacti, tended a vegetable garden, pruned plants for people, and had a pretty good ability to draw. “I was a landscaper,” he said, “but I just didn’t realize it.” Howard graduated with honors in landscape architecture from the University of Georgia and returned to Baltimore. He met Barry at a Landscape Contractors Association (LCA) meeting and took the opportunity to show off his portfolio of drawings. Barry hired Howard on the spot and the two have been working together ever since.
Chad Talton, Landscape Architect
It was a great day for Surrounds when Chad became part of the team. After a few meetings, it was evident that Chad had the ability and high style to create the award winning quality outdoor environments that is the Surrounds signature. Since joining Surrounds in the Fall of 2006, Chad has quickly built a reputation for himself with his artistic skills that enable him to transfer a client’s dream into reality. From the drafting table to field supervision, Chad maintains a focus on the integrity and details of design in order to fulfill the singular vision of Surrounds environments. Chad is a Registered Landscape Architect in both Virginia and Maryland.
Justin Kromer, Landscape Architect
It was Justin’s Kromer’s enthusiasm for golf that sparked his initial interest in landscape architecture. He found himself “redesigning” courses in his head as he played them. After beginning studies at Penn State (Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, 2008), he discovered many more facets to the profession and eventually set his sites on high-end residential design. Justin joined Surrounds in 2013 after five years with Atkins Group, the global architecture and engineering firm. At Atkins, he acquired advanced technical expertise on multi-phased planning and community development projects. The procedural standards he practiced there now inform his work as a residential landscape architect. What Justin loves most about residential is that he can see a design vision come to life in a matter of months. “In my previous job, all the projects were theoretical, 50 to 100-year long range plans. Now, I put an idea on paper and three to six months later I can go see it.” Most weekends Justin bikes into Washington DC and visits the monuments to gather up design inspiration. He also enjoys mountain biking and spends a lot of time back home in the Poconos where he enjoys kayak fishing with some of his best buddies from childhood.
Garden Management Associates
Tom Kniezewski, Garden Management Team Leader
Tom grew up in rural central Pennsylvania, where he formed many fond memories playing in the local apple orchards and enjoying his surrounding environment. His relocation and love for the DC area came about while attending American University, where he majored in mathematics and competed on the wrestling team. After graduating, Tom decided he truly desired to pursue a career in the green industry and began to work for a local landscape company in Virginia. He now oversees the Garden Management department, in addition to many other great contributions to the daily operations of Surrounds. Tom enjoys spending time with his wife and two children when he is not participating in various adventure races around the United States.
Margaret Miley, Landscape Designer
Margaret is a landscape designer who spends a lot of time in the field working with the crew. She states, “I’m part foreman, part designer, part whatever I need to be.” Margaret oversees the design and installation of annual plant rotations and container arrangements for Surrounds customers, in addition to creating designer gardens. Margaret describes herself as part artist and part scientist, since, “I have to know how everything works and I have this passion to create.” Indeed, her education and career path have bounced her back and forth between art and science. An early interest in floral design won Margaret apprenticeships with award winning designers in Los Angeles and in Kansas City. During her stay in Los Angeles, designer Phil Rowanda taught her a form of spiritual flower arranging called Ikebana. Loving the work but sensing its limitations as a career choice, she returned to school. She studied greenhouse crop production at George Washington University and then started managing nurseries where she became expert at identifying insect and disease issues. Here, she picked up the nickname “Bug Lady.” At Surrounds, Margaret has finally found a place where she can exercise both the scientific and artistic sides of herself every day. On the weekends, she enjoys spending time in the outdoors with her dog and working on the construction of her new home in Bluemont. She also enjoys visiting all of the local botanical gardens, as sources of inspiration.
Heather Wilson, Gardenista
Heather Wilson joins Surrounds with 15 years of experience in the green industry. She earned a Bachelor of Science in landscape architecture and a minor in horticulture from Virginia Tech. Heather grew up in southern Virginia, where spending countless time outside after school and on the weekends was the norm. This opened up the doors to her imagination. Many hours were spent sketching scenic landscapes down by the creek behind her house and pulling up “rocks”, more like boulders, on sleds to create a hidden garden entered only through an archway of beech trees that eventually grafted themselves together. The beauty of the American beech, a true anchor specimen in the forest, created one of “nature’s rooms” becoming her source of passion for plants and how layering them really does create walls, outdoor rooms, and artwork. Early in life, landscape architecture was not a profession that Heather was familiar with. Yet, after an internship at The American Horticulture Society headquarters at River Farm in Alexandria, Virginia, her eyes had been opened to an exciting new career. Designing gardens to connect people with nature and creating garden spaces that became uniquely their own was now her ambition!
Outside of work, Heather enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. She also loves to tinker in her own garden, create children’s gardens, fairy gardens, dog playgrounds, as well as go biking, skiing, and hiking.
Tyler Maly, Garden Manager
Tyler grew up on a farm where he learned that if you say you are going to do something, you have to do it. That sentiment is demonstrated today in his commitment to thoroughly educate himself in his career. Tyler double majored in Landscape Architecture and Landscape Management at Oklahoma State University. During that six-year program of studies, he also completed three internships. At the first, in Pueblo, Colorado, he worked construction with a small company and gained experience in landscape installation. He went on to intern with a company in Albuquerque where he got hands on experience with irrigation system installation and repair. His third internship was at Surrounds. Here, he says, “I felt all my schooling came into play. I felt I was able to use everything I had learned.” Although his choice is to work on the Garden Management side of Surrounds, his design background enables him to interpret a landscape plan and fully understand what an architect is trying to accomplish and why. “I understand them and can speak the same language. Also, I can sell designs because I know how to talk about them.” When not working, Tyler enjoys spending time with his wife and Labrador retriever.
Scott Mendenhall, Garden Manager
Scott took a leap after graduating from Oklahoma State University by leaving home and joining the Surrounds team. He was born and raised in Oklahoma City, then moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma to complete his collegiate studies. Originally, Scott studied mechanical engineering, yet quickly found an affinity for horticulture. Ultimately, Scott earned a Bachelor of Science in landscape management. He was very active in the OSU landscape management club, in which he attended various green industry conferences as a student ambassador. He also possesses many professional experiences while holding jobs and participating in internships with multiple companies throughout the central United States. These include the OSU botanic gardens, plant nurseries, landscape studios, and design/build landscaping companies. Garden management is a perfect marriage for Scott’s various talents and abilities.
Despite originally being his plan-b, choosing a career in landscaping, “has been one of the best decisions that I have ever made!” Scott credits his high school Sunday school teacher with sparking his interest in our industry, “I worked for his landscape company spending half-days in the yard one summer keeping things clean and tidy, organizing chemicals, irrigation parts, and grouping plants for the next day’s projects.” Outside of work, Scott values living a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise and cooking healthy meals. He also enjoys searching Netflix for his next favorite show!
Landscape Construction Associates
Kohler Brafford, Director of Business Development
Kohler’s achievement did not stop when he earned a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture from the University of Georgia. Kohler is now an ISA Certified Arborist, Certified Horticulturalist, Certified Landscape Technician, and a Virginia Certified Pesticide & Fertilizer Applicator. High energy and high standards are what he brings to his role as a Surrounds Garden Manager. Kohler states, “I’m a worker and when I put my mind to something, it’s 110% focus. I like getting results.” Kohler’s passion for landscaping began when he was 14. He obtained a workers permit and spent two summers on the grounds crew at the Norwood School, where he had been a student through 8th grade. During the third summer, he used his savings to buy his own landscaping equipment and hired himself out to do grounds maintenance at community pools in and around Potomac. He says he feels fortunate to have his job at Surrounds because of the supportive company culture. He states, “We are given the tools we need to be successful. Everybody is always available to help further your learning and personal development.” Kohler not only works hard, he plays hard. He is a snowboarder, SCUBA diver, and enjoys duck and bow hunting. Kohler is truly an avid outdoorsman.
Jesse Edwards, Production Manager
Jesse’s career path demonstrates that he is unusually comfortable with change. Initially, he attended West Virginia University to study computer and electrical engineering, then discovered that he was uninspired by those areas of study. Jesse then decided to change his major to Landscape Architecture. While studying landscape architecture, Jesse finally found something he could get passionate about. In 2008, he completed an internship with Surrounds and never looked back. Graduating in 2010 with his bachelor’s degree, he accepted a full-time position with Surrounds as a landscape technician and quickly moved up to foreman. In 2012, the company brought Jesse indoors where he could apply his computer and design skills working as an assistant landscape architect. In 2014, Jesse began assisting the production department with purchasing and analytics. He is now Operations Manager for the construction division of Surrounds, helping to manage schedules and crews from behind the scenes. Jesse’s talent for critical thinking and his ability to hear the opinions of others is a key factor in the success of the department. Jesse believes, “I’m not telling my managers what to do. I’m working with them to come up with a plan.” In his free time, Jesse enjoys spending time on his hobbies and working on revitalizing his 1900s farmhouse with his wife.
Andrew Childs, Job Manager
During his 2nd semester at Penn State, Andrew took a History of Architecture course that stirred his interest in landscaping. He was inspired by the different design styles and environments that designers have created through history. Andrew himself, wanted to be a part of history. However, rather than draw the idea, he wanted to be able to dig in and actually build it. Andrew recalls, “I knew I didn’t want to be indoors sitting at a desk.” He graduated from Penn State in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Contracting, with a focus in the design/build aspect of the industry. He then began his career at Surrounds as a foreman-in-training and is now a Job Manager. Andrew is a Certified Landscape Technician (CLT). Andrew enjoys the challenge of getting the grading just right when laying patio surfaces, especially around pools. It is a tricky process of digging, layering, leveling, and setting pavers that must be perfectly installed throughout each step. He says his schooling gave him the necessary foundation in theory and industry standards. Yet, through the experience of doing the work season after season, he has gained the ability to troubleshoot and solve problems in real time. Outside of work, Andrew enjoys spending time with girlfriend in their newly purchased home.
Oscar Cruz, Job Manager
Oscar was working as a mason for a construction company when he met Barry Schneider. He began subcontracting for Surrounds and after one year, Barry offered Oscar a full-time position. Right away, Oscar began to learn different techniques and new skills as a landscaper. When there was not stone work to do, Oscar pitched in on the landscaping crews. Soon, he was promoted to Subcontractor Supervisor, a position in which he managed major construction details such as fireplaces, grill stations, and outdoor kitchens. He has become an essential member of the Surrounds team. Oscar reflects, “I feel lucky to have found Surrounds. I have grown. I am better at what I do now and I can make good decisions.” Oscar devotes his weekend time to his wife and three little girls. He says that being a father has been a learning experience and that his children are very smart. He acknowledges, “They make me grow, too.”
Elias Dionicio, Job Manager
Elias is a construction project manager and has been with the company since its beginning. He is responsible for site layout, job supervision and the project budget. He orders equipment and materials, schedules subcontractors and helps facilitate a logistics meeting at 6:30am sharp every day. He got his start in landscaping as a laborer with Chapel Valley Landscapes, and then moved to Scapes where he met Barry and Howard. They invited him along when they set out to start their own business, Surrounds. He said okay and took the leap. That was in 2003. When Elias was a youngster growing up in Guatemala he decided to quit school and go to work. But, at age 34, he returned to school because he wanted to learn to speak fluent English. In 2010, after five years of adult education classes at Woodson High School, Elias received his high school diploma. He says that he has gained a lot of knowledge working for Surrounds and feels lucky to be a part of the team: “I think this is a great company. Whoever joins this company—you win the lottery if you stay.”
Dave Larson, Job Manager
Dave earned a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Contracting with an emphasis in design/build from Penn State University in 2013. He tossed his graduation cap into the air and before it hit the ground, he was at Surrounds starting his career. Dave is a Certified Landscape Technician (CLT) with a specialty in hardscape materials and techniques. He says the DC area has provided him the opportunity to gain extensive experience working on complex landscape projects that are rare in other areas of the country. He is passionate about designs of all types and brings his design background to his role as a Job Manager. Dave says it gives him a better understanding of the architect’s intention when he reviews plans. Some of Dave’s strengths are listening and connecting with homeowners. He explained that, “once a job is sold by the architect, I am the face of the company. I see the homeowner every day. That is one of my strong suits, being able to talk to them and bring their thoughts and concerns to the designer.” He has come to realize that working with plants and being outdoors is what matters most to him, in addition to, “taking a blank slate landscape and cultivating it into something that will change the way the client lives in the outdoors.” Dave enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, especially when they are all kayaking together.
David Platas, Job Manager
David grew up in Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico. He remembers every day when school let out, he and his friends would go to the ocean or to swim in the nearby river. Before his time with Surrounds, David was employed as a mechanic’s assistant at an auto maintenance shop specializing in Mercedes and BMWs. However, working indoors did not suit him. When his brother, Juan, invited him to apply for a position at Surrounds, David did not hesitate. He started as a landscaper in 2010 and seized each opportunity to learn new skills and take on increasing responsibility. In time, he moved up to assistant foreman, then foreman. Now he is a Job Manager. He says, “This is a company where, if you want to learn, they will teach you.” David enjoys laying out patios and driveways because there are so many details and because the work requires meticulous planning. He receives much satisfaction after seeing a job come to fruition and the clients smile at their new outdoor environment. David spends his free time with family and enjoys attending weekly Bible study with his wife and son.
Administrative Support Staff
Jesse Kirlin, Purchaser
Jesse is the Materials Purchaser and Inventory Manager, overseeing the flow of materials from vendors through dispatch to jobsites. Jesse grew up in Atlanta and attended the University of Georgia where he earned a bachelor degree in Horticulture. While studying, he realized he has been a horticulturist-in-training his entire life—investigating plant anatomy and physiology at an early age in his grandmother’s yard, enjoying photographing the natural world, and always having an interest in public and private gardens. When Kohler Brafford gave a presentation on Surrounds to one of his landscape classes, his interest in high-end residential landscaping spiked. Jesse spent the summer of 2016 interning at Surrounds where he was able to put what he had learned in both the Landscape Architecture and Horticulture programs to use, working in both the field and the office. “Here at Surrounds, I am able to combine my love of plants and background in sales and customer service by sourcing beautiful plants for our clients and helping them create a personal oasis.” Outside of work, Jesse enjoys playing golf, going anywhere with live music, and watching collegiate and professional sports.
Louanne Sigler, Office Manager
When asked about her attitude towards work and professionalism, Louanne does not hesitate to credit her dad as being her most important influence. She recalls, “All of my business aspirations came from him. He did not have a college degree and he was very successful. Just watching how he prepared for a sales meeting gave me the idea of the kind of professional person I wanted to be.” Louanne is a graduate of Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia and a Delta Sigma Phi. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing. Louanne spent ten years working as a production coordinator in different industries. Her position at Surrounds draws upon her business background. Here she is assists with finance, accounting, and human resources. Looking back over her career she says, “I realize how much I care about the companies I work for. It is really important to enjoy who you work with. I think that makes a huge difference.” In her free time, Louanne enjoys spending time with her husband and three children. She especially enjoys cooking and baking for her friends and family.
Mike Flickinger, Controller
Mike graduated from the University of South Carolina where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and Management. Before joining Surrounds, Mike worked in contract accounting in the rent & royalty department of a global food service management company. He also served a year in AmeriCorps as the volunteer coordinator at Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Montgomery County. Mike sees accounting as a process of reconstructing data to make it easy for a client or employer to understand and make use of that information. Mike spends much of his time outdoors. Some of his favorite activities are hiking, playing with his dog, and golfing. He has also developed an interest in woodworking and building. In fact, one of the reasons he joined Surrounds is because he liked the idea of working for a business that is actively engaged in creating, building, and enhancing the environment.
Jo Flanagan, Office Assistant
Jo is always ready to lend a helping hand. One of her true loves in life is caring for neighbors, friends, and family. Jo brings that joy of helping others to her position at Surrounds. Here, she assists the administrative team wherever she is needed, particularly in accounting and human resources. Additionally, she is responsible for taking incoming calls. This task capitalizes on one of Jo’s personal strengths; her talent for talking with people and making them feel comfortable. Due to her intense interest in learning new things, Jo has a very diverse background. She holds an Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies from Fayetteville Community College in North Carolina and is a certified mediator in that state. As a paralegal, she worked on domestic, criminal, real estate and employment case, but her favorite was adoptions. She moved to the mortgage industry where she quickly earned the title of vice president, then moved again into the security industry. There she worked as an office manager, proposal manager, and worked on business development. Jo enjoys many hobbies and activities with her family such as hiking, camping, golf, and fishing. She has been happily married for over 40 years to her devoted husband, who retired after a long (and sometimes dangerous) career in the military