I learned about flowers from my Nana. Weekends during my teen years were spent working in the back room of my Nana’s shop, Camille’s Florist.
"Please Nana, could I work out front at the counter wrapping flower bouquets for customers?" "No dear…learning is out back." So, behind the curtain I went, getting used to cold hands, dirty water buckets, rose thorns, and endless deadheading. With time, I didn’t need to replicate her floral designs; I became comfortable creating my own. I miss that workshop and my time with her. During one of our last lunches together she said, ”You should do this for a job.”
Years later, I left the city to purchase a small house which sat perfectly on an acre of land in North Andover’s "out-country section." This property, shrub-less and grass-less, would become another workshop. It was my first garden and landscape school. Here, I came to learn the other part of flowers and horticulture which my Nana didn’t teach me: the dirt.
I cleared this land and its terrain slowly became my palette. I visited all local nurseries learning native New England plants. My neighbors were pleased at the progress of this once eyesore of a property, but were confused at what had become my new obsession.
During those ten years, I created a flower and shrub database, kept a garden journal highlighting my failures and successes, and maintained a library of my favorite garden books and magazines which I then read over every winter. I learned when to prune, what plants to divide, what plants to leave for winter interest, fungi, pest control, and more. Having no iPhone, there were countless trips to local nursery experts with paper photos and sample specimen in plastic bags.
When I sold that property in 2004, the real estate agent said, "Tremendous curb appeal. You should do this for a job."
Since then I have landscaped two properties, joined multiple garden and landscape organizations, attended adult education lectures, webinars and workshops, shared plants with neighbors, and landscaped yards for my family and friends. Perhaps the most valuable series of classes were at Betsy Williams’ Training Center in Andover in 2013. Leaving her classes with dirty fingernails and a beautiful product, the fabulous Betsy Williams – a master gardener, lecturer, teacher, and writer – has become an amazing resource for me. Kind and genuine, her mentoring has allowed me to understand and connect with the horticultural industry.
So, what finally pushed me to offer a seasonal landscape garden business? While working in my front yard late last fall, a car pulled up to my curb. Out came the voice of a sweet, yet no nonsense woman. She said, "My husband and I drive out of our way to see what you are doing in your yard. You should do this for a job!"