I didn’t start out in gardening. Not even close. But life took me where I was meant to be and here I am – a garden designer, a horticulturist (aka a plant nut) and a flower farmer. Perhaps it really isn’t that odd as I was an environmentalist from an early age and my dream was to be a forester. Instead I ended up in engineering – which led to information technology – which led to a corporate career – which led to a desire to set my own course – which led to, well, back to the environment … Makes sense to me.
Now I live to garden and encourage/coach/teach/ everyone to garden. Hopefully what I know and what I do can help you create and nurture the garden you envision. We all have what we need in our souls, it just requires some knowledge to make it grow – and maybe a bit of life in between.
So, rather than a resume, let me share the life that informs my work.
Designing For me, garden design is about creating a space that meets the needs of both my clients and the plants. Sounds simple but often these two are at odds. The model many people have in their mind is one of organizing and controlling nature to make it look like a picture in a magazine. I call it exterior decorating. And yes, that is doable but at a price to both the client and the environment. My goal is to help create a garden that is in harmony with nature and my client’s lifestyle. That means a healthy ecosystem where people, plants, animals and insects are in balance. It also means a focus on organic and native gardening. And surprisingly enough, that means a garden that requires less expense and maintenance.
Doing In addition to my residential work, I am Head Gardener for the Town of Monroe, CT where I design and manage gardens at the parks and town buildings. It requires a focus on landscapes that need minimal maintenance and stand up to little (and big) feet, lawn mowers and snow plows AND look good through the seasons. The challenges here make residential gardens a walk in the park.
Growing In 2017 I started a new horticulture business, Hilltop Blooms, with my friend Allison Menendez. We grow and sell unique and stalwart (tough as nails) perennials and shrubs. We also grow cut flowers which we sell locally. We are located on the site of Hilltop Gardens Nursery, a quality landscape nursery that specializes in field-grown specimen conifers, trees and shrubs.
Teaching Sharing my knowledge and helping others feel more confident in their gardening efforts is what makes me tick. I teach gardening classes for the New York Botanical garden and local adult education. I am also a speaker for garden clubs and other organizations. I write on gardening topics for local publications and my blog.
Volunteering I am an Advanced Master Gardener and volunteer through my local UConn Extension Center which provides horticultural-related information to the community.
I am a member of my local garden club where I served as past president. I support the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut by acting as the Horticulture Chair and also the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show Photography Chair. Photography is a hobby and all the images on my websites are my own work.
I volunteer my time doing other work around my community such as the Woodland Garden at the Shelton Dog Park, and the garden design for Adam’s House, a grief counseling non-profit.
Connecting I am a member of the Connecticut Master Gardener Association, the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group (CIPWG), the American Horticultural Society, the American Conifer Society, the Urban Tree Foundation, the Garden Conservancy, CT NOFA (Connecticut Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association), Organic Consumers Association, GMO Free CT and the Connecticut Beekeepers Association.
Learning I love learning – science, art, philosophy – it all informs my work. I have a degree in horticulture where I focused on Landscape Design. I am trained in botany, plant pathology, soils, entomology, integrated pest management (IPM), woody and herbaceous ornamentals, vegetables, invasive plants, environmental factors that affect plant growth, and diagnostic techniques. As there is so much to learn in horticulture, I continue my studies with the University of Connecticut and the New York Botanical Garden, and industry conferences.
In addition to my horticulture background, I have a certificate in design from Parsons Design School (amazingly relevant to garden design) and an engineering degree from the University of Maryland (science I thought I would never use but do every day now).
Living In my spare time, I work on my own 1803 homestead and gardens (sadly not enough), do crafty stuff, cook, and kick-back when I can.
Thank you for spending time with me. Renée