I didn’t exactly intend to go into garden design. But looking back, it was inevitable. From the age of 4, I was out there on our property – planting, maintaining, updating and improving various gardens – most often working alongside my father, who was a talented, dedicated gardener.

I broke into the professional ranks with a high profile opportunity – as curator of the famed Presby Memorial Iris Garden in Upper Montclair, NJ. After three and a half years there, I started Mary’s Gardens and moved into residential and commercial garden design/installation. Many of the Montclair people I met back then became clients and friends through the years.

Gardening is more than just a job, more than a profession to me. I take great satisfaction in the happiness my clients derive from environments we help shape for them, how well-designed gardens complete and enhance people’s homes and daily lives. That starts with the plants themselves. We have great respect for nature, seeking only to direct and enable growth, blending with the layout, features and existing aesthetics of client properties. That’s the most important thing – to choose plants wisely, combine them artfully, and give them the space in which to grow naturally.

The design process is critical to what we do. Well before ground is broken and plants are placed, I work with my clients to come up with detailed, highly descriptive layouts and plans – to scale – plus comprehensive plant lists, including starting/final growth and sizes expected, plus complete instructions on maintenance and seasonal care.

Aside from commercial work, I also believe in giving back to the towns and people who have been so good to me. We just designed a reforestation plan for the Alonzo Bonsal Preserve, a well-known nature refuge and bird sanctuary between the towns of Montclair and Clifton. These are the natural green spaces we all share, so they must be preserved and improved.