About Christine

About Christine

My interest in horticulture began on a cross-country road trip with a high school friend in 1973. Nancy Jansch, and I had been planning the trip ever since her  graduation the year before. In order to earn money for our adventure Nancy  worked days for County Line Nursery, while I worked nights at a local factory. In June we loaded up Nancy's VW Bug with camping gear, two guitars, a Golden Gate Passport and headed west.

After a year working in the nursery Nancy spoke a different language, Latin, the language of plants. At Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario she showed me Abies balsamea with its short dark needles. Pinus ponderosa shadowed the Black Hills of South Dakota. I remember the first time I saw the Pacific Ocean. We were driving through a thick tunnel of Sequoia sempervirens then the sky opened up and below us crashed the Pacific. The Sequoias seemed to grow right into the ocean.

By January we were living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Nancy took a job in a boutique, later to study computer programming. That winter I thought I would give the nursery business a try and worked for Fowler's Nursery in Raleigh. My manager was an enthusiastic plantsman, and encouraged me to study for a degree in horticulture. By fall I was enrolled at Penn State University, later to transfer to Temple University where I received a Degree in Horticulture in 1977.

My emphasis at Temple was Greenhouse Management until I studied under Viola Anders. Try to imagine Julia Child teaching floriculture and design. That was Miss Anders. She introduced me to English Gardens through slide shows of her time spent gardening in England. Together we planted herbaceous perennial gardens and drifts of species bulbs like ribbons through the woodland. From that time forward I have never stopped designing and making gardens.

After college I was hired as the Greenhouse Manager for the Masonic Homes in Elizabethtown, PA.  I grew greenhouses full of cut flowers and arranged them to brighten the lives of the geriatric residents. Hanging baskets and small tree forms of Fuschia, Lantana and Geranium were grown to deck the gardens and terraces.  I grew bedding plants for seasonal displays around the extensive grounds and formal gardens where I designed flowerbeds adding blue Delphiniums and gold signet Marigolds. Did I mention that the Masonic Village is located less than four miles from Three Mile Island? You might recall the nuclear disaster we experienced at TMI in the spring of 1979. I was there.

In 1980, I was hired as the "answer lady" for W. Atlee Burpee Company.  These were the days before computers and email. I answered the horticulture "hot line" and used a typewriter to correspond with enthusiastic gardeners from all parts of the country. One day a week I worked at Fordhook Farm in Doylestown, PA with the Burpee trials managers. On a really hot day in August, I followed Lois Stringer as she wielded a huge machete walking to the watermelon trials field. Whack! She severed the victim in half and scooped out the tender, sweet heart of the melon. We whacked watermelons all day and evaluated them for taste and growing factors such as size, disease resistance, color, shape, etc. to determine if the description in the catalog was correct or to create descriptions for new entries the following year. I spent similar days, with the flower trials manager, the flowers just as sweet. At home my vegetable, herb and cut flower gardens grew to a half-acre.

I was hired in 1983 by Jimmy Biddle as head gardener at Andalusia, his estate and foundation along the Delaware River, north of Philadelphia. At Andalusia I employed all of my resources; designing, planting, and growing all of our plants in a small greenhouse. I maintained an array of annual and herbaceous borders, shrub borders, a formal rose garden, planted urns, cutting and vegetable gardens, as well as seasonal displays in the Gothic solarium. I kept the two mansions decked in floral arrangements and Christmas splendor. During evenings and weekends I continued course work at Temple University in  Landscape Design. I took courses until 1999, including computer-aided design (CAD).

1986 began my  years as an exhibitor at the Philadelphia Flower Show for Mr. Biddle. I  forced pots of bulbs for the Biddle residence and more pots for the show,  I grew prize winning tropical plants and pots of forced bulbs for the Biddles and more for the show. Over the years I accumulated 79 ribbons.

A wonderful opportunity came my way in 1991, when I was hired to install gardens designed by Penelope Hobhouse for Anne T. and Robert M. Bass at Rosecliff, their summer home in Seal Harbor, Maine. After reading all of Mrs. Hobhouse's books it was the most enlightening period of my career to meet and work with her. My knowledge of plant material expanded twofold and I continue to use much of that material in my designs today. Working in Maine sparked a renewed interested in native plant materials. After all, Winterberry, a deciduous Holly that holds its bright red berries all winter, grew wild on   the edges of ponds. And low bush Blueberries were used like groundcover. You will often find our native, Sweet Bay Magnolia, with its summer scented flowers, growing in one of my landscapes or one or more varieties of Winterberry providing winter color in lieu of a solid bank of evergreens.

By 1993 the Bass garden was finished. With a head full of inspiration I returned to Pennsylvania to start my landscape design business. Having always been self-made, I never thought I would find the day I had the funds to jump start a business. But, two winters in the wilds of Maine with the closest K Mart 50 miles away enabled me to save the money I needed. The goal of my business has always been to do what I love with as much intensity and integrity as I can afford. I use the same passion for the millionaire's   garden as for my neighbor's garden. I understand that not everyone can install an entire landscape with gardens in one season and will often give customers a "5 year game plan". Let me know when you are ready and I will design one for you.

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