How did this all begin? It all started when I was a child. My next door neighbor had a vegetable garden, and I would go out and help dig in the horse manure he would haul in on the truck. He sometimes would let me plant radishes, and I was thrilled that they grew into something I could eat. I remember my first lesson in political systems came from a row of yew shrub my father was pruning. There were three shrubs, lining the walkway to our house, and the middle shrub was noticeably shorter than the outer shrubs. I noticed all the neighbor ‘s shrubs were even, so I thought dad would cut back the outer shrubs to match the middle shrub. When he only tidied up the shrubs and left the middle shrub lower, I asked him why he left it this way. He told me that if he cut back the two outer shrubs, this would be the communist way of pruning. He would rather let the middle shrub catch up, than to prune back the outer shrubs. This has developed into the well-known Capitalism vs. Communism Yew theory.
Then came the real turning point … watching Crockett’s Victory Garden on PBS with my father back in the mid 70’s. One fine early summer Sunday at the local landscaping supply store I chanced upon a 6-pack of neglected leggy pepper plants. I remembered Crockett’s advice on planting tomatoes and peppers deeper than they grew in their pots and asked Dad if he would get the plants for me (they were so far gone that the checkout clerk didn’t even charge him for them). I planted them on the corner of our property and they made a glorious comeback. During that summer I was given a copy of the Crockett’s Victory Garden book for my birthday. After tasting my own fresh peppers that fall, I was hooked. I had a vegetable garden that was the envy of the neighborhood. The next step in my journey was college. I started my college career as a Biological Science major at Cook College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. As a freshman I was taking all those infamous core science classes, like chemistry, biology, and calculus In my sophomore year when I began to look at electives, it occurred to me that I should link my interest in biology with my love of gardening. I proceeded to switch to Plant Science, which is the degree I graduated with. Those four years gave me a strong science background in horticulture which helps me to this day in understanding underlying cause and effects in the garden.
After graduating with a Bachelors of Science, I had this notion that the world would fall at my feet and I would be very employable. The only positions I could find were in indoor landscaping, so my first work was as a horticulturist for an indoor landscaping company. Although I learned a lot, I felt like the Guga Din (oh water boy) and it was not long before I yearned for something more. The great outdoors beckoned me. Realizing that most of the open spaces in suburban New Jersey were owned by the State or the County, I began to search the Federal job opportunities bulletin at my local library. What an experience. This was my first look at bureaucracy. To make a long story short, after two years and a lot of leg work, I managed to get a job as Horticulturist at the James A. McFaul Environmental Center, Bergen County Parks, Wyckoff, NJ. This is where I really began to sharpen my horticultural (and other) skills. The Environmental Center was both a wildlife sanctuary, and gardens. It has a trail through a secondary growth wetland forest. I gradually became involved in both the horticultural and wildlife aspects of the park. In addition to my duties as Horticulturist I also held the responsibilities of a Naturalist and got involved in native wildlife rehabilitation, and display of native animals. During the 4 years I spent at the center, 2 years were spent as an adjunct professor of Horticulture at Bergen Community College. During the last year I was the co-host, with my co-worker Dave Dahnke, of a live gardening radio show called “The Gardening Gurus” on 1500 AM WGHT Wayne, NJ and was on the Board of Directors at Skylands Association (NJ State Botanical Garden).
Looking for further ways to advance my career I applied for and was accepted to the Longwood Graduate Program. This is a two year program culminating in a M.S. in Public Horticulture Administration through the University of Delaware and funded through Longwood Gardens (Kennett Square, PA). After graduation I moved to Lakewood, Washington to be the Executive Director of Lakewold Gardens, a historic 10 acre garden in Lakewood, Washington. I subsequently became an instructor at Clover Park Technical College teaching Horticulture and spent one year teaching horticulture at Franklin Pierce High School before I became Professor of Horticulture and head of the Horticulture program at South Puget Sound Community College (SPSC). In 2014 SPSCC informed the staff of its intent to close the Horticulture Program. Things came full circle when I took the Executive Director’s position at Tenafly Nature Center just minutes from where I grew up in New Jersey. I set up my new garden in the woods spring of 2015.