About

Catherine Volic | Landscape Designer | Boston MetrowestCatherine Volic: twenty years of professional horticultural experience

My childhood memories of playing outdoors remain vivid to this day: floating tent caterpillars on stick rafts in water-filled potholes; making mud pies, embellished with rhododendron leaves; using a vintage Boy Scout knife my dad gave me to carve pieces of wood; rolling down the front yard hill with the neighborhood kids; and collecting fireflies on muggy summer nights.

This love of being outdoors led to my first job at the 2000-acre park and lake next to my home. There, outside the visitor center, my interest in natural landscape design was sparked by a little water garden pond tucked in among native plantings. I was enthralled by how the setting drew in butterflies, dragonflies and tiny frogs, bringing them close enough for observation within the larger context of the park. From that time I was determined to recreate such dynamic little worlds wherever I lived.

Sweetgum Horticulture | Garden Design | Fall Flowers

My horticultural career began in college, at a greenhouse and pick-your-own strawberry farm in Western Massachusetts, as well as a vegetable farm and organic market garden in Maryland. I planted, harvested, and sold the produce at Washington, D.C. area farmers’ markets. I also led nature programs for children at the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton, MA. After earning a B.S. in Plant Pathology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, I worked at the Eastern Native Seed Conservancy, an organization in the Berkshires dedicated to preserving heirloom vegetable seeds.

I then moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Central Virginia, where I jumped headfirst into the local farmingmovement. Every morning I rolled out of bed in the rambling farmhouse, crossed the lane to the farm store, and worked until dark marketing the products of our vegetable farm, orchard and five greenhouses. For four years, I grew annual and vegetable plants, designed perennial display gardens, and offered educational programs to schoolchildren who came to the farm to pick strawberries and pumpkins. I also arranged workshops for home gardeners and taught mixed container design, and loved every exhausting yet exhilarating minute of it.

Sweetgum Horticulture | Landscape Design | Greenhouses

In 2000 I started to work for Saunders Brothers Nursery, a large family orchard and wholesale nursery operation, where I was responsible for managing seventy greenhouses of annuals and perennials. Over the course of five years, I was in charge of choosing the plants we grew, designing mixed containers, and overcoming the challenges of growing hundreds ofvarieties of plants. I gave talks to other nursery professionals about how to grow annuals and perennials efficiently on a large scale, and consulted for garden center owners in Virginia on what plants to carry and how to display them in an organized, creative manner. I designed several display gardens, including a formal boxwood garden at the headquarters of the American Horticultural Society on the Potomac River.

Sweetgum Horticulture | Garden for Children | Butterfly garden

In 2006, I moved back to Massachusetts when my husband took a position as a professor at Wellesley College. After growing plants in greenhouses for years, I finally had the opportunity to shift my focus to professional landscaping. I have cared for dozens of gardens in the Boston Metro West area, where I have honed many fine gardening skills like detailed shrub pruning and perennial grooming, while at the same time designing annual, perennial and shrub beds and mixed containers.

Along the way came children of my own, and countless hours spent with them outdoors: digging in the garden;splashing in puddles after a summer storm; swinging in the hammock; watching monarch butterfly caterpillars nibbling on milkweed—all the while witnessing their wonder and delight as they interact with the natural world.

Why I started Sweetgum Horticulture

Playful gardens . . . I love playing outside with my children; looking at our flowers and all the little winged creatures that visit them; hanging sheets on the clothesline surrounded by fragrant vines; carrying our kitchen scraps through the dappled sunlight on the little path in the woods to the compost bin; and snuggling in our hammock under the trees. I would like to help you arrange your landscape and gardens to get as much joy from them as we do from ours.

Sustainable design . . . In the spring of 2011, I was sitting in a talk by Doug Tallamy, the author of Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants. He was explaining how homeowners can plant their yards with a diverse mix of native trees, shrubs and perennials to provide habitat that helps compensate for the rapidly dwindling food and shelter sources of our native songbirds. Suddenly, it dawned on me that I could use my yard as a means of creating biodiversity. With a little more research, I also discovered that my gardening choices could result in reduced home heating and cooling needs, slowing and filtering rainwater, and capturing carbon. Together, all the home landscapes designed with these goals in mind can have a significant positive effect on the environment. With my thoughtful design suggestions, you too can join the sustainable landscaping movement.

 

 

Area of Service

Sweetgum Horticulture is serving clients in the Metro West communities of Boston, MA, including Wellesley, Weston, Newton, Needham, Natick, Wayland, Lincoln, Dover, Sherborn and Sudbury.

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