Kent Greenhouse & Gardens
Spring is serenely making its presence known in the Tristate Region, greening lawns, budding trees and dotting the landscape with flowers.
“Mother Nature doesn’t know of our troubles and travails,” said Kent Greenhouse Designer and Project Manager Darrell Cherniske. “Things are happening, no matter what is going on in our lives.”
And, indeed, a lot is going on at Kent Greenhouse, a comprehensive landscape business and nursery that was started more than four decades ago by Bruce and Debbie Bennett. This year the Bennetts completed negotiations to sell the business to Hoffman Landscapes of Wilton. The business will continue to operate from its Kent location and its employees will be retained.
Cherniske, who has worked for the Bennetts for 27 seasons, said, “I have a nice legacy of clients after being here for so long but I have to introduce them to the new arrangements. People need to know what we can do for them.”
As successful as the Bennetts’ operation has been, Kent Greenhouse will now be able to provide even more services, provide comprehensive property care programs including weekly mowing, spring and fall cleanups, irrigation, plant health care and more.
“Everything we have offered in the past will remain intact for clients,” said Cherniske, “but our capabilities are expanding into areas where we have never ventured before. We’re comprehensive in what we can offer homeowners year-round.”
He noted that Kent Greenhouse has long been woven in the fabric of Litchfield County, as a major employer and a go-to source of horticultural materials and expertise. “It is the gateway to Kent from the South and even to the Berkshires,” he said “All those things that made it unique and funky over the years will remain in place.”
He said the design/build aspect of the business will be further strengthened, fully building out landscaping services provided. At the same time, the garden center will be maintained.
“The garden center allows us to bring in inventory that stirs the creative pot,” he said. “It allows clients to see what is in store for them and at the same time it gives our designers access to the materials they need.”
Cherniske works with fellow designer Deborah Woodhouse, and now has the support of landscape architect and new branch manager Brian Cossari. “We can also rely on the design office in Wilton which is robust, capable and innovative,” said Cherniske.
A transition in ownership and operation can be challenging in the best of times but it has been complicated this year by COVID-19. The greenhouse is deemed an essential service and has the benefit of being a largely outdoor enterprise. But that has not made the spring easy, according to Cherniske.
“One difficulty is that we had to front-end load our resources,” said Cherniske, ordering materials in winter when it was uncertain how the spring would unfold. “A lot of work went into getting to this point but we are sure we will be able to fill the proposals and designs we have out there. It’s been a huge effort but a successful one.”
The cool spring and the economic shut down gave the season a slow start. At first, customers shopped online and picked up from tables outside the shop. Now, tables have been set up outside and customers are able to browse and buy in the spring sunshine. “People are appreciative of being able to shop in safety for articles that bring cheer,” he said.
Landscape crews are being sent out to jobs, safely split up among vehicles. Cherniske said many second-home owners retreated to Connecticut more than a month ago and are eager to do things around their properties to enhance an experience that might stretch into late fall.
“They want to pursue landscape features that will have an immediate impact but without requiring too much maintenance in the future when they go back to being weekend residents. And they want to ensure that when life returns to normal, their investment will continue to hold its value.”
He suggested that large feature trees have a big impact immediately and that the weekenders’ continued presence this year can make proper watering easy. “If they water them well this season, it will not be as much of a chore in the future,” he said.
Other elements that bring immediate gratification are terrace areas that can be immediately used and are seen as improving the value of the property. Perhaps urged on by frequent use of their driveways, some people are also looking for practical upgrades such as rerouting and upgrading driveways.
“Lawns: We are getting a lot of calls about improving lawn quality,” Cherniske said. “They are not looking for a golf course look but for something that is reliable and durable.”
“And people are asking for a lot of summer blooms—which is kind of a traditional request,” he continued. “This year, they want to be able to cut blooms so they can bring them inside because they are going to be here for more than the weekend.”
At the same time, people are looking for flowers that do not require too much work. “They are looking for easy things. In the midst of the doom and gloom, people took note of daffodils and forsythia which were spectacular this year. Now they are looking for fall bulb plants and forsythia which are forgiving.”
With fear of shortages, there is also increased interest in vegetable gardens. Cherniske said that Kent Greenhouse will help design the gardens as a landscape feature that is attractive even when it is not in use.
When considering the landscapes of their properties, property owners should take a long view, according to the Kent Greenhouse designers. “We tell people to think about use patterns and what they want five or 10 years from now,” he said. Many homeowners will do this over the winter months and Cherniske predicts “a major boom in the industry next season.”
Many projects can be done in stages, he said, both to make them more affordable and to facilitate use of the property while the plan unfolds. “I also think that this year we need to be respectful of the fact that people may be at home and that we might have to operate differently on the site,” Cherniske said.