Sargent's Expert Feature - Cathy Maxson, Perennial Production Manager
There’s a good chance you’ve garnered information in the past from the Sargent’s “Grower Girl” with her extensive garden knowledge-packed blog posts on our website…. but we wanted to turn the writing around and introduce you to Cathy Maxson, our Perennial Production Manager!
Cathy is celebrating her 20th anniversary at Sargent’s where she started her career as a summer watering team member, tending to the care of the plants in the greenhouses. “I really enjoy seeing the plants grow all the way from tiny plugs to full grown blooming plants,” Cathy says. Her passion for all things nature drove her to constantly learn while on the job over her many years working with plants and utilizing continuing education through her horticulture industry connections and resources.
“She is incredibly knowledgeable, always looking for ways to improve,” Nick Sargent says, “But she is also a wonderful individual to have on our team! She is full of enthusiasm and always has a fantastic attitude.”
Cathy shares her extensive knowledge and joy on a bi-weekly basis with a group of Sargent’s customers through the “Kitchen Garden” class that started in early May. The class, which runs through September, allows the class to have hands-on experience in a community garden setting on a plot at our north store. Cathy, along with other Sargent’s experts share gardening information where classmates then apply what they’ve learned in the field. Throughout the season, they then enjoy the fruits of their labor! They started with cool season crops of carrots, beets and potatoes. “It’s so exciting to see the garden come together,” she says!
A simple tool that she incorporates into her work tending to the “Sargent’s Grown” perennials and also producing successful gardens of her own is her gardening journal. “Be patient and take notes,” Cathy says. “Gardening can be a lifelong learning experience and if you don’t keep track of the successes and failures, it is hard to improve from year to year.”
In her journal, Cathy boils down most ideas to two simple questions: Is the plant “happy” and does it look good in its particular location?! Some specifics that fall under one of those two questions would be: Does the plant get the right amount of sun? Is it too tall in that spot because it’s hiding a plant behind it? Is it wind blown in that area? Is the plant in too much shade now as a neighboring tree has grown? She then uses those notes to plant a more beautiful and prolific garden the next year!
One area that Cathy is currently learning more about and tracking the success in her notes is with the growth and use of native perennial plants. “The more research that comes out, the more it shows that native insects and birds are very dependent on not just A grass, but THAT grass or flower,” Cathy says. “Monarch caterpillars, for instance, only feed on Asclepias (milkweed). If those go, so do the monarchs. So if we don’t have those plants, we don’t have those insects, we don’t have those birds…the circle of life, the food chain is massively disrupted.”
With her vast experience growing and using such a variety of plants, she says it’s difficult to choose just a single favorite in any season. “I like many different ones for different reasons,” Cathy says. “Peonies because they’re beautiful. Native plants as they bring in the bees and butterflies. Variegated Irises because they smell like grape pop! Salvia as they’re always loaded with honey bees and butterflies, and bloom for a long period. Gaillardia (Blanket Flowers) because they attract Skippers.”
Even when Cathy isn’t surrounded by plants amongst the Sargent’s greenhouses and her gardens, Cathy can be found surrounded by nature in her free time. She loves to spend her time exploring area woodlands. From hunting morel mushrooms in the spring, picking blackcaps and elderberries in the summer, looking for wild grapes in the fall. Cathy concludes, “Really, any day out in the woods is a perfect day.”