Everything’s Coming Up Roses: Kathy Valentine of the Plant Professionals


Can you tell me a little about your background?

I grew up here in Michigan, near DeWitt, and started my formal education in a one-room rural school in the St. Johns school district. I loved growing up in a farming community, and I spent a lot of time outdoors on the family cash-crop farm, walking and bicycling to check on crops and observing wildlife. As a teen, I had a horse, and I find horses to be fascinating companions.

At MSU, I studied horticulture and botany and graduated in 1980. Those were days when a student could work their way through a college education and graduate with less than $1,000 in debt. I had the good fortune to work in both the teaching and the research greenhouses, working with graduate students and for professors, and gaining a lot of experience with a variety of bench crops.


What hobbies do you have?

I love to garden and observe wildlife, especially birds and insects. I read a broad variety of nonfiction, especially botany, horticulture and historical biographies. Animals, especially dogs and cats, have always been part of my daily life. And recently, we fenced a large vegetable garden, added a fire pit and patio, and now are in planning stages to build a cabin in the backyard. We have 40 acres, so there’s more than enough space. I enjoy travel and appreciate the wide variety of climates and landscapes in this country and beyond.


How do you like to spend time with your family?

My cooking skills come into play at holidays. I typically roast the main course and love to serve a feast when family or friends come to celebrate major holidays or birthdays. My mother was always quick to invite people to eat with our family when they might otherwise be alone, and I love continuing that tradition.


What do you do at The Plant Professionals?

I started as a plant tech and became a trainer and supervisor. Then I got into design, later became a partner and then finally bought the business. Over the years, the business added floral design, holiday decorating, and outdoor color planting and care.

Now I have a partner who is helping us grow in new and exciting ways, and a lot of my time is spent creating and reviewing design proposals and planning. We are currently building an enhanced hoop house, which is a type of greenhouse, that will expand our seasons and create more space for growth. I also enjoy helping with “make and take” classes where guests make their own centerpiece or decorate their own wreath with expert tips. I love the comradery in these groups – and, of course, we always serve snacks.


What aspect of your job do you enjoy the most?

I love helping people with the right plants for their project, whether a special event, a green wall, an interiorscape or even a landscape. We have a landscape designer on staff. I also enjoy matching people with positions and work that feeds their joy – people who love plants, and people often find a happy fit here.


Do you have any tips for people looking to keep plants in their homes or gardens?

A little research and planning are always helpful. In a garden, both the amount of sun and the quality of soil are key. In both cases, an experienced gardener or landscaper can easily point you in the right direction as to what plants will work and how to improve the soil quality. Mulch makes life so much easier by suppressing weeds, evening temperatures and reducing frost heave. What they don’t mention that I love is that 3 inches of wood mulch is better than a kneeler if getting down to prune, weed or cut flowers has become difficult.

Indoors, light is the biggest factor. Note the compass direction the natural light comes through the window from, and whether there is unobstructed access for the sun to reach the location where you want to add a plant. With this information, you will be able to select a good match for your spot. So often we fall in love with brightly variegated plants in the garden center or even the grocery, only to be shocked by how quickly they fail at home. Often these are high-light-requiring species that simply cannot acclimate to indirect light away from a south window or greenhouse.


Kyle Dowling

Kyle Dowling is an employee of M3 Group and is pursuing a writing degree at LCC. He enjoys fiction writing, video games and movies.

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