Mike Rottas, Weston Perennial Grower

What do you love about this business and specifically about growing perennials?

This may seem a little strange, but even as a kid, I always loved the smell of plants growing in a greenhouse. I also just really enjoy being around plants but can’t explain specifically why that is. As a grower, I get to spend the day out in the nursery tending to the plants, which I find to be a great way to spend my time.

I like growing perennials because of the challenges inherent to growing such a broad spectrum of species and varieties. I enjoy the process of researching and developing protocols for each of the different plants we grow, trying to figure out everything from the size of the pot we should put the plant into, to the amount of fertilizer each plant should get, how much sun or shade the plant prefers, how much water they need, and how to prevent critters (for example, fungus, bacteria, deer) from eating them. And then learning from what we observe over the course of the growing season to tweak next year’s plan.

Why do you work here (what do you love about Weston Nurseries?)

Even before we moved to Massachusetts (from southeastern CT), I was aware of Weston Nurseries due to the work done here to develop the PJM Rhododendrons and Weston’s azaleas. The company has been a leading presence in the horticulture industry for over 90 years, so that had a lot to do with the decision to come on-board. I was also excited by the opportunity to help Peter and the team build a new on-site growing operation, literally from the ground up.

What do you want to accomplish in your job?

2020 is all about proof of concept; that we could re-establish a growing operation here on-site and produce perennials that can compete with other nurseries with respect to quality and price. The aspiration is to grow perennials that are good enough to sell at our retail stores while increasing our profit margin and to become their supplier of choice in the future.

What is your Favorite thing about nature?

In my professional career, I spent most of my time in an office or in the car commuting to/from work. For me, this was a soul-sapping experience. I much prefer working outdoors, being up and about all day, and having something tangible to show for our efforts.

I’m not sure that a perennial nursery is quite a “natural” environment, but I get a kick out of seeing the plugs and bare-root starting material grow up into beautiful plants that our customers will plant in their garden and enrich their lives.

Is there a garden you designed or one you’ve seen that stands out for you?

Outside of my work at Weston Nurseries, I have my own garden design business. This Spring I designed a butterfly/pollinator garden for a great client who wanted to convert a large chunk of her lawn into a sanctuary for birds and insects. I really enjoyed working on that one!

My favorite local garden is Garden in the Woods in Framingham, which is part of the Native Plant Trust. I’ve been a horticulture volunteer there for the past three years and we’ve been family members for over a decade. Their mission is to conserve and promote New England’s native plants to ensure healthy, biologically diverse landscapes, and that resonates with me.

Is there a funny, sad, scary, interesting or otherwise noteworthy story you think about when you think about your job or the industry that you’d be willing to share?

Back in April when we were potting, let’s just say the weather wasn’t all that cooperative. Between the rain, snow and wind, it was challenging to be productive and efficient, but the potting crew had a positive attitude the whole time. Big thanks go out to them for sticking with it and contributing to our success so far!

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