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  • Jennifer Jewell


A WAY TO GARDEN (2019, Timber Press) CELEBRATING 21 YEARS, Photo Courtesy of Margaret Roach. All rights reserved.


Robert Hanss and his daughter Catherine are a father-daughter duo in the Northeast working together to create and care for gardens and horticulture traditions and relationships that will last for generations to come. In this week following Father’s Day, and day before the Summer Solstice, they join us to talk about the changing nature of horticultural business models and the lasting legacy of family – landscapes included.

In his 35-year career, Bob Hanss has constructed award winning gardens and landscapes across the Northeast. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Cornell University and is a registered landscape architect in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and just last year his daughter Catherine joined him in the business. Catherine is also a graduate of Cornell and holds degrees in plant science and business.

The two work closely together in both Robert Hanss, Inc, landscape construction, and Landscape Collaborative, a high level horticultural and fine gardening endeavor that cares for many of the gardens they’ve constructed. In the latter, Bob serves as President, and Catherine as Accounts Manager. At Landscape Collaborative, the two work with plantsman and horticulturist Matt Mattus, to whom they refer in the interview.

Bob and Catherine, with wife and mother respectively, Michele, nearby, join us today from the studios of WBUR in Boston to talk about legacy, family, and the changing nature of a family owned business and creating spaces that will last far longer than either of them. Throughout our conversation we speak about how to cultivate a culture of caring for gardens, how to deepen horticultural literacy, and how to strike a dynamic balance between a love of plants and design and a good and sustainable business model.

“A landscape that becomes an essential part of one’s family, life-style, and property, requires the same fundamental components: a client dedicated to stewardship; a designer able to respond to a client’s changing needs; a contractor committed to the long-term; craftsmen who build to last, and durable materials that age with beauty."

Robert Hanss, Inc.

On this day before the summer solstice, and the full immersion into the summer season of light long days, heat, and I hope a little more play – it’s nice to remember that we are all in this together – as family, from the trees that offer us shade and breath, to food we prepare and eat and which literally help to build and sustain. We are all connected.

Join us again next week when we dive into the making of gardens that feed us more deeply in our first episode of Summer – we’ll be speaking with Lauri Kranz of Edible gardens LA – about her work in which she firmly believes and demonstrates all over urban LA that a Garden Can Be ANWHERE.

Follow along with Bob and Catherine's journey at Robert Hanss, Inc and at Landscape Collaborative, also on Instagram: landscapecollaborative/ and roberthanssinc/



Family – mothers – fathers – siblings – cousins. I’m one of those people from a pretty tightly knit extended family – for better or worse. Both my mother and my father were and are strong characters – loving and smart, talented and hard working in their individual ways. If it was my mother who grew me into the gardener I am, it's my father a wildlife biologist who made me into the nature lover I am.

It was outside among plants, trees, animals, rivers, mountains, and starry skies that my parents were at their lightest and most expansive. While no one articulated the other than human lives around us as ‘Family members’ it was demonstrated over and over in the way my parents cared for the other than human, and in the way they demanded that same sense of responsibility and care from their girls. To see my father read a river while surveying for aquatic life and health or while fly fishing, to watch him mimic for me with his hard working hands the particular way in which ducks and geese set their wings before landing in a field or on open water – is to know the place these other lives held in his life – and heart. Family can be tricky, challenging, frustrating, and heartbreaking – no two ways about it.

But especially in this wider view of who is family in ours days and lives – they’re also supremely rewarding in their constancy. In knowing and loving them back best we can, we become much more fully ourselves - our human family members and our more than human family members (such as our gardens and the many living beings therein).

One of the themes that really resonates with me in this conversation with Bob and Catherine is that idea of mentorship – of apprenticeship and of practical training. Of identifying the people around us – or who we’d like to be around – because of their experience, their wisdom, and their willingness to share what they know generously.

We all have more to learn and trying to stay open and listen for our own blind spots – horticulturally, culturally, emotionally, socially. That’s one of our goals here at CP – to expand what it means to garden and what gardening MEANS to us – what it looks like, what it sounds like it, how it changes the world. How any one place in time and space – including our own places – are always more than they seem.

This is a big theme in my own life right now and has come up a lot in recent episodes and in this month’s Viewsletter – my monthly email called a View From Here – it can include botanical thoughts, information on upcoming events, book or garden reviews, and more! These are often ideas and announcements I’ve been loving but I haven't been able to feature on the show.

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