If you’ve visited our Glen Arbor campus, you’ve no doubt enjoyed a stroll through our cheerful perennial gardens. Meet our talented horticulturalist, Sue Skellenger, who makes our gardens grow.
Q: When did you get your start gardening?
A: I was born into it. My parents were avid gardeners of both vegetables and ornamentals. My father was from the West Coast and my mother from the East Coast so I was introduced to a wide variety of plants when I was young.
Q: When did it turn into a career?
A: I went to college for Graphic Design. In my third year I had a house fire and lost all my portfolio. Back then it was actual art, nothing stored on computers. So with nothing ventured, nothing gained, and nothing to show for my college days, I began working at a retail nursery utilizing my love of plants and design. That was back in 1981. I took a Master Gardening class that year and the next became a Michigan Certified Nurseryman. I have proudly been in the industry for 40 years.
Q: How long have you been gardening for Cherry Republic and how did your current position come to fruition, so to speak? Had you already been working at CR in another role?
A: I am starting my 7th year. I had worked for Cherry Republic seasonally for about 20 years from winter until spring doing various tasks in the warehouse. Bob approached me to see if I was interested in coming to Glen Arbor to be the gardener. I was concerned that the job would not be full time and hold my interest. But Bob had plans that would fix that. He was also looking for a “greeter” to go along with that gardener role. I still chuckle at that title.
Q: So then what is your official “title” at Cherry Republic?
A: I am the horticulturist, manage the grounds, book the entertainment and yes, greet, which is rewarding and entertaining every single day.
Q: What goes into the planning process for the Glen Arbor campus?
A: The campus is in perpetual growth and change. I am about the 4th gardener to tend these grounds, so there is a real mixture of styles in these beds. Keeping a flexible vision and timeline has been helpful. Public landscaping is very different from what you might do at home.
Q: Is it pretty much a year-round effort?
A: I do think about it year round, and there is plenty of campus upkeep even when the gardens are resting. I keep abreast of new plant varieties and try to stay up to date on pests and diseases.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about overseeing the garden?
A: I have come to love designing the planters and window boxes. I enjoy talking about plants with visitors. Whether they are from Michigan, Texas, or California there is always something to learn or share. I am often the first face people see, and making them feel welcome is satisfying, too! I also love dogs as much as I love plants. It is a big thrill meeting breeds that I have only read about. I always have biscuits in my pocket and am more likely to remember the dog’s name than yours. No offense.