Blooming Genius
Erica M. Boston and her team at Binkley Horticultural Services Inc. create and maintain beautiful gardens of all sizes for clients throughout the Delaware Valley
by Leigh Stuart

Few sights are more welcome than the lush grasses and colorful blossoms that spring to life after a long gray winter, and now is the time to start sowing those seeds for spring. For Erica M. Boston, owner and founder of Binkley Horticultural Services Inc., this is especially true, as she has dedicated her career to the health and maintenance of plantings of all kinds.

In 2002, Boston graduated from the prestigious two-year Professional Gardener Program offered by Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square. During the intensive course of study, Boston completed 42 classes in subjects including plant identification, design, integrated pest management, horticultural research, nursery management and arboriculture.

She and her classmates assisted the regular staff in maintenance of areas including Longwood’s greenhouse, conservatory and nursery. They even took shifts working in the trees with the arborists.

“At Longwood, you got exposed to a lot of different plants,” she says. “Some are a little out of the ordinary, beyond the typical hydrangea or Knock Out rose. We slept, ate and breathed horticulture. From the learning of plants to integrated pest management to all the details of soil, anything you can imagine in the field of horticulture, including design.”

This extensive education provided Boston a solid foundation upon which to build her professional career. After completing her Longwood studies, she went straight to work as a full-time gardener for the Dilworthtown Inn in West Chester.

Boston, who was tasked with creating seasonal displays and maintaining plant beds for the Dilworthtown, began to pick up side jobs here and there for clients who’d been impressed with her work with the inn. Over time, these side jobs became more and more abundant and eventually Boston decided to leave the Dilworthtown Inn—though it remained a client—to start her own company, Binkley Horticulture, in 2007.

Now, what started as a company of one has grown to include a crew of six skilled employees and a shop operating out of Gibraltar Gardens in Wilmington, Del. This location is the base of operations for Binkley’s work throughout the tristate area for both commercial and residential clients.

Two such residential clients are Bob and Debbie Norris, a husband-and-wife pair who have been Binkley Horticulture clients for more than five years. Bob Norris explains that he hired Binkley on the recommendation of another landscaper who couldn’t quite offer what he and his wife were looking to establish.

“We had been struggling to find a good gardener,” says Bob, explaining that they sought an experienced horticulturalist to help not just establish but maintain a thriving landscape throughout more than half of the 17 acres surrounding their former Landenberg home. “We wanted a company that could really make our property ‘pop.’ We sort of imagined a mini-Longwood Gardens feel, with a lot of color and variety and texture. We tried a number of great landscapers, but they didn’t quite get, or couldn’t achieve, what we hoped.”

One feature Debbie really wanted, Bob explains, was a cutting garden, from which flowers could be cut and taken into their own home or the homes of friends. Binkley not only was able to accommodate this request but also delivered above their expectations.

“One of the neat things about Erica’s team is that they really seasonally adjust the landscaping to take advantage of the different varieties of plants and shrubs that shine here in different seasons,” he says. “At Christmastime, she’d bring holly and use that to decorate the landscaping; at Thanksgiving, she’d bring little mini pumpkins to set in a teepee. She really goes the extra mile. She is a cross between a great florist and a great gardener.”

The Norrises recently left their property behind for a new home in Kennett Township, but they have already had the Binkley team out to work on their new grounds. Bob adds that he plans to see the Binkley team more as he and Debbie continue to develop the property. His advice: “Give [Boston] a call; she’s darn good at what she does.”

In addition to leading the Binkley Horticulture team, Boston is active in a number of local professional organizations. She is a member of the Delaware Center for Horticulture, the Perennial Plant Association, the Delaware Nursery Landscape Association, Garden Gate Garden Club and Longwood’s Professional Gardener Alumni Association.

She is most active with the Delaware Grounds Management Association (DGMA), which she serves as director. It was during the course of her duties as DGMA in fact that she met Certified Grounds Manager Don Savard, who she now works with at the Salesianum School in Wilmington.

“She’s been a very, very good leader with DGMA,” says Savard, who has been a member of the group for 20 years. “She stepped up and took a leadership role and a lot of good things have happened on her watch. … [DGMA] is probably stronger today than it was years ago, back in its heyday.”

Savard, who is athletic facilities and grounds manager for the Salesianum School, hired Boston and her team to help care for the school’s landscaping beds several years ago. He has not been disappointed.

“She’s very, very easy to collaborate with,” he says. “She’s a good listener. She has a lot of expertise. Horticulturally, she knows what works and what doesn’t work. Between what I come up with and what she comes up with, we can have a very good discussion about what’s going to work.”

The two have been collaborating for nearly five years now on what will look best at the school, including what types of flowers—such as petunias and marigolds in the school’s colors, yellow and white.

“She’s very well respected and what’s nice is she specializes in her brand of horticulture,” Savard adds. “She’s not cutting grass and she’s not competing against anybody; she’s filling a niche that really very few people in this market can fill.”

Savard notes that members of Boston’s crew also have consistently proven their skill and reliability throughout the years. Boston adds that her team of gardeners is constantly working to grow its knowledge base.

“Our head gardeners continue to educate themselves by taking courses at Longwood, the University of Delaware, or any courses available through local organizations,” Boston notes. “We definitely take a hands-on approach, and there is always an experienced horticulturalist on the garden or property site.”

This means that no matter the size of a project, whether it is an urban container garden or a sprawling landscape of 10 acres, from plant care to weed control to hand edging and mulching, the professionals of Binkley Horticulture can make any client’s dream garden a reality.

Binkley Horticultural Services Inc.
P.O. Box 198
Montchanin, DE 19710

Photograph by Alison Dunlap