Martha B. Stephens: Inspired by mother and nature
Martha B. Stephens is our featured horticulturist for May. She provided a month's worth of inspiring photos, and spent time with Women in Hort doing the Q&A below. Thank you, Martha for sharing your story!
WinH: What is your current role in horticulture?
MBS:I work for Kendal-Crosslands Communities in Kennett Square, Pa where I am the horticulturist/naturalist. I manage 500 acres of grounds which include: a level 2 accredited arboretum as well as various meadows, trails, rain gardens, landscaped naturalistic gardens, ponds and container gardens. I work closely with the unique community of gracefully aging residents to help them improve on the natural and built environment around us.
WinH: As someone that recently transitioned positions, what is some advice you’d give to people when changing jobs and adapting to their new roles?
MBS: You must be able to adapt, be patient, persevere, and do not be quick to judge your fellow colleagues. Do not be afraid to speak up and know that your original job description can and should evolve as you reveal your strengths and passions. Know your worth and do your job better than you should because it is a male dominated industry and all eyes are on you!
WinH: What is your current favorite herbaceous plant, and one current favorite woody plant?
MBS: This is a very difficult question but currently my favorite herbaceous plant is Rudbeckia maxima. It is a great performer and mixes well with other plants in any type of garden plus it naturalizes by self-seeding. It’s elegant, bold and graceful! Picking a woody plant is also very difficult but right now I am all about Juniperus chinensis ‘Trautman’. It is so difficult to find a tall, thin evergreen that can work well in a garden or in a container. Maximum height is 12-14’ and width is 24-36”
WinH: Who are you inspired by in horticulture?
MBS: The question for me should be who and what inspires me in horticulture. The who would have to be my mother, the late Martha Bell White Barnett. Although she did not have any formal education in horticulture, she learned everything by doing and reading. Her gardens and garden designs were spectacular and her energy and passion for the world of horticulture was infectious. I have come across many of her former clients at Kendal-Crosslands and everyone remembers her with great respect. The what in horticulture is the natural world around me. I absolutely love getting lost in a forest or woods or wandering a creek’s edge; observing and marveling at the natural beauty. Our national parks are one of my favorite stomping grounds for doing just that. I am inspired by the magnificence of their beauty.
WinH: What changes would you like to see in our field to help the women working in horticulture advance or find equality in the workplace?
MBS: Women have unique traits that they bring to the table in horticulture, including our ability to multi-task, adapt to change, and handle stress. These traits are often overlooked. Therefore, to help change the male perspective, we need more women in the green industry. This will help to improve upon the misconceptions that we are faced with daily while helping raise our income.