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Plant Maestro

by Mary Jasch

Ask Paul Pichieri anything about growing trees, shrubs or perennials and he’s likely to know the answer. Depending on the month, recent weather and the troublesome plant, he’ll tell you what’s wrong with it before you even explain the problem.

Want to know how to keep a weeping cherry small enough to adorn the spot near your front door? He’ll tell you how, where and when to prune it. Wonder why some white Korean dogwood flowers are pink? He knows the historical answer. Or why “deer resistant” juniper really isn’t? He knows the answer. And even why you shouldn’t plant groundcovers in fall – because they take six weeks to root into their new home, otherwise their shallow roots are subject to winter’s “freeze-thaw” cycles and they’ll die.

Pichieri, Manager of Roxbury Garden Center in Succasunna, New Jersey, has been in the horticulture and landscape industry for over three decades. His career began at fifteen years old when his brother got him a job at Ploch’s Farm. He worked there through high school, then later while he studied finance at Seton Hall University. After graduation, he heard the call of the cultivated and decided he wanted to work in a garden center.

“At first it was just a job,” he says. “Once there I enjoyed the nature of the business and started liking the plants. I’ve been doing it for so long, taking an interest in this and working with people who have an interest. It’s just liking the plants and knowing them in order to do the business properly.”

After Ploch’s, he worked at three New Jersey garden centers for 13 years doing retail and wholesale sales, with the last garden center being Fullerton. He grew the business doing sales, plant purchasing and management. When it closed in 2013, he stayed with Fullerton doing cold call sales to grow their corporate landscape accounts, plant purchasing for the jobs and communicator between management and project crews, followed by five years of residential design. Paul became manager at Roxbury Garden Center in 2018 when it was purchased by Fullerton.

Says Pichieri: “I enjoy it. I haven’t done anything else. I like the fact that the business changes throughout the year. You get ready for it in spring. Plants come in, you sell them; summer slows down; fall comes. You’re not doing the same thing all the time. I like the people I work with and the customers. In January and February, it’s a bit of a rest.

“I enjoy trying to find new plants and appreciate the fact that the selection I provide works for the customers. I enjoy helping people learn about plants and make the right choices for what they’re looking for.

“My first boss taught me a lot and just knowing the people in the industry and learning from them. Most people in the industry like to share information. The more people I know, the better. It’s a constant learning process about what’s going on. Very rarely has a question not popped up before. I have 30 years of experience talking to people in the industry who I can get an answer from – like this year with all the rot.

“I got into the industry by total coincidence. I enjoy working with customers and to me it’s the kids (that work at Roxbury Garden Center). When it’s busy, it’s not even a job. I only get tired from working 77 days in a row.”

Got questions or concerns about your gardens or plants or just want to know what to buy? Come see Paul Pichieri at Roxbury Garden Center in Succusunna, New Jersey.

Roxbury Garden Center:

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published September 25, 2019

Photos to enlarge

Roxbury Garden Center

Spring plants display

Fresh summer delivery

A rainbow of Japanese maples

Paul Pichieri likes to bring in unusual plants such as Pinus flexilis 'Vanderwolf,' a soft, fluffy teddybear of a pine

Gorgeous rhododendrons

New hellebores, springtime glory

Paul keeps a full yard of shrubs and trees, as he does everthing else

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