About Us

History of Winterberry Landscape & Garden Center

Winterberry Landscape and Garden Center had its beginnings as Environmental Designs, a small Landscaping Design and Build Company founded by two brothers, Scot and Al Leavitt. To say they had humble beginnings back in 1985 is a bit of an understatement. In fact, the story goes that Scot and Al at one point ate nothing but Ramen Noodles for two straight weeks. But they worked hard, and slowly built their company.

Scot, with his Fine Arts Degree, soon gained a reputation for creative designs that were as much works of art as landscapes. He and Al built their team, many of whom are still around to this day. As they added people they also gained their expertise, and soon the company was expanding its offerings. In addition to Landscape Design and Installation, they were also becoming known for high-quality Irrigation, Landscape Lighting, Fencing, and Maintenance services throughout Connecticut.

At that time, the Southington, Connecticut site now known as Winterberry Gardens, was a sandpit notable only for the wild winterberry shrubs that grew all over it. But that changed one day when Scot and Al drove down West Street on their way to a November job site. They might have overlooked the spot entirely had it not been for the bright red berries that blanketed the field. Instead, it got the brothers thinking about a new home. In tribute they re-named their company after the shrubs that first drew their notice driving along West Street. And of course, it’s remained Winterberry Gardens ever since.

From our family to yours, with sincerest thanks,

Scot & Al Leavitt

Meet the Winterberry Team

01-Scot-Leavitt-profileScot’s destiny as an entrepreneur began at the age of 6 years old. In 1985, while still in college, Scot started Environmental Designs, a landscape construction company. His brother, Al, joined as a partner in 1988 and created the commercial landscape construction division.

The company thrived despite the economic housing collapse of 1989. Ten years later, Al and Scot purchased 16 acres of commercial land in Southington, CT, land that was overgrown and thick with wild Winterberry bushes. This parcel of land is where their vision of a retail garden center was realized and Winterberry Gardens was created. The combination of their foresight, determination and business savvy has culminated in the additional companies of Winterberry Irrigation, Winterberry Landscape Management and Winterberry Fence & Gate.

Today, this entrepreneur’s vision and dedication has created companies with a total staff of over 140 skilled and talented team members, with projects in six states, and future expansions on the horizon. Scot added to his list of credentials this year becoming Green Roof Certified.

Company Vision: 

Our vision is to become the most sought after team of professionals in the Landscape Lifestyle industry in New England.

02-Al-Leavitt-profileIn 1984, Al started a lawn maintenance company consisting of residential and commercial accounts. By 1988, Al teamed up with his brother Scot to create a new division of Environmental Design, the commercial landscape construction company. Al took the business into the commercial arena with a team of only four employees and from that day forward, Environmental Design has been a leader in the commercial and heavy highway landscape industry.

Ten years later, Al and Scot purchased 16 acres of commercial land in Southington, CT, land that was overgrown and thick with wild Winterberry bushes. This parcel of land is where their vision of a retail garden center was realized and Winterberry Gardens was created. The combination of their foresight, determination and business savvy has culminated in the additional companies of Winterberry Irrigation,Winterberry Landscape Management and Winterberry Fence & Gate.

Today, this entrepreneur’s vision and dedication has created companies with a total staff of over 140 skilled and talented team members, with projects in six states, and future expansions on the horizon. Most recently, Al has added to his credentials becoming Green Roof Certified.

Company mission:  

Our mission is to become the best run company that fully engages all those with whom we interact through our exceptional customer service and high quality products, and to help our clients proudly project their brand by executing on ours.

03-Chris-Daigle-profileChris has been in the commercial golf irrigation industry for 25 years. He has owned Winterberry Irrigation for the past 12 years. Chris realized there was a void in the industry for one company that could offer design-build-service within the Commercial and Residential markets and has been very successful in filling that void.

Chris continues to attend seminars and take classes to further his education, and to remain current on changes and new technology in the industry. Chris holds a J-3 license in CT and an M-1 license in MA. Between all of the members of the technical staff, there are also licenses in Rhode Island, New Jersey and New York. Winterberry Irrigation has worked on projects in six states, including military bases, colleges & universities, municipalities, and Park & Rec departments. New opportunities for additional expansion are on the horizon.

Company Values: 

We will live the values of Professionalism, Respect and Trust at all times.

Environmental Design – Residential

bryanBryan began his career in the Green Industry when he was 16, working for a small garden center owned by a family friend, and continued working there each summer through college. After graduating from UCONN, he took a trip to Europe and found himself in Barcelona, awestruck by the architecture of Antoni Gaudi.

Bryan took a tour of his foray into Landscape Architecture – El Parque Guell – and was so inspired that as soon as he arrived back home, he began applying for jobs as a Landscape Designer. Since arriving here at Winterberry, Bryan has designed everything from grand estates and banquet facilities to intimate sitting areas. He specializes in adapting his clients’ aesthetic style to match the inherent qualities of their grounds and home. Landscape Design is much more than a job for Bryan; it is his passion, and he is excited every morning to wake up and create something beautiful for his clients that began as a simple sketch on a piece of paper.

06-Cheryl-Varvelli-profileCheryl is the Senior Designer for the Residential Design Department. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Connecticut. Cheryl also has an Degree in High-end Residential Design from SUNY/Farmingdale on Long Island.

Her passion for design began during her childhood. Cheryl has worked all over Long Island, parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Her designs are known for their unique style, and range from simple to intricate. No matter the design or the type of project, Cheryl doesn’t lose sight of her client’s wishes, style and budget.

11-Candace-Kearney-profile

After a career of teaching art, Candace Kearney returned to the student side of the classroom and received her degree in Horticulture and Landscape Design from the UCONN Ratcliffe Hicks School of Horticulture.

In addition to her professional training, her lifelong love of the earth inspires her passion as a landscape painter, potter, gardener and colorist. She brings this same appreciation for art and nature to her design work, creating landscapes that marry the best of nature and the human element. Her work ranges from romantic garden rooms, to stately traditional designs, to the bold juxtaposition of contemporary against the natural world. She loves to work with color, earth, water, light, and movement, constructing landscapes that engage all the senses.

25-TJ-Slowkowski-profileTJ comes to us with over two decades of experience in all facets of landscape maintenance and installation and has worked and managed residential and commercial projects all over Connecticut. He’s also very familiar with home improvement and remodeling practices. His varied background in all types of construction lends himself to helping his clients and crews make precise and accurate decisions. TJ shares a strong bond with his crews and enjoys working through any problem solving to accomplish prompt, courteous, and quality services. He believes strongly in communication and is always available for his staff and clients.
paulPaul has immersed himself in the outdoors since he was young. Continuously intrigued by the use of outdoor spaces and art, he pursued each opportunity to combine the two. He began working for a local garden center when he was 16, and continued to do so during breaks from school.

Paul has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut School of Landscape Architecture, and has traveled throughout Connecticut and the Northeast creating unique, memorable spaces. From traditional to contemporary design, Paul revels in exploring rhythms within the landscape, and enjoys using innovative materials to create distinctive art. He appreciates working with clients who are as enthusiastic as he is to witness the transformation of their outdoor spaces through design.

 

Garden Center

10-Mike-Wrobel-profileMike has over 13 years of hands-on experience in the green industry. He graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in plant science. In addition, Mike has participated in numerous programs to give him experience and expertise in other areas related to his degree.
Some of his accomplishments include: accreditation as a Nursery Professional; Certification in fish handling from Misty Mountain Aquatics; and a license to serve as a CT Pesticide Applicator. Mike is the Vice President of  CT Greenhouse Grower Association. He attends management clinics and horticultural trade shows annually to help stay informed on the latest trends and plant varieties. Mike’s passion for the industry and his commitment to the company are reflected in every facet of his work.
12-Sebastian-Milano-profileSebby is the Head Greenhouse Grower for Winterberry, located in Southington, Connecticut. His career started in the air force and eventually segued into the insurance industry. Sebby worked for Combined Insurance while W. Clement Stone owned and ran the company. He started out selling insurance policies door-to-door working on a one hundred percent commission base. Adopting and applying the W. Clement Stones success system, Sebby advanced at Combined Insurance to become regional sales manager for the northeast. He managed hundreds of staff while in this position.

Just after retirement, Sebby joined the Winterberry team and brought his passion for gardening with him. Winterberry soon realized that Sebby had the intelligence, management skills and passion to bring the Winterberry growing operation to the next level. Under Sebby’s direction and watchful eye, Winterberry grows the finest perennials and annual flowers in the northeast. Winterberry has not only excelled in the growing of flowers with Sebby’s participation but in the business culture as well. Sebby shares his lessons and experience from the corporate world of big business with our management team on a daily basis.

13-Ashley-Florentino-Zamora-profileAshley Joined our team in 2006. She has experience in all aspects of greenhouse management, including growing, maintaining and creating specialty annual designs. Ashley also serves as Winterberry’s Greenhouse Manager.

She is extremely knowledgeable about annuals, tropical and house plants. Ashley guides Winterberry guests in choosing the right plant for their needs. She also advises then on how to care and maintain their annuals to keep them at their best throughout the season. Ashley stays informed in the latest annual varieties through attending conferences and other educational programs.

14-John-Koskowski-profileJohn can be found laboring intently and happily in the perennial area at Winterberry Gardens. He is a Connecticut Certified Nursery Professional thru his affiliation with the Connecticut Nursery and Landscape Association. Since retiring after 30 years in the auto industry, he has found his niche. John has been involved in the Horticulture world for over 11 years, and continues to learn every day. He is happy to share his plant knowledge with team members and customers. Helping people learn about and choose just the right perennials for their landscape is more pleasure than work for John. His other interests include reading, hiking, gardening and the blues.
P16-15ec2Ashley is a Graduate of UCONN with a degree in Horticulture and a minor in landscape design. She is a CNLA Accredited Nursery Professional and has been working in the industry for over 10 years. Ashley has loved working with plants and the outdoors since she was a kid. She is continuing her education with seminars.

P7-46ad9Adriana has been a part of the Winterberry team since 2006. Her face is usually one of the first you see when visiting the garden center. She keeps the front end running smoothly, especially on the busiest of days. She is also the one behind the many of the displays you see. Adriana graduated from Central Connecticut State University with a degree in Elementary Education. Due to her passion for plants and the industry, she has continued to work with Winterberry, applying her education to various aspects of her work. Adriana enjoys what she does and is always willing to help out wherever she can. She is also a CNLA Accredited Nursery Professional and continues her education through attending seminars and visiting trade shows annually.

Irrigation

20-Tom-Shea-profileTom has 13 years of residential installation and service. His experience includes 10 years in Colorado. Tom has been involved in the “green” industry for almost twenty years. Tom is Tucor certified and has attended several Rain Bird academies. He is certified as an irrigation landscape auditor and is Winterberry’s on-line irrigation systems’ monitoring Manager.

Maintenance

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 P6-ab5d8Matt has been involved in the green industry since growing up on a farm and being self-employed with a landscape company in early years.  Being conferred a Bachelors of Science in Forest Management, with a minor in turf from the University of Missouri,  provided his formal basis for the next 37 years of work in the industry. Matt’s multi-faceted career includes the development and management of two successful tree and landscape firms and major account management of commercial and residential landscapes.

His knowledge of sales and landscape products for landscapers, golf courses and contractors has made him a success in the northeast region.  Matt understands the needs and interests of customers and has the academic and science background to support his experience.

 

Matt is licensed as an Arborist in Connecticut, Certified Arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture and is holds Pesticide Supervisory licenses for turf care in CT, MA, and RI.

Reception

22-Ingrid-Leavitt-profileIngrid joined the Winterberry team in the fall of 2010. Ingrid previously worked in the offices of Environmental Design, LLC, shortly after they set-up shop in Southington where Winterberry Gardens is located. Ingrid is excited to be working in this dynamic environment once again and enjoys working for the different companies, wearing whatever hat is necessary to get the job done well.