Specialty Gardens: Making Dreams Come True
The following appeared in the All About Her regional newspaper insert on May 1, 2008.
Appreciating nature in our own backyard can be a first step to being a good steward of the earth. Pam Cadmus, owner of Specialty Garden Design, wants more people to enjoy their home surroundings. “We don’t love our habitat enough,” she said.
Sitting on a white wooden bench in the front yard of her Floyd County home, daffodils and hellebores were in bloom as she explained the evolution of her landscaping business.
Raised in New York, Pam moved from California to Floyd in 1978. “I wanted to be part of a community and to take care of myself in a real way,” she said. Soon she was growing vegetables and chopping wood.
In 1979 Pam became the branch librarian of the Floyd library when it was housed in the basement of the Floyd County courthouse. Her job as librarian continued after the move to the new Jessie Peterman Memorial Library building. She also served as librarian in Blacksburg for four years, and is currently on the board of the Floyd County Library Building Fund, which recently oversaw a building expansion.
Pam liked being a librarian, but often found herself looking out the window, dreaming of starting an herb garden or something similar that would allow her to work outside.
In 1997 she created the “Specialty Garden Design” business logo and set about to manifest her dream, one garden at a time. “When I hit fifty, it was do or die,” she said. Initially, she had a partner but became sole owner a couple of years into the business.
It’s easy to see that Pam has a special affection for dwarf conifers, which feature prominently in her home gardens. “They give color, texture, and form all year round,” she said, pointing them out and spouting off the names and varieties like a horticultural whiz. She’s also fond of ornamental grasses and frequently includes them in designs to compliment perennials, flowering trees, and shrubs.
Specialty Garden Design, now in its 11th year, has grown mostly by word of mouth. Although most of Pam’s work is residential, she has designed for local restaurants and an arts and crafts center. She has clients from all over the region, including Blacksburg’s Virginia Tech professor and renowned poet, Nikki Giovanni.
“We work together finding ways to create natural habitats for birds. Nikki loves birds,” Pam said.
According to Pam’s website, specialtygardendesign.com, she works closely with the experienced gardener, the novice, and everyone in between. Her work includes designs for small and large properties, ponds, patios, walls, and walkways. She has created formal entrances, English borders, and native landscapes.
In 2002, when Floyd’s Harvest Moon Food Store moved to a new and expanded location, Pam designed and installed showcase gardens on the grounds, working alongside the small crew she employs. A member of the Virginia Society of Landscape Gardens, she was the recipient of the 2005 Town of Blacksburg Award for Design/Landscaping.
The fifteen acre property Pam and her husband have owned since 1982 has about two acres of gardens, including a vegetable plot. She uses slow releasing organic fertilizers and stresses the importance of watering when plants are getting established. When asked about pesticides, she said, “There’s no substitute for getting on your hands and knees and weeding, pulling up weeds at the roots.” She recommends using mulch to control weeds and hold in moisture and has confirmed that a half buried cat food can filled with beer will keep the slug population down. “Slugs like Bud Light and Coors Light, so you can go cheap,” she joked.
Now that she’s 60, Pam is thinking about the next phase of her business plan. She wants to do more design and less installation and hopes to start a nursery of dwarf conifers and ornamental grasses. But she doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Spring is one of her busiest seasons. At home, she’s moving one garden to make room for an addition to the house and has plans for a wildflower meadow.
Another upcoming project will bring Pam back to the library. Using plants that have been donated by local nurseries, she and another landscaper have volunteered to do the landscaping at the new Jessie Peterman Library addition.
By assisting homeowners to fulfill their visions of creating beautiful surroundings, Pam has made more than her own dream come true. Her talent for enhancing the inherent richness of private and public environments benefits us all, encouraging us to enjoy nature and to spend more time outside. ~ Colleen Redman