Woods Wandering; the Work of a Green Thumb
A chat with Anne Brooks Rudzki, owner of Capital Roots Containers:
On your website you mentioned your childhood love for the outdoors and nature. Has your love for plants always been part of your story? Or when did it reemerge?
As a child, I spent all day every day outside roaming the woods behind my house. There weren't a lot of kids on my street so I had to make my own fun. I spent countless days searching for elusive arrowheads or scouring the beach for sharks teeth in the summers. Today you can find me roaming the woods with my dog searching for interesting branches, mushrooms, and moss. I am always examining the natural world around me. My childhood home was filled with plants. When I moved to college, I took a pothos plant that my great grandmother rooted from cuttings. I loved tending to it, and somehow it survived my college years. In my first group house I began my own plant collection, learning by trial and error (houseplants do NOT need a sunbath on the first warm day of spring). In grad school, I worked around the corner from the Smith and Hawken in Georgetown. I would walk through the store every day when I needed a break from the basement of the art gallery I worked in. The orchids and tropical plants stopped me in my tracks. I rescued many a plant from the dumpster behind the store there.
At what point did you decide to take a personal passion and make it into a business? Who/what influenced you to do that?
After my father died, I was lost and looking for a connection to him. He had always been an avid outdoorsman and wanted to become a Master Gardener but died before he could realize that dream. I decided to do it for him, and in 2015 became a certified Master Gardener in Montgomery County, Maryland. The exposure introduced me to lots of people in the area who work in the green industry. I started with a part-time job at Yankee Clippers. This was truly hard work. While at YC, I met a neighbor who had started working small gardening jobs on her own. We decided to join forces and worked together for a couple of years. We both learned a lot from each other, but I took a back seat to her when it came to design. It was only after we split that I understood that I did have the knowledge and the talent to design in my own right. Sometimes life is funny that way. You have to discover your own voice by taking a leap of faith.
What has been a welcome surprise to starting a business doing something you love?
Work is a respite and a joy. I think I am a better mother and a better spouse because I have something truly mine that I can be proud of. Showing my kids that I have cultivated a passion and turned it into a business is truly gratifying. They see my hard work and are proud of me. I have learned so much by creating a small business. I have a much greater appreciation for others who own small businesses and those in service industries.
Is there a particular project or type that you enjoy the most?
I love it when my clients let me run with an idea. My favorite client loves color and texture and playfulness. That is pure fun to work for her. I'm less excited about the all-white palette that is very trim and tidy. My personal aesthetic is more natural and less manicured.
What is your favorite part of your “process” (creating, meeting with clients, etc).
I think my favorite part is the sourcing which is a bit like a scavenger hunt. I search all the local nurseries on a regular basis, visit wholesale growers from Virginia to Pennsylvania and of course online sources like Esty. Being able to pull together a combination of plants that will work well together and surprise the client is the best part. I love to travel, and wherever I visit, I try to seek out the local independent garden centers and florists to see what other people are creating. This gives me so much inspiration.
What about this area has been helpful for your business?
All of my clients have found me through word of mouth. I think once you have a few friends that are willing to let you experiment with them, the ball starts rolling. I am a member of my local garden club, active with the MoCo Master Gardeners, as well as a member of several other professional organizations. Each of these contribute to my clientele. Being a part of community--whether it be through my children's schools, my church, or a neighborhood association is at the heart of my business.
What are your favorite local businesses - to eat, play, shop?
hmmm...I do love Fish Taco. Just about anything they fix is delicious. Best marg and best guac. I stalk all the local nurseries to see what's new in plants, containers, and embellishments. Since American Plant is right around the corner from me--I'm there all the time. Sometimes I go walk the aisles just to clear my head and get inspiration. Brookside Gardens is a favorite place to wander. When I'm near the Mall, I go by the Ripley Garden to see what's in bloom. It's always inspiring.
Anne Brooks Rudzki owns Capital Roots Containers. Her work includes seasonal container design and planting, container sourcing and interior plantscaping. Her work can be seen on her website www.capitalrootscontainers.net or instagram @capitalrootscontainers.