ST. ALBANS –– Mark Skelding worked in the education field for 30 years, and now he’s working in the field that has been his passion since high school.
“I love getting back to the land,” Mark said recently, over coffee at The Traveled Cup, in St. Albans.
Mark, a horticulturist and entomologist in St. Albans, opened his home-based business, Green With Envy, on June 1, 2013. He had about a dozen regular and one-time clients last year, and, as pruning season begins, he is eager to be busy again this year.
Mark’s niche is perennial garden, shrub, and small to mid-size tree care. He works with aesthetics in mind, of course, but he balances them with ecological practices that look at “the big picture” when he cares for someone’s yard.
For example, when Mark designs a perennial garden, colors are important to him, but so is foliage layering, because each layer creates a microhabitat, he explained.
He is also a stickler about proper pruning at the proper time and consults with all clients about the pros and cons of mulch when he meets with them.
“I am committed to being as environmentally friendly as possible, and to having as low a carbon footprint as I possibly can, while still being able to support myself,” he said. “It really does bother me that I am reliant on a truck and have need for occasional chainsaw use.”
Staying in line with his philosophy, Mark works mostly in Franklin County – he likes to stay within a 15-mile radius – and has no intentions of making Green With Envy a large company.
“That’s another one of my philosophies: Take care of your own backyard first,” he said. “Stay local.”
Mark, 55, is originally from Pennsylvania. From high school through his mid-twenties, he worked as a groundskeeper, landscaper, arborist, nurseryman, and entomologist.
Mark earned his bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Penn State in 1980 and was a graduate research assistant in entomology at Michigan State. He also was an intern in entomology at Michigan State University Extension Services.
While working at a Michigan arboretum in 1985, Mark conducted programs for local students about trees, shrubs and insects.
“I felt like I had a calling to go into education,” he said.
With a fresh teaching certificate from Michigan State, Mark came to Vermont in 1985 for a job in Fayston. He also taught in Stowe and then led graduate courses for teachers for 16 years. (He is still available for education consulting in grading and formative assessment.)
Mark also spent six years at Food Works, which is now called Food Works’ Two Rivers Center for Sustainability.
When Mark met his wife, Sheldon Elementary School Principal Linda Keating, in 2007, she gave him “her blessing” to care for her yard.
“Getting back to be able to do that kind of work again was very uplifting for me, and it got me wanting to get back to my other love, which is ecology and working with plants,” Mark said.
“So, between her turning her yard over to me, as well as supporting me with my decision to leave education and get back into horticulture, she is my partner in this new endeavor.” Then he laughed and added, “Whether she likes it or not.”