Garden coach creates lush landscape designs

Thanks to Irene Mills of Bonney Lake, help for tired, old and desperate yards are just a couple of green thumbs away with help from The Plant Mommy, LLC. As its owner, she provides garden coaching, landscaping consultations and design help with sustainable gardens for homeowners and businesses.

A squirrel noses around a Bonney Lake garden designed by Irene Mills of The Plant Mommy

Thanks to Irene Mills of Bonney Lake, help for tired, old and desperate yards are just a couple of green thumbs away with help from The Plant Mommy, LLC. As its owner, she provides garden coaching, landscaping consultations and design help with sustainable gardens for homeowners and businesses.

“Sometimes, people want someone to explain how to care for their plants,” said Mills, a certified professional horticulturist since 2005. “They have no idea what they have, or how to care for it.”

That’s where her expertise and vision come in.

“I’ll come over and talk with them for a couple of hours,” she said. Through the process, she takes into account the property owners’ budgets and landscaping skills along with the best choices of plants, trees and shrubbery for their area – something she refers to as a “health care plan” for yards.

“If it’s a blank slate, I’ll draw up a design to install it themselves and make sure it’s something they can enjoy,” she said.

The Plant Mommy’s expertise has gained a strong reputation in the Puget Sound region. This past fall Mills was featured on the cover of South Sound Magazine after she collaborated on a rehabilitation garden to be used by a facility that helps the elderly and stroke patients to recover.

“I was able to come up with the concept for it,” she said. “This was just to show the possibility that they could have a really nice garden to use as their therapy.”

Mills also worked with Puyallup landscaper Robert Dewitt in creating show-stopping gardens at the Point Defiance Flower and Garden Show. Together their creations earned them silver medals for grand display gardens in both 2007 and 2008.

Mills sticks to what she knows and tries to put functionality and beauty into each of her designs, all the while keeping clients’ lifestyles in mind.

“Most of my clients want to do the work themselves, but they want advice,” she said. “Once I hand over the plan and the plant list, they can take it and do it at their own pace.”

When a customer asks for irrigation systems, Mills often suggests her husband Robert’s business, WaterWise Irrigation Maintenance (waterwiseguy@waterwise:irrigation.com).

“When a client wants it, he’ll design and give advice for self-installers or do the installation,” she said. “He’s very much into using the new irrigation technology that saves as much money as possible. He took a water-auditing class in Oregon; it’s helping people figure out how much water they’re using.”

She suggests contractors for landscaping needs to her clients but remains unbiased because she takes no referral fees, she said. “It’s just my best judgment – these are good people you can work with. You can trust me because I’m not getting anything out of it.”

That honesty carries through when Mills keeps her customers’ budgets and preferences in mind during the design process.

“People are being more frugal with their money so they want to improve their homes,” she said. “A lot of them are moving away from purely ornamental, show-off and moving to edible gardening or attracting wildlife. The clients are leading us. The people who will do well are the ones who are asking us for help. We help them find the best place for a garden so they can start up a garden to live with.”

The future for The Plant Mommy, LLC looks bright.

“We provide a good value,” she said. “What’s fascinating is to have a project come together and have it turn out well. “

Irene Mills and The Plant Mommy, LLC is available 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Her phone is 253-335-1586 and her Web site is www.theplantmommy.com.

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