Who We Are

Founder's Story

Grace Wicks

Founder

Some of Grace’s earliest memories are of following her grandmother around her garden bordering the Wissahickon Valley Park. Growing up above her mom’s restaurant in West Philadelphia, Grace’s first exposure to container gardening was with her dad on the deck of their childhood home. Grace’s love for the relationship of plants and people plants inspired her to study permaculture, ecological design, ecological health management and ecological economics at Prescott College in Arizona. While she earned her Bachelor of the Arts in Globalization Studies and Sustainable Development in the classroom, Grace also simultaneously found exposure to horticulture in the field through native plant landscaping and stewardship work experience.

 

As her adventures in Arizona came to a close in 2002, Grace happily returned to her home city of Philadelphia, committed to start her career where her roots were planted and help transform the urban landscape.  Grace worked professionally as a horticulturist in Chestnut Hill and in farming at Green Meadow Farm. In 2007, she dreamed up a vision for an urban gardening company that improves quality of life in Philadelphia by weaving pockets of green space into the tapestry of the city. A year later, Grace launched Graceful Gardens with her bicycle as the first company vehicle and just a handful of clients. With every garden Grace installed, word of mouth about Graceful Gardens spread and before she knew it, she had a thriving small business. Countless garden installations later, Grace is grateful and excited to celebrate her 10th year in service.

 

Over the years, Grace has stayed involved in the Philadelphia community as she has volunteered and collaborated with a variety of nonprofit organizations and community gardens in various parts of the city. Additionally, Grace spent winter months traveling to warmer climates to experience other cultures, learn new approaches to land stewardship, and give back to the communities that she visited. These trips allowed her to study ethnobotany in Hawaii, subsistence farming in New Zealand, agroforestry and permaculture in Costa Rica, and learn through environmental restoration in post-Katrina New Orleans.

 

Grace appreciates the opportunity to be creative, dream, and strategically implement her clients’ vision with her rockstar team of gardeners. Grace loves sharing stories and information about the plants, people and places that her love of gardening has brought into her life. She looks forward to another successful 10 years with Graceful Gardens growing community of clients and amazing team of urban gardeners.

Meet Grace's Team

Leslie Davidson

Office Manager

Native to Philadelphia, Leslie has always been passionate about plants and gardening. She often assisted her mother and grandmother in their gardens as a child, which is where her love for plants and flowers blossomed. Leslie’s background includes an Associate of Arts degree in Fashion Design from Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, as well as expressing her creativity as a dancer and dance instructor. Now, Leslie channels her creative energy into keeping the Graceful Gardens office flowing smoothly while supporting the gardeners in their roles of beautifying of Philadelphia. Leslie’s strengths include problem solving, communication, and helping others. Leslie also enjoys expanding her horticultural knowledge and getting to know clients through their gardens. While walking through the city, Leslie feels proud knowing Graceful Gardens’ has had an impact on making Philadelphia more beautiful. Leslie is a current resident of Rittenhouse Square and the proud mom of three cats, Ms. Pie, Cash Pawkits and Novi Lox.

Julia Finney

Business Manager

Growing up in NYC, Julia has always been acutely aware of the power and importance of gardens to infuse color and light and health into urban life. As an adult, her study of English at Yale University and Feng Shui design after college further reinforced the significance of communication between humans and environment. Serving as the Principal of The Miquon School for ten years, Julia not only became a vocal and committed advocate for children to enjoy free play and exploration in the natural world, but also discovered and honed her abilities as a business strategist. Now, Julia's skills and passions come together as she collaboratively supports success for the team and company as the Business Manager for Graceful Gardens. Julia is inspired by the Graceful Gardens mission of providing excellent service and vision of expressing each client's unique qualities through their gardens. She admires the warmth, knowledge, and joy the gardeners bring to their work and enjoys being a part of the team that makes this possible. Outside of her work with Graceful Gardens, Julia has an interest in permaculture and biodynamic farming. She and her husband garden and maintain 3 acres of land in Philadelphia, living outdoors as much of the year as possible. 

Joann Fegley

Operations Manager

Welcome Joann! Bio coming soon.

Susan Benarcik

Lead Gardener

Susie received her Master’s of Fine Arts degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. She is proud to come from a multigenerational family of horticulturalists, and has personally worked as Lead Gardener in New York City, New York State and Delaware. Susie is a designer with an appreciation for asymmetry, she enjoys choreographing  artful container designs and window boxes. Susie views each design project as an opportunity to experiment with compelling textures, colors and shapes, arriving at artful and winning solutions for each client. Susie has traveled most recently to Vietnam, Hong Kong, Bali and lived in Manhattan for 20 years. Now in Delaware, Susie exhibits her artwork in galleries, arboretums and public gardens and teaches a wide variety of workshops which include: Fiber Metamorphosis, Reverse Collage, and the art of Pysanky- better known as Ukrainian egg design.

Joelle Monda

Lead Gardener

Joelle received her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Industrial Design from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Refocusing her talent as a designer to the natural world after graduation, Joelle has since worked in both agriculture and horticulture in different parts of the city. Joelle’s formal horticultural training includes farm training at Hale Akua Garden Farm in Hilo, Hawaii. She has also volunteered as a farm surplus donation program organizer. Joelle enjoys knowing that she is a positive part of beautifying the urban landscape, and values learning and growing alongside her coworkers at Graceful Gardens’ as they create beautiful spaces. Her specialty includes garden design and aesthetic arrangements. Joelle is passionate about finding the best way to achieve maximum efficiency in executing a task. Joelle is originally from Connecticut, enjoys hiking and traveling, and is a water ice aficionado.

Julie Britton

Lead Gardener

Julie holds her Bachelor of Science Degree in Evolutionary Anthropology from Rutgers University, where she studied early primates and hunted the earth for fossils. Now spearheading a career in horticulture, Julie has honed her expertise in conifers with coursework at Longwood Gardens and field courses offered by the Wagner Free Institute of Science. Through volunteer work with the University City Green Tree Tenders, a Philadelphia Horticultural Society organization, Julie helps green the city by planting free trees for homeowners in West Philadelphia. Working for Graceful Gardens allows her to continue learning as each day is different and gardening within a city continues to present new challenges and landscapes. A natural people person, Julie brings a positive attitude and a detail oriented memory allowing her to make sure all client needs are met and exceeded. Born and raised in Northern New Jersey, Julie grew up camping and exploring, which brought her a love for travel. She lived in a tent for two summers in Kenya habituating monkeys, biked across the United States from Baltimore to San Francisco for a nonprofit called 4K for Cancer, and recently received her scuba certification in Thailand. These experiences have shaped her desire for adventure and pushed her limits to explore the unknown.

Mary Anne Fox

Lead Gardener

Hailing from Kentucky, Mary Anne holds her Bachelors of Science in Horticulture from Western Kentucky University. Her education background includes focus on plant propagation, IPM, plant taxonomy, as well as agribusiness and entrepreneurship. Mary Anne volunteered with WKU’s Office of Sustainability, helping to incorporate fresh produce into the campus food pantry. She also was a horticulture intern at Baker Arboretum, where she cultivated her ornamental horticulture techniques, and an edible garden intern at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, where she focused on producing and harvesting vegetables for the visitor center’s cafe. Mary Anne is excited to find herself in Philadelphia, where as part of the Graceful Gardens team she is applying her horticultural expertise to make the city more beautiful. Valuing what sort of impact her service has on society, Mary Anne loves every time a client or passerby smiles because of Graceful Gardens. Mary Anne has spent time traveling in Eastern and Southern Asia, assisted in an archaeological dig and invasive species removal in KY, and makes a killer kale salad. She also loves a good road trip, live music, hammock camping, and Sonic ice.

James Appello

Gardener & Operations Assistant

A lifelong nature lover, James considers preserving and strengthening the connection between people and plants to be one of his greatest passions. After graduating from Temple University in 2010 with a degree in Broadcasting, Telecommunications & Mass Media and initially working a variety of jobs in the music industry and IT, James switched gears and decided to pursue a job where he could follow his passion for plants and the natural world. James loves getting to work outside with plants and helping people throughout the city connect to nature. At Graceful Gardens, James area's of expertise include edibles and irrigation. James has been a frequent volunteer with Greensgrow Farm in Philadelphia and is passionate about working to build horticulture into the framework of communities. James is also a lifelong guitar player, singer, and songwriter.

Leah Grosso

Gardener

Leah graduated with a degree in Landscape Architecture from the Pennsylvania State University in 2015. Throughout her studies, Leah developed a particular passion for Native Plants. Her knack for plant identification combined with her grit and vivacious personality helps Leah excel in the field. Leah’s horticultural background includes an internship with Forest Service at Grey Towers National Historical Site and an ecological restoration internship with the National Park Service and Americorps at Yosemite National Park. Passionate about community, Leah has also volunteered for Community Design Collaborative doing design work for nonprofit and schools in the area. She has also redesigned brownfield sites into effective and fruitful useable landscapes. Leah has traveled to 4 different continents, including participating in community engagement and conservation work in Tanzania and China. Leah’s favorite part of working at Graceful Gardens is being a part of such an amazing team of gardeners.

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Join Our Team

Interested in joining our team? Graceful Gardens typically has temporary seasonal opportunities available in spring and fall for talented entry level gardeners as well as a wait list for permanent positions.  

 

Please contact JOBS@GRACEFULGARDENS.NET to inquire about current openings. 

Graceful Gardens Best Urban Gardener of Philadelphia
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