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Green design is second career for Rockwell

By JANE W. GRAHAM

(March 2015) "A garden, where one may enter in and forget the whole world,
cannot be made in a week, nor a month, nor a year;  it must be planned for, waited for and loved into being." This Chinese proverb heads the website of Virginia Rockwell's website for her business, the Gentle Gardener Green Design, where she states her mission: "to support your personal stewardship of the Earth."
Rockwell has a lot of letters after her name. VCH means she is a Virginia Certified Horticulturist. VSLD indicates she is certified as a Landscape Designer by the Virginia Society of Landscape Designers. APLD Associate means she is an associate member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. She is also a member of Green Plants for Green Buildings, the James River Green Building Council and is a U.S. Green Building Council LEED Green Associate.
Those credentials are only some of the latest. She began with a bachelor's degree from Agnes Scott in 1979, then an M.B.A. from Columbia University, from which she launched into a successful marketing and advertising career.
As described in an article by Nancy Moreland for her alma mater, "In 1993, Rockwell stepped off the corporate ladder and landed in Scotland" where "an extended retreat at The Findhorn Foundation became her hands-in-the-dirt apprenticeship in organic gardening.” The experience rekindled her interest in sustainability, a principle instilled years before by former professor David Orr, a leader in environmental issues.
Rockwell went on to the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew, London, where she earned a Garden Design Certificate studying with John Brookes. Later she added a Permaculture Design Certificate in ecological and ethical design. In 1995 she became a Master Gardener, settling in rural Virginia where she met and married Robert Bradford, a cattle rancher and building contractor. A year later she opened The Gentle Gardener, a retail garden center and design firm in Gordonsville, Va.
It was only natural that she would return to the world of plants and horticulture, since she grew up on a farm. She noted, “I’m pleased to say I have a hard time keeping up with my mother, who at 89 is growing oranges in Florida.”
Rockwell offers garden coaching, a three-hour, one-on-one consultation between designer and client resulting in a rough sketch or list of next steps and recommended plants to bring a vision to reality. Garden coaching, she said, is perfect for working on a specific area of a garden, preparing a house to sell, for new homeowners getting a fresh start on their garden, or for the gardener who just doesn't know where to start!
Rockwell has recently been designated a certified Nutrient Management Planner for turf and landscape by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's Division of Stormwater Management. She also recently received a conservation award from the Culpeper Soil and Water District where her husband is a director.
She has long advocated responsible land stewardship practices including the use of proper and organic amendments, accurate rate calculations and precise application timing.  “The idea is to apply brains first, then apply fertilizer as needed," she said.
Some of her methods and resources are described on her mobile website, gentlegardener.houzz.com, including a description of a garden re-do in Albemarle, Va., where the new landscaping was designed around a big white oak tree.