There’s something new on Frederick County’s plant scene.
Perhaps you’ve seen signs in your neighborhood, pointing you in the direction of a garden center that you’ve heard about, but never visited. Perhaps you’ve been driving along a country road in Jefferson only to screech to a halt in front of a wild and wonderful assortment of unusual trees. Or perhaps you recently got invited by a friend to a Friday night class to hone your succulent skills and indulge your love of good wine.
I sure hope you went. If not, and you’re wondering what all the buzz is about, it’s time to meet the buzz makers: Blake and Katelyn Dunlevy and the new team at Mar-Lu View Nursery & Landscaping. With energy, sophistication, and horticultural know-how, they’re determined to make their mark on Frederick County, and equally determined to help you learn about and love your plants. From what I saw last week, they’re off to a fantastic start.
From the moment I got out of the car, I was greeted by a lovely selection of unusual trees and shrubs that call to both the inner impulse purchaser and the sensible designer within us all. In fact, my inner impulse purchaser narrowly avoided handing over the credit card for a weeping redbud whose contorted trunk would have ensured a fabulous winter landscape, but whose purchase also would have ensured divorce papers by 6:30 that evening. Thirty seconds later I was faced with a hand-crafted wooden planter box filled with an ancient Japanese maple. Oh boy.
My wallet and marriage barely made it into the main building unscathed only to find an excellent range of construction grade tools, elegant garden-themed merchandise and decor, and ton of air plants in full flower (an impulse purchase for me if there ever was one). Thankfully, it was time to sit down with Blake and Katelyn and learn a little bit about Mar-Lu View and the new kids in town.
Mar-Lu View: A new take on an old favorite
Mar-Lu View was originally founded by the Kerr Family nearly 40 years ago at the base of Mar-Lu Ridge in Jefferson, MD. Way before the advent of big box garden centers, online retailers, and (gasp) social media, Mar-Lu View provided a super-local source for plants, garden tools and soil amendments.
The nursery was both work and home for Paul and Jane Kerr, and they wanted to provide a long lasting future for it, even as they both considered retirement.
Last summer, Paul Kerr discussed this future with an old friend and colleague in the landscaping business, Dave Dunlevy, who had just transitioned his own built-from-scratch company, D&A Landscapers in Poolesville, into the very capable hands of the next generation – his children Blake and Katelyn.
Blake is a landscape architect and Katelyn has a background in business. They were thrilled with the prospect of expanding into a brick and mortar retail center in the heart of a rural community, and jumped at the chance.
A deal was struck that not only ensured the future of Mar-Lu View, but allowed the Kerrs to continue to live in their home for as long as they wanted to. A win-win for both parties.
That was in January. Since that time, Blake and Katelyn and the team at Mar-Lu View have been working hard with a fresh vision for what the nursery can become and how it can help people buy and better relate to their plants – particularly a younger generation that’s excited to green up their indoor and outdoor environments, but who might need a little guidance.
They’re doing that through a comprehensive array of classes, landscaping consultation and installation, and, thanks to Katelyn’s expertise, a hip, Millennial approach to marketing and social media.
Mar-lu View: Tempting plants. Irresistible classes.
The classes are clever, and practical. How about opening a bottle of wine on a Friday night in the company of friends while arranging your succulent treasures for maximum impact? Or spending a Saturday afternoon finding out how to incorporate edibles into your landscape while you build a mini-container garden?
“Education is where our passion is,” Blake tells me. “The most uncomfortable experience you can have as a consumer is when you’re not educated about what you’re buying. You feel lost, and can end up with what you don’t want or what you don’t know how to take care of. Our best educated customers – whether design or retail – are our best customers. They feel comfortable and the experience is a great one.”
And it has been. Assistant Manager Shannon Griffin is the succulent expert and will be teaching the living succulent wreath class this Saturday (June 30). She loves the attention her free “Sipping with Succulents” class has attracted. Demand was so large, she’ll be running it every second Friday of the month through the end of the season.
To keep their customers in the know, classes are listed monthly on their excellent website and on an oversized chalkboard near the cashier’s till. They’re also advertised on the nursery’s social media platforms.
You’ll find everything from basic classes in pruning to creating an ‘anti-mosquito’ container garden. Almost all of them are free of charge, and Mar-Lu View encourages using the classes as corporate team-building events or as a venue for small celebrations.
Kids are also catered to with Kids Club classes that teach up-and-coming gardeners to build their own birdhouses out of recycled materials or create a fairy garden.
“It’s important to start kids at an early age,” says Katelyn “We not only want to encourage them to garden, we want to encourage them to think about careers in horticulture.”
Katelyn’s mother Angie teaches many of those classes and loves seeing parents connecting with their kids in a garden environment. “We have one man who comes in here with his three daughters for classes,” she tells me. “How great is that?!?”
Mar-Lu View is located off Lander Road in Jefferson, MD. For current operating hours and a full list of this month’s classes, visit their website at www.marluview.com
Of course, there have got to be plants to go with those classes, and that’s where Stacy Rozier comes in. She’s the plant purchaser for Mar-Lu View and her taste in great plants is evident. Left to my own devices after our interview I find Calamagrostis brachytricha which I’ve been hunting for ever since I saw it at Chanticleer Gardens in Pennsylvania, and I take advantage of the large tubs of water plants to stock a few of my containers. From shade-loving natives to kitchen herbs – there’s a good chance they’ve got it…or can get it.
Because Mar-Lu View works in conjunction with the original design and build landscaping business that is still centered in Poolesville, they can stock what the designers are looking for and provide help in figuring out where to put it (when you’re not a designer). Often, there’s a designer on rotation at the nursery for general landscape questions, and there’s always someone who can help you with specific plant questions.
Things are humming along at Mar-Lu View, and the community response has been wonderful…but certainly there must be dreams for the future? I ask this question of the two siblings before our time together is ended and they both smile broadly.
They’d like to see a children’s sensory garden outside…and a produce stand. They want to expand their educational facilities…and renovate the beautiful old barn to host weddings and events. They are filled with dreams for making Mar-Lu View even better; and with their kind of energy, experience and enthusiasm, I have no doubt that’s exactly what they’ll do.
This article reprinted with kind permission of The Frederick News Post.