By Matt White | Photography by Beth Mann
Paige Moody launched Arbor Enterprises in 1991. “I waited tables on the weekends to make payroll,” she says. Today, she has 20 year-round employees and tends to hundreds of lawns, gardens and landscapes. She shares how she built a career in the male-centric world of landscaping and what you should be doing in your yard right now.
How did you choose landscaping? I kind of always knew what I wanted to do. Grandma and Granddad were farmers, and I was always with them in the summer, riding tractors and stuff. [Growing up in Virginia Beach, Virginia,] I worked in a garden center and nursery. I went to Virginia Tech to study horticulture.
When did you decide to launch your own landscaping firm?
I worked for a company called Davis [Landscape] when I moved to Raleigh. After a couple years, I realized I wanted to focus on the residential side and stay out of the commercial side – focus on plants and people rather than businesses and money. It was a real clear choice. I love plants, and I’m fascinated by the science. Whenever I get overwhelmed by day-to-day life, I take it back to square one and think about the plants.
For April and May, what’s good for planting? By April, you can pretty much do anything. You probably want to wait on tender annuals (vegetables or other frost-prone plants). If you have tomato seedlings, you can put them in, but if you put them in [and] we get a frost, you have to think about covering them, so why not wait? By April 15 – by Tax Day – you can put out vegetable seedlings and most annuals. And just because Lowe’s has it does not necessarily mean you should plant it. I buy a lot of things from Lowe’s in Pittsboro, but it might be a good idea to support your local garden center, and they’re generally a little later.
How about lawns? I wouldn’t put any turf fertilizer down other than the first week of April. We’re right on the [regional] cusp of where you can grow fescue. By the time you get to South Carolina and Georgia, it’s too hot. But people want it, and all that’s great, but if that’s important, I would suggest you water faithfully or get an irrigation system. And call your extension agent. I have my extension agent on speed dial. It’s a free service through N.C. State [University].
Sometime in May, you want to put a first application of fertilizer for [grasses like] Bermuda, zoysia and St. Augustine.
What’s something people love to plant here but isn’t well suited? One of biggest things we have problems with are deer. I constantly have people who want daylilies and azaleas, and I think that’s fantastic, but unless you are willing to spray or put up deer fence, the deer are going to find them. I also have a lot of people who want to do hemlock or rhododendron, but they’re tough. You have to do it right. Not in full sun, not out in the open, because our summers are just too hot.
How about something people don’t think of planting that you love? A couple of my absolute favorites [are trees] that have four seasons of interest. Coral bark Japanese maples are absolutely a winner all the way around. And autumnalis cherry. It blooms in the spring and fall. [Both have] fall color and winter bark stems.
And all the new varieties of butterfly bushes. People say, “Oh, I don’t want those, they get to be 8 feet tall and flop over.” Now they have new varieti.es created by [horticulturists] at N.C. State: the dwarf butterfly series. They offer something different. Like in Briar Chapel, where lawns are smaller than they used to be. You don’t have to have an 8-foot plant, you can have a 3-foot plant.
You know what I hate? Those Japanese beetles. Any advice? Not a whole lot. Buy a beetle bag [trap], and hang it away from your lawn so they’ll go to your neighbors! [Paige laughs.] The biggest thing is not to freak out. You can pick them off or shake the branch. Or you can use Safer soap or neem oil. The best thing about the oil is it’s organic. It’s not going to damage the plant.