Meet our team of Horticulturalists certified by the Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association.
About the owner
After over 30 years as an educator, coach and passionate home gardener in Greenwich, CT., native Virginian and UVa alum Leslie Harris decided to take her love of horticulture to the next level. She studied horticulture and design at the New York Botanical Gardens and apprenticed with Cora Burnham of Sanctuary Gardens in CT. Upon relocating to Charlottesville in 2014 she officially launched LH Gardens. As her team, client list and experience has grown, Leslie has branched out into speaking and teaching about horticulture.
Katie Sears was a professional gardener with her own business for years before her two children came along. She grew up outside of Boston, but has lived in this area for over 25 years and has her BA in Environmental Science from Mary Washington College. Katie has attended Master Gardener lectures and is active in the Piedmont Landscape Association. Katie was the first garden helper for LHG joining Leslie in the garden in the spring of 2015. She and her husband Tom run Precision Builders and she is a professional bartender. So many hats, but when she is with LHG she is all in and an extremely valued member of the team!
Rebecca Kish joined us in the fall of 2016 and became a Certified Horticulturalist with the Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association in the Spring of 2018. She has spent most of her time in Northern Virginia, having graduated from high school in Haymarket and worked at Merrifield Garden Center for two years. She has her Associates Degree in IT from Northern Virginia Community College and is a self-taught gardener with a passion for horticulture, and an impressive knowledge of plants. With experience in office and computer work (but lacking enthusiasm for being inside), Rebecca helps out with LHG office work but loves to dig in the dirt!
Lauren Samay, also a certified horticulturalist, has worked at Ivy Nursery, C’ville Foodscapes, for Sarah the English Gardener and at Nature Composed in Middleburg before joining LHG in the winter of 2017. Lauren has her Permaculture Design Certificate from Blue Ridge Permaculture Network, and a Certificate in Environmental Gardening from The New York Botanical Garden. With her BFA from Slippery Rock University and her interest in jewelry design, she fits into our well-rounded crew beautifully. On the weekends, you may hear Lauren singing with her band, We Are Star Children.
Jacob Oley, another certified horticulturalist, came to us in the winter of 2017 from Ashville, NC, where he operated his own gardening business. Prior horticultural experience includes interning at Trout Lily Farm, an organic homestead farm in Hot Spring, NC, and running the propagation and growing division at Botanical Treasures, a wholesale perennial farm in Fletcher, NC. Jacob is a published writer with a BA in English from UMass, Lowell. In addition to working for LHG, Jacob does catering work and tinkers with his poetry.
Sarah Mahlandt, certified as a horticulturalist through the VNLA, joined us in April of 2017. She came to us from J.W. Townsend, Inc. Previous to her work there she was an assistant grower and lead planter at A Thyme to Plant. Sarah has a BS in Biology from the College of William and Mary, and interned through the Virginia Natural Heritage Program. She is from Ashland, VA, and she and husband Caleb, a carpenter with Michael Keith Restoration, enjoy sustainable gardening at their home near Scottsville and are both Certified EMTs.
Stephanie joined the LHG team in 2019. She came to us with extensive floral, farm, and nursery experience. After falling in love with plants at Morning Dew Farm in Newcastle, Maine. She then expanded to Boothbay Region Greenhouses as a greenhouse associate and certified floral designer, graduating from the Maine Florists and Growers Association at the top of her class. Since arriving in Virginia, Steph has worked at both Ivy Corner Garden Center, and Foxtail Cottage Floral, gaining experience in the wedding design field. You can see her passion for plants and floral design on her Instagram (@littlebird_floral), as well as her love for creatures big and small.
Robin started with LHG in 2019 and although she had no formal horticultural training, she has proven invaluable with her varied job experience and infectious enthusiasm for gardening. A serious amateur gardener, her knowledge grows every day as she soaks up information about all that we do and the plants we encounter. Robin has an auction house background and was an editor for Standard & Poor’s in New York, but these positions did not feed the desire to be outside. She’s in the right place now.
Ginny Harris has been a member of the team since moving from the Pittsburgh area in March of 2016. She had previous experience with canine competition but enjoys her new endeavors of posing for her dad's Instagram feed all over the University of Virginia (@JCH35) and helping her mom get people interested in those horticultural Tuesday Tips on her feed (@LeslieHarrisLH). Ginny's favorite plant is Verbena bonariensis, and she chews it whenever she can get away with it.