A Life And Livelihood in Gardens: Mark Saidnawey
Gardening is in Mark Saidnawey's blood. It's his livelihood, pastime and heritage.
As co-owner with his brother, Tom, of Pemberton Farm and Garden Center in Cambridge, Saidnawey spends seven days a week caring for thousands of plants, touching possibly 60 percent of them every day.
Started by his grandfather, Tofic Saidnawey in 1930, the third-generation family operation has grown over the years and now includes a gourmet food store, full-service gardening center and online gift basket business.
"The center is my garden," said Saidnawey, a life-long Belmont resident. "Even when I'm not there, I'm always thinking about the business and sending texts to my employees to check and water the plants."
Despite the hours he spends at Pemberton, Saidnawey finds the time to tend to a garden at his Belmont home. It's relatively simple, he said, because he prefers to have a large lawn in the backyard where he can toss a ball around.
So he compliments it with a border along the fence of an assortment of evergreens and perennials such as hydrandrea, cimicifuga, hosta, and bleeding heart.
There's also a Japanese weeping maple tree, a white birch that Saidnawey carried home in the trunk of his car when he first got it and – to provide color – annuals, a climbing rose bush growing over an arch in a sunny corner of the garden and sweet autumn clematis which blooms in the fall.
When he moved to the house in 2002, there wasn't one plant in the yard, Saidnawey said.
"When I thought of how to design the back garden, I assessed the area and realized there's very little sun and that guided me in how to choose the plantings," he said.
"I knew I wanted the keep the large lawn so just created the border around it with an arch of climbing roses in the corner to provide depth and some color. And I bring out a lot of patio planters in the warmer months."
In the front of the house, Saidnawey has more sun so he mixes a variety of flowering annuals and perennials such as Martha Washington geraniums, Shasta daisies, arborvitae, zinnias, day lilies holly and a Japanese maple tree. He also has a hanging hydrandrea covering a side fence that leads to the backyard.
Saidnawey said his gardens are large enough to provide a border of color and interest but small enough so that he can easily maintain them. He weeds periodically and fertilizes the lawn in the spring, summer and fall, mows it once a week and waters it approximately every other day.
Gardening has become Saidnawey's life with his own, the long hours he puts in at Pemberton, being a member of the Belmont Garden Club, writing articles for Lawn & Garden Magazine as well as producing videos for a garden segment on WBZ TV.
He's been in the business for about 20 years, starting by helping his father, Leo, sell plants outside the former Pemberton Market in Cambridge. In 1993, the family decided to rent an empty lot across the street to create a larger garden center. In 2000, Saidnawey and his brother, Tommy, decided to buy the land and add the gourmet shop and mail-order company.
Running a full-service garden center is a job Saidnawey loves.
"I like being outdoors all day," he said. "This is a retail business that provides people with a lot of happiness."
And owning a garden center allows Saidnawey to be a good resource to the Garden Club for which he donates plants or, at least, discounts them heavily. He enjoys working with the group and planted and designed the memorial garden at the Burbank School for the late Cindy Hawkins.
Saidnawey's work at Pemberton is year-round. From April to December, he d0oesn't take one day off. January and February are relatively quiet months but he and his staff start setting up the center in March and plants start arriving in April.
"My goal for the center is that a customer will never touch a bad plant," he said. "And that means quite a few hours taking care of them all."
If you have a green thumb with flower, vegetable or greenhouse gardening, or know of a neighbor who does, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will profile your bucolic Belmont oasis