Q&A with Mark Fiely: How Ernst Seeds Works with Landscape Architects - Ernst Seeds
January 16, 2023

Q&A with Mark Fiely: How Ernst Seeds Works with Landscape Architects


Landscape architecture professionals understand that the best projects don’t just marry design with science, they come to life thanks to the dedicated people behind them.

For more than 50 years, Ernst Seeds has combined creativity with technical expertise to assist firms large and small to create environmentally thoughtful landscapes, from wetland restoration areas to pollinator-friendly habitats at solar installation sites.

Horticulturist Mark Fiely has been with the company since 1995. In his role, he designs seed mixes, builds resources for customers, and helps clients choose the best native and naturalized plant species for their site. In this interview, Mark sat down to explain exactly how Ernst Seeds works with landscape architects to enhance wildlife and pollinator habitats, support conservation, promote sustainability and beautify the nation – one project at a time.

Question: What types of projects can Ernst Seeds work with landscape architects on?

Answer: There’s quite a variety — we handle anything from erosion control to storm basins and rain gardens, and we work with a wide swath of clients. Recently, I worked on a wet meadow with a walking path around it where people could have a slice of nature while they were taking a break from work. We have done work for Penn State, Yale, Princeton, Hershey Gardens, corporate campuses like Capital One, McCormick Spices headquarters, Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority, microbreweries, high schools, residential developments, parks, and private estates. We work to support landscape architects on everything – from large projects to small orders like one ounce of Blackeyed Susans.

Question: What is the benefit of discussing a project with Ernst Seeds?

Answer: We have a very collegial trade in the field of horticulture and the native seed trade, so I don’t want to make a comparison. But I know, when a landscape architect calls us and wants to use our seed, we set out to walk people through a project to truly understand where they’re at.

We have information in our online Resource Center to help clients understand potential obstacles to their project. I’ll talk through our planting guide so they understand how to prepare the site and maintain the seed. We also go through information about when certain plants germinate or bloom. I’ll take clients through the image galleries we’ve created, so they can identify some of the plants in our mixes that stand out to them. My goal is always to be as clear as possible — if you’re not understanding the project, then I’m not doing my job.

Question: What is the process like when working with Ernst Seeds?

Answer: To glean as much information about a project as possible, it’s really important for me to know as many details as I can. Anything from the timing of the project to the slope of the site can affect a seed mix we’d build, so I’ll often ask questions like: Are we trying to be historically accurate with our species? How important are aesthetics to the project– is it top of mind or just part of the equation? What regulatory issues or restrictions are there? Will humans interact with the landscape? 

Then, we talk about layers, colors, texture, and fragrance – all of those details matter, too. Every landscape has a story to it, and our process involves understanding that story.

Question: How long does it take to get connected with an expert at Ernst Seeds?

Answer: If a landscape architect reaches out to us or calls, they often hear back that same day. We try to be as responsive as possible.

Question: How does Ernst Seeds provide on-site consultation to further guide a successful project?

Answer: There are some cases where we do go out and visit if needed, but our focus is really on trying to set up a project for success in the beginning so that isn’t necessary. We’re often trying to set up a situation where failure isn’t an option. 

To make the process more straightforward, I can recognize and identify multiple species via images that a customer sends, so an on-site follow-up isn’t necessary. That’s also why our seedling gallery in our Resource Center is also important too, and we’re working on one for weeds as well.

Question: What more can you tell us about what it’s like working on a project with Ernst Seeds?

Answer: Our goal is really to help our customers achieve their vision. When it’s all said and done, hopefully, we’ve built a long-term relationship where we can do many great projects together. If we can help our landscape architects develop a look where people go, “Wow, I like this. This must be the work of so-and-so,” then that’s a huge success. 

And we know that there’s always something that can be done better, so we’re currently working on developing galleries for dormant plants and further improving our resources. 

Native Seed Mixes, Expert Advice

The right seeds, tested under the highest quality standards, can make all the difference in your next project. Whether you’re a landscape architect, project manager, or installer, get personalized seeding advice that you can trust. Check out our seed finder tool to start planning your project, or contact us for more information.

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