BEALLESVILLE, MD – Forty years ago Pete Driscoll was a young landscape contractor in Montgomery County, MD, outside of Washington, D.C., looking for new headquarters. He found a 23-acre parcel and named it Dogwood Hill, after the native dogwoods populating the rolling terrain.
“It was more land than I needed for my landscape operation,” Driscoll recalled, “so I started planting nursery stock.”
Today, Dogwood Hill Farm has grown to over 100 acres, with 80 acres in nursery production. The operation raises heavy grade, large caliper landscape ornamental and shade trees and shrubs which they wholesale to the trade.
Naming the place Dogwood Hill not only was a reflection of the local flora but also an unexpected reflection of how the nursery business would grow – today, dogwoods are one of the more popular items demanded by landscapers. You can find half a dozen varieties of dogwoods at Driscoll’s farm.
Dogwood Hill also has a large inventory of maples – about a dozen varieties – including a good selection of mature Japanese maples. Sugar maples are in heavy demand.
Driscoll sells throughout the Mid-Atlantic, west to Arkansas and north to New England. A large percentage of his sales go to landscapers in New York and Massachusetts.
Stock is purchased in one- to three-gallon containers. When it’s installed it is drip irrigated for the first three years. Insect pests like the ambrosia beetle are controlled with the help of an IPM consultant. Because the operation is in Montgomery County’s Ag Reserve, deer are a strong presence. Driscoll has combatted deer with bags of Milorganite and by using dogs as a deterrent. But with the pandemic keeping people home and fueling a demand for pets, there were fewer rescue dogs for Driscoll to recruit as guard dogs. As his dogs have retired, Driscoll is noticing that groundhogs are making a comeback on his farm.
Other popular species sought out by landscapers from Dogwood Hill Farm include green giant arborvitae, semi-deciduous Moonglow® magnolia and Stewartia. With his inventory of mature stock, selling six-inch caliper trees is a regular occurrence for Driscoll. Occasionally he’ll sell even larger trees – nine inches and up. Trees like that weigh 10,000 pounds or more and can command the space of an entire trailer.
Driscoll, a graduate of Delaware Valley College, still does some landscape contracting locally but the nursery is his main focus. Because of his reputation, he doesn’t have to do much advertising, but he does enjoy attending MANTS every year. When he’s not working on the farm, Driscoll likes to sail the waters of the Mid-Atlantic.
“I never thought I’d be able to farm,” he said. “I didn’t grow up on a farm.”
But specializing in the large trees and shrubs has helped Driscoll develop a business which is depended upon by landscapers throughout the region.
“Bigger trees make a statement when you put them in,” Driscoll said.
For more information about Dogwood Hill Farm, visit dogwoodhill.net.
by Karl H. Kazaks