Profile – Cathy Harragian: A Bird in the Hand
By Johanna Lolax
A potter, a chemist, and a successful, Sterling-based landscape designer, Cathy Harragian says that she is just a single mom and some-time lab tech who once tried her hand at the computer industry, then found herself out of a job.
“It was the late ‘90s,” she explains, remembering how an unstable tech industry pulled up stakes and took jobs overseas. “I got into gardening with a friend who worked for landscapers, because those were the only jobs around. I began to learn more about it, and now it’s totally taken over my life!”
Interest quickly became an obsession, with a singular focus on working the land for maximum beauty and preservation. Cathy’s organic landscape business started with certification from the New England Organic Farm Association, and has steadily grown over the past 10 years. She puts it simply: “I am one of these dirt huggers,” she says. “I really am involved in the soil.”
Organic Garden Design and Bird of the Hand Farm are just two of Cathy’s current soil-based enterprises, but an apple orchard jointly owned with her sister also keeps her busy.
In her mid-fifties and still an outdoors-woman, Cathy says she gets up between 5 am and 7 am every day. She still likes to do some of the hard outside work, but has “a few young people working with” her to help with pruning and planting.
“Landscaping is about beauty and saving soil resources, says Cathy, who helps customers solve aesthetic, soil, and drainage problems. Her B.S. in Chemistry comes in handy when testing the elements of soil to determine the best plants for a landscape. She describes healthy soil as “critical” to flood prevention, and she has some tips for creating gorgeous gardens with natural flair.
Instead of chemical-loving lawns, Cathy says that perennials such as wildflowers and strawberries make good ground cover. Put in ferns under trees, and native plants such as hostas to fill in bare, shaded spots, she says. She also says that creating circular patches of rock, flowers, and shrubbery in the yard, away from the house, lends visual interest. It’s an easy-care, low-cost landscaping plan that requires few pesticides and herbicides to thrive throughout the growing season.
When winter comes, Cathy still has her hands in soil: she works clay into free-form pottery in her home studio using a pinch-and-turn method rather than a wheel, then fires up her pots with brightly-painted designs.
A proud mom with many pursuits, at the end of her day Cathy’s primary interest is helping clients build and cultivate sustainable gardens. She’s an organic landscape design resource available for consultation in person, by phone at 978-422-6217, and at www.organicgardendesign.us.