We have no way to tell if Justine Leeper is the youngest member ever to serve on the Board but she certainly is the youngest member serving on the current Board! Her energy and enthusiasm is evident and she has actually been involved with CHS for years. Justine grew up in the northwest corner of Connecticut and attended Nonnewaug High School’s Agriscience program where her freshman Ag teacher planted the idea of floral design in her head. Justine competed in floral design and Horticulture competitions throughout High School, going all the way to Nationals Then it was on to UConn where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Horticultural Science with a minor in Agribusiness. Justine received CHS scholarships in 2013 and 2014, graduating in 2014 and started her own floral design business – Floral Design by Justine (floraldesignsbyjustine.com). This summer, Justine will be getting married and no, she will not create the arrangements for her wedding!
Why and when did you join CHS? CHS member Elaine Widmer was working on the Scholarship Committee when I received scholarships in 2013 and 2014. It was Elaine who encouraged me to get more involved with CHS.
Describe your gardening style. When I see something I like, I want to try to grow it! I have a 700 square foot garden filled with perennials and annuals that I use in my floral designs. I love to experiment and try to grow something new each season, something I’ve never before grown. At times, it’s something that I’ve never heard of anyone growing!
What do you like best about your own garden? I am a big fan of growing vegetables.
Which plant(s) do you wish you could grow but can’t? Loofah plants! I’ve tried growing them for the past three years and haven’t succeeded. I need a couple more months of good hot growing season to give them enough time to mature.
Did someone in your life inspire you to become interested in horticulture and floral design? I’ve received a lot of support for my decision to make flower design my passion and my livelihood. My high school teacher, Eric Birkenberger was the first one to expose me to the concept of floral design. And my parents are my biggest supporters. We call my dad, ‘Delivery Dad’ as he often delivers flowers to my events. And we call my mom ‘Marketing Mom.’ If she overhears someone say they are getting married, she starts in on her Floral Designs by Justine pitch!
What gardens do you like to visit? I love Elizabeth Park. And there is a garden where I get some of the flowers I use in arrangements. It’s called, ‘Something to Crow about Dahlias’ in Cornwall. If you’re a dahlia fan, it’s a beautiful garden.
What is your biggest gardening success? I feel as if every year I’ve been in business has been successful. Each year I’ve designed flowers for more weddings than I did the year before. Can’t complain about that!
What is your biggest gardening mistake? Every year there are some mistakes. I try to learn from them and move on.
What are you working on now? I’m very excited about having updated my website. It has been completely rebranded and I’ve enjoyed revisiting and revising my brand. Please take a look at floraldesignsbyjustine.com
And when you’re not gardening…? You might find me working out at the gym, doing yoga or a fitness class, or I could be rock climbing. I also love visiting Cape Cod.
Care to share a fact about yourself that others may find surprising? I have participated in martial arts for 18 years… since I was 6 years old! My parents signed me up for karate because I was a very shy child. My brother and sister started next. Then my parents and grandma joined in and they all have their black belts. I attained my Associate Master Belt in karate and have a Black Belt in jujitsu.