Brent Knoll, Healing Garden Creator
I came to Miami from Nebraska in 1990 to earn a degree in fashion,
after playing football and studying journalism at Kearney State University. Once here, I began working as a personal trainer, massage therapist and yoga instructor, but could not contain my love of plants or my desire to work the land. In particular, I was totally blown away by the exotic orchids thriving in South Florida, and before long, I began collecting Thai, South American and Hawaiian varieties that loved the warm humid climate of my new home. In 1997 I founded Smiling Moose Orchids, funny name huh, I thought so, something to “attract your attention.” My first customers were my personal training clients, who started asking me to help them with small garden projects, and from there my landscaping business grew organically, and rather by accident.
I grew up on the great plains of Nebraska, one of six rambunctious kids in the country by Hershey, which at the time boasted a population of 540, and that was counting the chickens. The nearest neighbors lived a half a mile away in the pure ranching territory of the Great Plains. The horizon was a rolling prairie punctuated only by funnel clouds in tornado season, and the occasional windmill. We lived on 20 acres, which may sound like a lot but is a drop in the bucket compared to most country folk. Our grandparents had thousands of acres to graze cattle on, so there was no shortage of manure for fertilizing the garden. Black Gold is what we call it back home.
Our soil was sandy but really rich, and we grew our own food, like everyone else: asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, grapes, kohlrabi, onion, radishes, rhubarb, squash and all kinds of lettuce. We had a huge area devoted just to melons. We’d plop down in the field, crack one of those things open and stick our whole heads in there, they were so delicious. Then we’d go inside the house with our face and hair all full of seeds. It was good honest fun. I remember the countryside teeming with life: whenever I’d hand a fistful of freshly-picked wildflowers to my mom, the little bouquet would be crawling with ants, and bees would often follow me into the house. Mom always smiled. Living off the land in a family of six kids required a lot of hard work. Our mother organized all the chores. Simple jobs included weeding, snipping and snapping beans, and harvesting produce that was ripe and ready to eat. But every Spring, we’d have to haul out the manure-spreader (which was about the size of a compact car) and hook it up to the back of a tractor, which all of us knew how to drive by about age five. Dried dung was trucked over from neighboring fields, shoveled into the back of the spreader, and in a whirlwind of teeth, it got chewed up and spat out in 180 degrees, all over the fields. Then we’d bust out the roto-tiller to turn the freshly fertilized soil before planting new crops.
Our mother would line-up the rows and all the kids would plant the seeds according to her plan. In the Summer, the prairie grass had to be cut, rolled into bales and neatly stacked to feed all that hungry livestock on adjacent farms. I can say with a straight face that other than accidentally lighting barns and haystacks on fire, I was a very joyous kid.
Some tasks were not for the faint-of-heart, especially concerning the 500 chickens we’d raise and consume each year. The sight of a headless bird running around was just part of the natural process. Besides being the tornado bunker, the cool basement held a big root cellar to stash all the carrots and potatoes. Also in the basement, there was lots of horseplay. The Knoll kids did not have regular pillow-fights, we’d load books in the cases. What’s the final product? I’ve cultivated my passion through a lifetime of experience. In me, you get one big tall farmin’ boy who understands the law of the land, the importance of organization, and doesn’t shy away from hard work. I have 16 years of experience creating elegant gardens in Miami. I can do the same for you as your garden guru.