West Redding welcomes a landscaper with roots

The owner of Stonebridge Associates, Rob Hughes, and his mother, Ellen Hughes-Sonnenfroh, at a drafting table in their new headquarters in West Redding. — Christopher Burns photo

A native son of Redding, Rob Hughes, has moved his landscaping business to a new headquarters just miles from where he grew up on Umpawaug Road.

Stonebridge Associates, Hughes’s full-service landscape construction and maintenance firm, just relocated to West Redding Center, across the tracks from the post office.

“Rob used to come to West Redding Center to get his hair cut,” his mother, Ellen Hughes-Sonnenfroh, remembered last week at the company’s new office on Long Ridge Road near the train station. Hughes-Sonnenfroh is Stonebridge’s master gardener and maintains a five-acre garden of her own at her Chestnut Woods Road home.

Hughes’s company is a construction and maintenance landscape firm that can build “anything new” in terms of landscapes, plantings, lawns, lighting, masonry, and swimming pools, and can maintain any kind of yard.

He holds a degree in landscape design from the University of Connecticut, and spent eight years as a landscape designer for other companies in Connecticut before founding Stonebridge 20 years ago.

“I always had a dream of doing it myself and having my own business. It’s wonderful to create outdoor living environments and help people bring their properties to their maximum potential,” he said.

Family business

Gardening and landscaping is a family business for Hughes, who employs his mother as master gardener of the company.

Ellen Hughes-Sonnenfroh is a self-trained master gardener who has often opened the doors to her own five-acre Chestnut Woods property during Open Days programs sponsored by the Connecticut Garden Conservancy.

“I’ve had more than 30 years’ experience in landscaping,” Ellen said, including a stint as a property manager for PepsiCo.

“I always did hope and dream about working with my son, so this is very nice for me now. I’m busy, and I like to keep busy,” she said.

Aesthetic

In terms of landscape aesthetic, Hughes said he strives to provide clients with “a rotation of color throughout the year,” adding that color is not restricted to just flowers.

“We might use branches that have red twigs and a white birch, things that have nothing to do with flowers, for color,” Hughes said.

He also said it’s important to him that plants “thrive, not just survive.”

“Some plants like wet areas, some like dry areas. Some like when it’s shady and others like when there is direct sunlight. The general rule is, Don’t put a sunny plant in the shade, for instance.

“We want plants that are winners, something that’s going to do well. That’s more difficult than it seems. It’s important to know what works in different plant settings,” he said.

Recent trends

In recent years, Hughes and his mother said, outdoor entertaining areas have become a sought-after aspect of a home’s landscape.

“A lot of times that may involve a firepit or a fireplace with nighttime lighting, a sound system, and sitting areas separated by stone walls,” Hughes said. “People are trying to create their own little resort spaces.”

Also popular recently are ornamental grasses, which are naturally deer-resistant.

“Some plants they just don’t eat,” Ellen said, like ornamental grasses and lavender. “Now, they will eat almost anything on a totally empty stomach, but ornamental grasses are the top plant they don’t eat.”

New Pond Farm

Both Hughes and Hughes-Sonnenfroh will be teaching a three-part gardening course in conjunction with New Pond Farm this year on keeping a Redding garden in full color after the spring bloom.

The three-part series will take place over the next three seasons — late spring, summer and fall — at Hughes-Sonnenfroh’s home in Redding.

The spring session will be held on May 20, the summer session on July 15, and the fall session on Sept. 16. All the courses are on Saturdays and begin at 10 a.m. on Chestnut Woods Road.

Information: www.newpondfarm.org.

Stonebridge

To learn more about Stonebridge Associates, visit www.stonebridgeassociates.net.

 

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