Surfing Hydrangea Nursery has a fantastic staff with a wide variety of experience in the green industry. Our friendly team sources, maintains and sells the finest plants for Nantucket and wants you to succeed in growing them. Need a little guidance with a new design? Not sure which plant to grow in a difficult spot? We are happy to share our years of experience and horticultural know-how with you. We love what we do, and look forward to helping you with your island landscape. If you would like to get to know some of us a little better, check out a few biographies below.
Meet Our Landscape Professionals
Craig BeniFounder and President
I grew up in the Hudson River Valley of New York and spent summers on Nantucket with family throughout my youth. After graduating from Middlebury College in 1996, and spending a brief stint working at my brother’s landscape construction firm, I started Surfing Hydrangea Nursery. During that first season in 1998, there was little more than a corded phone mounted on a pitch pine, a folding table and a slowly increasing collection of plant material. Nevertheless, it soon became clear that there would be an available niche on the island to supply fine quality landscape plants. I have remained deeply involved in all aspects of the daily operation at Surfing Hydrangea throughout its growth and especially enjoy the purchasing of plant material from fine suppliers all over the country. In horticulture and business, there is a never ending array of knowledge and expertise to be gained through study and observation – This keeps the job forever interesting and challenging. When not at the nursery, I can usually be found trying to keep up with my wife and three daughters…It’s not an easy task! We love taking advantage of all this little island has to offer.
One of my favorite plants is Ilex opaca – American Holly. This berry laden evergreen helps bring life to the winter landscape and adds structure throughout the year. It is deer resistant, versatile and improves with age to become a stately tree.
Jocelyn BeniGeneral Manager
I grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts and vacationed on Nantucket in the summer. After graduating from Middlebury College in 1997, I spent a few years living in Boston working at a consulting firm. I returned to graduate school at Tufts University and received my Masters in Education and Massachusetts Teaching License in Elementary Education in 2002. I have worked in public schools in Massachusetts and at the Nantucket New School. I have been involved at Surfing Hydrangea Nursery since the early days and have become increasingly active since leaving my teaching position and becoming a mother of three girls; ages 1, 6 & 8. I concentrate on the office work of the business, including, but not exclusive of, payroll, accounts receivables, billing and any human resources issues for our close to 20 employees. It is amazing to see how the Nursery has developed over the last 17 years!
I have three favorite trees: the Sugar Tyme Crabapple, Seven Son Flower & the Venus Dogwood. Each of these trees blossoms at the same time of year my daughters were born. Tradition in our family is that a tree is planted on their first birthdays. Here are more details on these trees: Malus x ‘Sutyzam’ – Sugar Tyme Crabapple – Late May flowers open from pink buds to fragrant white blossoms. Red fruits develop heading into fall and persist into winter on a well, but irregularly, branched tree. Heptacodium miconiodes – Seven Son Flower – White September flowers are followed by purple bracts. This multi-stemmed tree also features peeling tan bark and excellent fall color. Cornus x ‘Venus’ – Venus Dogwood – Huge white flowers/bracts from late June into early July. It’s perhaps the largest of any dogwood. This tree also exhibits strawberry like fruits and excellent foliage color in the fall.
Brad MacDonaldSales Associate
I was born and raised on the North Shore of Nova Scotia, Canada. After high school, I moved to Prince Edward island where I earned a diploma in Culinary Arts and a Certificate in Pastry Arts at the Culinary Institute of Canada in 1999 and 2000. I was recruited right out of school to work on Nantucket for a successful island caterer. After a few years in hospitality I was more than ready to get out of the kitchen and shift careers.
Today I would call myself a professional gardener turned plantsman. I started working in the green industry in 2003 when I took a job working for a small Mom and Pop gardening company. Over the years I moved up the ranks in several different positions in other island landscaping companies. My horticultural knowledge is gleaned from hands on experience and a lot of reading. I was proud to earn the Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist title and the NOFA Organic Land Care Certification as well as a certificate in Landscape Design through distance education.
I joined the team at SHN in 2010 and haven’t looked back. I am able to share my understanding of the challenges of gardening on Nantucket and broad knowledge of the best plants for the island with our customers. In 2014 I spearheaded the installation of the first greenhouse at Surfing Hydrangea. I continue to grow my knowledge of horticulture as the man in charge of on-site growing and plant maintenance at the nursery.
A favorite deer-resistant plant of mine is Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora. The young bronze foliage of this stately evergreen fern contrasts beautifully with the mature glossy green leaves. Plant it in a shady spot in the garden with Brunnera, Japanese forest grass and Siberian iris.
Anna PuzaSales Associate
I’ve been a happy employee of Surfing Hydrangea Nursery since 2014. I came from Burlington, VT where I worked for Onion River Food Cooperative, Volunteers For Peace, and Shelburne Farms. I lived in Vermont for four years having attended Saint Michael’s College and remained there beyond completion of my studies.
Here at Surfing Hydrangea I hold a position as a Sales Associate. I enjoy working on our social media and creating signs and other advertising and marketing materials.
In my free time I enjoy running, bike riding, spending time with friends and family and traveling in the off season. I am a very proud owner of a beautiful golden retriever named Stella who spent her summer here on the island and greeted many of our customers!
My favorite plant is Papaver somniferum – Poppy. These self-seeding annuals are deer resistant and beautiful! After the flowers fade, the seed pods swell and continue to add interest to the garden all summer.
Vanessa ChernerSales Associate
I was born and raised to love the outdoors in Boulder, Colorado. But the ocean called to me more than the Rocky Mountains. So as quickly as I could, I escaped being land-bound to being ocean-front.
I attended the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC where I earned a bachelor of science degree in Business Administration with a focus in Marketing. It was impossibly hard to tear myself away from Folly Beach, but eventually I was drawn to the opposite coast and attended graduate school at the Academy of Art University where I earned a Masters of Fine Arts in Fashion Merchandising.
However, being immersed in a city as big as San Francisco I found myself aching to be a part of nature. I volunteered with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy as much as I could and began to realize I much preferred to work in the dirt than in the world of fashion. I hightailed it to Nantucket where I felt at home after having spent summers growing up here with my family. While completing my masters degree online, I began gardening part-time and finally found a path in life that seemed to fit. Delving deeper into the world of gardening and food systems, I jumped at the opportunity to study Permaculture Design at a burgeoning farm on the big island of Hawaii. I learned skills and concepts during that time that have truly opened my eyes to sustainability and living off the land that I hope to forever develop and extend that knowledge to others.
I am looking forward to my first season working at Surfing Hydrangea Nursery where I hope to be completely surrounded with all of my favorite plants including succulents, herbs, trees and ornamental flowers.
If I had to choose an absolute favorite, perhaps it would be a Royal Rainier Cherry tree: with exploding pink flowers in the spring and the most delicious yellow blushing fruit in the late summer, it just gives and gives.
Steve WilliamsSales Associate
I come from a hard working blue collar family hailing from Western Massachusetts. I used my strong work ethic to obtain degrees in both Accounting and Finance from Western New England University in Springfield, MA.
As a Sales Associate here at SHN, I use my education in business to provide customers with a professional and personable experience. Although I came to SHN in the Spring of 2015 as a novice in the green industry, I am learning each day to help better serve our customers.