A new South End landscaping company is specializing in a fast-growing plant that is both beautiful and sustainable — bamboo.
The company, owned and operated by one Freeland couple, has been lauded by clients for its efficiency and quality.
JT Hilton, a self-described “fourth generation islander,” first became interested in bamboo more than two decades ago. He started growing a variety of species on a property he owns in Freeland, but other interests and work opportunities eventually took him to Seattle.
In October 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic altering work conditions across industries, Hilton and his girlfriend, Meagan Welsh, decided to move back to the Freeland “bamboo patch,” as they call it, and open their own business.
In the spring of this year, Mutiny Bay Bamboo Co. officially became licensed. The business is both a wholesale nursery and a landscaping company. Hilton and Welsh provide more than 50 species of bamboo, including around 20 clumping, non-invasive species.
While they are licensed to sell plants to contractors, landscapers and other businesses as well as individuals, Hilton and Welsh also provide landscaping and installation services themselves.
Their process is thorough and individualized, and the two owners are personally involved at every stage. They begin with an in-person consultation so they can see the space and work with the property owner to develop their design.
“We speak to the client about what their ideas are and what their visions are, and then based off of what their visions are for the area, we can recommend certain species of plants that will accommodate what they’re looking for,” Hilton said.
The client is then invited to the nursery to see the recommended species and make a selection. Hilton and Welsh propose a design based on the client’s vision and the chosen bamboo variety. Once they get the client’s final approval on the design, they begin installation.
Among their landscaping specialties are bamboo privacy screens. Because many bamboo species can grow up to 20 feet or more, the plant makes a great alternative to hedges or fences for anyone looking to make a yard more private or block out unwanted views.
Hilton and Welsh recently installed a 42-foot privacy screen for Jay Ericson, a Freeland resident. Ericson and his wife had been researching options to improve the view from their backyard when they biked past the bamboo patch on Shore Meadows Road.
The couple decided bamboo was a good option for them because it grows quickly, in addition to being very pretty. Ericson said working with Hilton and Welsh to fulfill his vision for his yard was a great experience.
“Meagan and JT were both extremely knowledgeable and experienced,” he said.
Ericson had some trouble with bamboo in the past; at his former home in Clinton, he spent years trying to eliminate a rogue bamboo plant that had managed to grow in under his driveway.
Because Hilton and Welsh were so well-versed in the many species of bamboo and how to manage them, however, Ericson said they were able to mitigate any issues the plant might cause and assuage his concerns.
When installing running species of bamboo, such as the species chosen by the Ericsons, Hilton and Welsh build in a thick plastic barrier, entrenched 30 inches into the ground, to prevent unwanted spreading.
“They did great work. It looks absolutely beautiful,” Ericson said of the finished product, noting that Hilton and Welsh both worked extremely hard on the installation.
Hilton and Welsh can also install irrigation systems to assist with plant maintenance, as well as custom outdoor lighting.
Bamboo plants are great for the environment, Hilton said. They sequester more carbon dioxide and release more oxygen than an equivalent mass of trees; their foliage is highly nutritious fodder for animals; and they provide a sustainable source of material for textile and paper products.
“We feel fortunate to own our own company,” Hilton said. “We get a lot of self gratification from working with our clients, and we’re both very passionate about what we do in providing the best quality work that we can.”
Welsh said their joy comes not only from serving their clients, but from building up a network of support with other similar companies.
“We get to work a little bit with the other people in bamboo,” she said. “We’re all helping each other out, and it’s all benefiting each other and keeps going around.”