Holland native Patricia Ruff started her business, Rocky Bay Garden Creations, soon after moving to the Key Peninsula in 2016.
“The Dutch will use any occasion to gift flowers and they are always well received,” Ruff said.
“Fresh flowers are more expensive outside of Holland, so with my inherited love for flowers, my love for gardening grew,” she said.
She came to the United States after meeting her husband overseas while he was serving in the U.S. Navy.
Ruff traveled to many countries and had a few careers before launching Rocky Bay Garden Creations.
“My sense of home always travels with me and I’m a strong believer that you can make dreams come true,” she said. “I’ve done it once before and my goal is to do it again.”
Ruff was a successful horse trainer and riding instructor after dreaming of owning a pony as a young child.
“I always encourage people to follow their passion, be eager to learn, become good at what you do, and pass on the knowledge or experience you gain,” Ruff said. “No one gets there alone and it is OK to ask for support or guidance. For example, Claudia Loy from Sunnycrest Nursery has given me very useful tips over the past year. That’s what is so great about this community.”
Ruff makes her own unique hypertufa containers and creates kokedama (Japanese moss sculptures) with a variety of plants, including spring bulbs and herbs. “I love to design and to create things that incorporate greens, from preserved moss art to low maintenance plant container designs,” she said.
Ruff believes most people want to enjoy their gardens, not become a slave to them.
“I hear a lot of ‘I cannot even keep my cactus alive!’” she said. “Moss art is a perfect solution for that. It requires zero maintenance. You hang it on the wall and forget about it.”
Moss art panels, which do not require any care, are good for areas like waiting rooms, entryways and restaurants.
“Greenery gives a sense of calm and also helps control humidity and purify the air,” she said.
The preserved moss art was a big hit in her display garden for the 2017 Northwest Flower and Garden Show at the Washington State Convention Center in February in Seattle. There was a juried show where 10 designers created a “city living” display representing a small patio or balcony.
Ruff came home with three out of five awards: Best Sanctuary, Best Use of Plant Material and People’s Choice Award.
“This was a huge accomplishment for me,” she said. “It has opened new doors for me and made many new connections in the industry.”
Ruff is still looking for outlets to display and sell her work, since she works from home and does not have a permanent retail location.
“At this point, I just encourage people to contact me directly if they have interest in my work,” she said.
Ruff will teach a class on kokedama at Sunnycrest Nursery April 8.
For more information, go to www.rockybaygardencreations.com.