J. Landon Reeve IV, founder of Chapel Valley Landscape Co., passed away on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25. He was 79 years old.
Growing up, Reeve, LIC, spent five years working a part-time job at Bluemount Nursery, a perennial grower and wholesaler in Maryland, and his love for horticulture grew from there. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in ornamental horticulture from the University of Maryland. After graduating, he founded a small garden center and landscape business with a partner before striking out on his own four years later.
In 1968, Reeve founded Chapel Valley, based in Woodbine, Maryland. According to Reeve’s daughter, Deonne Wollman, he started with one green Volkswagen Bug, some land in rural Howard County, Maryland and a staff of three.
“Initially, the company was a residential design/build firm for the first few years, and over the next 20 years, the company expanded services for commercial landscape installation, maintenance and irrigation/lighting and added residential maintenance as well,” Wollman says.
Key projects such as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Marriott Corporation, Mobile Oil, the Baltimore Inner Harbor, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the National Shrine all propelled the company forward, demonstrating Chapel Valley’s depth of skill and knowledge. The company quickly became one of the first major players in the residential market.
James Reeve, Reeve’s son and current president and CEO of Chapel Valley, says his father’s legacy is being an industry pioneer for creating a professional landscape company when almost none existed. One of Reeve’s mottos was “Do it right the first time, or don’t do it all.”
“I think he led by example,” says Frank Mariani, LIC, owner of Mariani Landscape. “I think he looked like a pro, he dressed like a pro, he talked like a professional, and he just tried to raise the general perception of the public, whatever the public was, whether it was commercial work or residential work. That this is not somebody in a pickup with a spade and shovel and a lawn mower in the back, we’re professionals. We should act like professionals, and we should be treated like professionals.”
Years before NALP Field Trips were offered, Reeve visited Mariani’s company with his son and daughter.
“The thing that impressed me is here’s one of the icons, somebody who I really looked up to, but he was interested in coming to Mariani, showing his children what he felt was another good company and he was always looking to learn by taking the best practices from other companies and implementing them at his business,” Mariani says.
After 47 years of leading his company, Reeve retired in 2015. The company employs over 450 individuals and operates out of 7 locations in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast now. Reeve joined the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA), a legacy organization of NALP, in 1969 and became the president of ALCA in 1984. In 2007, he served as the president of the PLANET Academic Excellence Foundation, which is now the NALP Foundation. He was also the president of the Landscape Contractors Association MD, DC, VA and the Maryland Nurserymen’s Association. He was a mentor to many others in the industry.
“Landon was by actions, a true leader,” says Bruce Moore Sr., LIC, founder and CEO of Eastern Land Management. “He was always there to answer questions and provide mentoring support to young people entering the landscape industry. A conversation with Landon was never about ‘Landon,’ and he was unwavering in his dedication to the industry and his passion for the industry was very obvious to those who knew him.”
Moore says he would visit Chapel Valley and Reeve would spend the entire day with him discussing business operations and sharing best practices.
Chris Raimondi, LIC, CEO of Raimondi Horticultural Group, Inc., says Reeve had been a mentor to him from almost day one and he would often ask him many business questions. He says in one instance he asked Reeve to lunch and they discussed many topics. Raimondi says Reeve would often guide him to where he was answering his own questions.
“The meeting went on probably two times longer than I expected,” Raimondi says. “I had asked him to lunch and then I turned around and he bought lunch. He said it was his privilege to speak to me and help me.”
Jenn Myers, senior director of workforce development for NALP, is yet another individual Reeve impacted during his life.
“Landon was a leader in every sense of the word,” Myers says. “Each conversation with him was a learning experience. Early in my career, I had the fortune of reporting directly to Landon for several years. My age and gender were not factors for him – he saw potential and was determined to help guide and support my development. I remember sitting in his office having long conversations about anything and everything. He loved the example of the concentric circles to describe personal and professional growth: what you know, what you don’t know, and what you don’t know you don’t know. I’ve repeated that to many students over the years, always with credit back to an amazing man who saw a future landscape professional in me.”
Raimondi, Mariani and Moore all describe Reeve as a gentleman. He had a quiet confidence to him and was steadfast in his beliefs. He followed the philosophy of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
“He treated everybody the same whether you were doing half a million dollars a year, or you were doing $50 million a year,” Mariani says. “Landon was there to extend a hand and help out.”
Reeve’s impact on NALP can be summarized by his desire for the entire industry to do well and to encourage the sharing of knowledge and wisdom among members. Mariani says that Reeve’s company helped drive his own business to greater heights because they set such a high standard.
“He touched many, many lives with the work he did,” Wollman says. “He set the bar high for standards in the industry and served as a mentor and example to so many. He made a tremendous and deliberate impact on improving the professionalism of the green industry that enabled clients to value this profession at a higher level. His hard work, dedication and love for the industry and his family is exemplified in so many ways during his lifetime.”
In his personal life, Reeve loved his family and to travel. His son and daughter both say they had wonderful family trips together. They also both mentioned his love of feeding the birds.
“The love of the birds was equal to his distaste of the squirrels that would run the birds off and eat the birdseed,” James Reeve says. “Landon had a 40-year long battle with the squirrels, the squirrels won.”
Due to current events, a memorial will be scheduled at a future date, depending on changes in regulations and state guidelines. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the American Horticulture Society or the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation in Landon’s name.