Sculpt Gardens owner and designer John Steuernagel is a third generation ornamental horticulturist and this legacy shows in his work. The story begins over 60 years ago when John’s grandfather, John C., opened a flower shop in Westfield, New Jersey. Later, John’s father, John I., who studied Landscape Horticulture at Rutgers University in New Jersey, joined the family business. John I. added a very successful nursery and landscape design & construction element to the business. Young John, along with his mother, his four older sisters and many of their friends grew up working at Steuernagel’s Nursery, right beside his father and grandfather.
John’s father was a genuine mentor, and his influence has everything to do with John’s professional integrity, creative technique, and strong understanding of construction. Sadly, before John attended college at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, his father passed away. Just a few months later, John met Danielle, now his wife and co-founder of Sculpt Gardens. John thrived at the university and was quickly recruited by his professor, Gordon Fletcher Howell, to work for his small landscape company, Earthcare. John realized that it was this kind of boutique-style business that he someday wanted to build. First, he headed back to New Jersey to resume his duty to take charge of the booming Steuernagel’s Nursery. To his fortune, John and his mom were in sync. His mother had a dream to sell the business and move the family home to a farm in Vermont, which she soon made a reality. John helped her to establish the landscape of the new farm while Danielle moved to San Francisco.
Once John’s work was complete in Vermont, he followed Danielle west and fell in love with San Francisco – its landscaping potential, the climate, and the culture. His training in traditional East Coast landscaping and masonry blossomed. He continued to develop his own style by studying nature, stone masonry, and art, all the while working in the field for various firms. He helped these firms grow and saw how his expertise changed their work. This inspired John to do what he always knew he would—start his own boutique-style landscape company with Danielle. In 2003, Sculpt Gardens was born, emphasizing that landscapes are art installations, gardens are for people, and the more time you spend outside, the happier you are.
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