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@Work: Heaven and Earth Landscaping

April 27, 2007 — Heaven and Earth Landscaping owner Curtis Bridgewater is a man with a mission.
"I love preserving native trees," he says.
Bridgewater, 38, does most of his business on St. John, where he grew up, but also has clients on St. Thomas. He and his crew of two do it all, starting with a computerized rendering of his suggestions for landscaping a bare yard. "The design is the thing," Bridgewater says. He can even design a landscaping plan based on native fruit trees.
"My favorite is the mango tree," he says.
Bridgewater also grafts fruit trees to provide just the right variety. St. John used to have a lot of fruit trees, but crews cutting limbs in the way of utility lines pruned so deep they killed the trees, he says.
The Heaven and Earth crew prunes the right way to make sure the tree lives through the experience, Bridgewater says. The company also does maintenance work, including yard cutting. Business has picked up considerably since the island's recent deluge of rain made everything start growing again, he says.
Dealing with native plants is nearest and dearest to Bridgewater's heart.
"I can go in and show you the native trees," he says.
One of the biggest challenges of keeping a landscaping business going, he says, is keeping good employees. Iguanas also pose problems. His crew has had to chase some out in order to prune trees.
"They jump all over the place," Bridgewater says. But he insists that working in the hot sun is not an issue: "We're Virgin Islanders, you know."
It worries Bridgewater that people building on St. John don't seem to care about the native species that grow better in St. John's climate than do imported species.
"Nobody cares for the plants anymore," he says.
Bridgewater says he learned all about native trees from older St. John people telling stories. As they told them, information about native trees and their uses came out. He also learned about bush medicine from older people.
"A lot of the pills you buy in the store don't help," he says.
Bridgewater started Heaven and Earth about five years ago after spending two years working for the V.I. Agriculture Department. Before that, he worked as an auto-body mechanic at a couple of places on St. John.
He's a family man who lives on St. Thomas with Nicole Bollentini. The couple has a 1 1/2-year-old son, Kassa.
To reach Heaven and Earth, call 626-7257.
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