Blaze Podgorski has worked in the plant world for nearly 45 years. “In high school, I got a job picking weeds at Terrace Garden just outside of Detroit,” he said, describing the beginnings of his horticultural career. Now he’s FastGrowingTrees’ Director of Nursery Operations, Research & Development, and Supplier Development.
From Picking Weeds to Planting Trees
In his neighborhood, Blaze began doing yard work and basic lawn care on top of his job at Terrace Garden. Then, when he got his driver’s license, he dug a little deeper into landscaping.
“I started doing little landscape jobs in people’s front yards,” he said. With the freedom to drive, he could use an old truck at the local nursery to transport trees and other plants back to his customers’ homes. He kept up his landscaping side hustle with a few buddies until he left for college in Texas.
An Unusual Challenge
When he worked in commercial landscaping, Blaze was helping complete a project for a casino in Detroit. After spending hundreds of thousands on different plants, the client ran out of money to pay for them to be put in the ground. So, Blaze stopped the work and was left with a massive, hand-dug Green Vase Zelkova Tree (pictured below) with nowhere to go.
He said he’d plant it when they had the money to pay him, but in the meantime he’d have to keep this tree alive somehow. So, he found an above-ground parking lot, placed the Zelkova near a fire pump (for easy water access), and kept it alive for 10 months without planting. “It actually thrived there!” he said.
Eventually, the casino was able to cut the check, and Blaze finished the project without losing the tree.
Over 4 Decades of Practical Experience
“Not many people know this, but I’ve never taken a plant class in my life,” Blaze said. Now, that’s not to say he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Since adolescence, he’s been elbow-deep in gardening, horticulture, and landscape design. His knowledge comes from more than 4 decades in the field, where he’s held a number of plant-oriented positions.
He’s worked at several nurseries across the country, multiple landscaping companies, and even a green recycling organization. There, he learned all about up-and-coming composting technologies and sustainability — knowledge that he brings into his role at FastGrowingTrees.
Coordinating With Growers for Better Plants
A member of the FastGrowingTrees team for 8 years, he’s played a critical part in our relationships with growers. To become the nation’s leading online-only plant retailer, we couldn’t follow the same rules as the brick-and-mortar stores.
We had to think outside the box—or, rather, within one.
“As the future evolves more toward putting a plant in a box, we have to grow plants differently,” Blaze said. “So how do we do that? I work with our growers, discuss all our operations, and we work together to find a solution.”
Day-to-Day Boots on the Ground
“Everything going on outside in the nursery, I am (to one degree or another) involved: maintenance, inventory, property management, construction, equipment—I have to keep my eye on it,” Blaze explained.
Nearly every day of the week, he’s out with our trees and shrubs, making sure they look, grow, and feel their best. And despite the demands of the job, he loves what he does: “I’ve always enjoyed being outside and working with plants.”