“I wish I could take the batteries out, but I can’t.” Anyone who knows ArtisTree Purchasing Manager Maria Muhlhahn knows her words ring true. A super-charged champion of plants since her childhood days on a farm in southern England, Maria focuses all her energies on two simple things: learning about plant life and sharing what she’s learned over her past 30 years in the landscape industry.

Pursuing a degree in horticulture didn’t go fast enough for Maria, so after attending classes in England and Florida, she traded her college books for a full-time position at a wholesale nursery in Naples, FL. Her job? Plant cuttings and pot fillings – thousands of them. She studied and learned, and before long, she was promoted to floor sales and later to plant purchaser before joining another independent nursery.

Still, one thing was missing from her career climb — learning the industry’s business side. So she signed on with Home Depot and was soon promoted to an inventory management associate, merchandising and purchasing plant material for the store’s garden center. After two years she was ready to bring all her skills to a fast-growing company based in Venice, FL: ArtisTree Landscape Maintenance & Design.

Since 2006, Maria has served as ArtisTree’s nursery manager, operations manager and, currently, purchasing manager. Always a tough negotiator, she’s responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in plant materials, making sure only the best specimens are bought. “What I love most is ‘the find’ – meeting the challenge that our designers give me to locate the most beautiful and healthy plants available,” she says.

One of Maria’s toughest assignments was to find 17 large Royal poincianas with full 360-degree tops — not the traditional orange ones but the vibrant “Key West red” ones. But find them she did, much to the delight of a demanding customer. Of course, she never divulges the sources she works so hard to cultivate.

When Maria isn’t on a buying trip or ordering plant material, she’s teaching a class, judging statewide educational courses or staging large events. Her qualifications are top-shelf. She’s a Florida Certified Horticultural Professional, an ISA Certified Arborist and a Certified FNGLA Judge. She’s also the founder of ArtisTree University and teaches courses to company employees so they can earn accreditations.

“I want others to be as excited as I am when they learn about plants,” she explains. “I love sharing what I know and working at a company that celebrates a passion for plants. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.”

Maria’s favorite plant: Arikury palm

Favorite landscape style: natural (vs. native) with water features and free-form hardscapes