It all began when they bought the farm.
In 1975, Tracy Katz left his job as a manager at a local plant nursery with a better business idea: to create a company that specialized in interior and exterior plant landscapes. With his brother Steve Katz and friend Mike Cosgrove, they purchased the 30-acre Sunset Hills Farm in Sykesville MD, built a greenhouse, and named their new company after the farm: Sunset Hills Foliage.
It started small, with three accounts and a tractor trailer that the founders drove to Florida monthly for plants and supplies. Tracy, Steve and Mike did it all; from sales and accounting to plant maintenance and design, covering sites locally and throughout the mid-Atlantic region while laying the foundation of their new business: providing and maintaining beautiful interior and exterior plants with exceptional customer service, knowledge and a growing staff of fellow plant-lovers.
Sunset Hills Foliage expanded rapidly and began to pick up larger interior plantscaping projects, including the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, The Federal Reserve Bank, Embassy Suites hotels, The World Bank, The National Aquarium, The National Institutes of Health (NIH), The American Chemical Society, The Rouse Company, The Nature Conservancy global headquarters, The North American Volkswagen headquarters and many major local malls, restaurants, commercial lobbies, atriums and office spaces in the DC/MD/VA areas.
In 1985, the company moved to its current location on US-1 in Laurel, MD, purchasing the old house at 10081 Washington Blvd North and converting it to an office and greenhouse. In 1987, Sunset Hills Foliage expanded and built the Baobab Nursery in Homestead, Florida to produce their own supply of greenery. The nursery prospered until 1992 when Hurricane Andrew, a devastating category-5 storm, caused heavy structural damage and it was sold soon after. Mike Cosgrove retired from Sunset Hills Foliage in 1984 and Tracy Katz retired in 1988, leaving Steve Katz as the sole owner.
Even with the constant changes in the company and the landscaping industry, Sunset Hills Foliage has been able to continue to thrive and grow for over 45 years due to one core belief: we care.
“The possibility of doing another unique project still gets me excited every day,” says Steve Katz. “I love hearing compliments from clients and that they feel good doing business with us. We have a dedicated crew who takes pride in their jobs and treats our clients and their plants like family.”
Another key to the company’s longevity is staying on top of landscaping trends. “When we started, we were installing macramé hanging planters in restaurants,” recalls Steve. “We used to maintain enormous atriums in malls and buildings that required daily care. Back then, having a lush, green interior was the fashion.”
Today, plants are not merely ornamental but are utilized for their scientifically proven benefits: they clean the air, help maintain indoor humidity (which decreases the occurrence of dry skin, colds, sore throats and dry coughs), decrease levels of stress and anxiety, and they can help with concentration and productivity at work. “Clients are now including spaces for plants to thrive in their buildings instead of us just putting plants near all the windows,” stated Steve. “The idea is to incorporate natural elements as part of the building’s design. You need to get creative, and you have to look at new ways to use the same plants.”
Sunset Hills Foliage continues to use innovative ways to provide greenery to over 200 clients such as vertical living walls, moss walls, Zen gardens, custom built-in planters, fresh flower rotations, and designing interior landscapes that compliment amenity spaces and offices. “Plants aren't just decoration,” says Steve. “They are useful and can bring amazing color, warmth and personality to any building.”