March, 2013. It was the winter that wouldn’t end. Heavy coat still out, boots at the ready, garden looking muddy, bedraggled and mostly snow covered. So when I learned that Mike’s Hothouse had opened for the season, visions of bright, blooming flowers, leafy, lush plants and days of sunshine immediately came to mind. I hopped in the car and was there in 10 minutes. And I wasn’t disappointed.
The greenhouse was full of row upon row of colorful seedlings and full size plants which made me anxious to see what was waiting for me in the Country Store a few steps away. Here I found dips, lotions, soaps, 99¢ greeting cards, gloves, bird baths, houses and feeders, tools, pottery, decorative items for the home—a variety of gifts suitable for any occasion. It was turning out to be a very good day.
Portia and Mike Cozzolino originally launched their greenhouse and landscaping business in 2000 on the property where they live in Gardiner. With encouragement from Portia’s father, owner of Donato Farms, a 70 year old family operation spanning Gardiner and Modena, the couple eventually set up a commercial size greenhouse on the family’s farm. Mike was working full time—and still is—but the couple was determined, and the business was quickly in full swing.
The family grows a huge variety of vegetables and flowers and on any given day the couple’s three children can be seen helping out with whatever needs doing. Among the bedding plants: beets, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, celery and spinach, are 20 varieties each of peppers and tomatoes, with heirlooms being particularly popular. The flower selection includes a seemingly endless list of annuals and perennials which are grown in jumbo, root encouraging six packs. Since they grow their own plants and know what works and what doesn’t, Mike and Portia are very knowledgable about care and growing conditions. Portia also produces beautiful custom wedding flowers, corsages, bouquets, boutonnieres and centerpieces at very reasonable prices and will accommodate any budget. “People have been coming for years to buy wedding flowers, and creating those special pieces for a bridal party is the part of the business I love the best,” she shares.
Seasonally, Mike’s does a brisk Christmas tree, poinsettia and wreath business (tree prices start at $20). Also available are cemetery crosses and grave blankets. In fall, pumpkins, asters and fall flowers are featured. And as if all this activity weren’t enough, landscaping has become an integral part of what the couple offers. From sprucing up your outside spaces for a party or wedding to devising and implementing a complete landscaping plan, Mike and Portia are ready and able to assist with every aspect of garden/landscape planning. They will also plant your window boxes and flowerpots if you don’t have the time and want to avoid the mess.
The busy pair enjoy giving back to their community by participating in local fund raisers as well as through donations of plant material. Mike, Portia and their children were at the Gardiner Library a few days before it’s opening in 2008, planting a variety of perennials and bushes that they donated in preparation for opening day. And Mike’s is known and appreciated for their healthy plants far beyond Gardiner’s borders. Repeat customers come from as far away as Cape Cod and New Jersey. None other than Organic Gardening Magazine contacted the couple twice and asked them to provide seedlings and plants for a segment on the (then) “Live with Regis and Kelly” show.
Portia says, “We cater to our customers and treat them like old friends. We know them by name, load their cars, offer advice all the time and take pride in our plants. We are in business because our customer’s enthusiasm and spirit keep Mike and me excited and motivated. They are so happy to see us open again.” Amen to that!
For more beautiful photos of what Mike’s Hothouse has to offer, visit www.mikeshothouse.com. You can contact Portia or Mike directly at MikesHothouse@gmail.com or by calling 883-6868. Better still, take a ride over to the greenhouse on 44/55, just east of Ireland Corners.