Meet Our Garden Experts

Stew Leonard's Garden Experts Jeannie Mortensen

Norwalk CT
Garden Specialist/Designer

Jeannie Mortensen, affectionately known as "Garden Jeannie," joined Stew Leonard's in 2002 as a merchandiser in the Garden Shop. Before progressing to team leader and now Garden Specialist/Designer in the Norwalk store, she also served as a Graphic Designer in the art department.

A native of Greenwich, CT, Jeannie has been gardening since she was "knee high to a grasshopper." Her passion is to mix perennials with nursery stock in order to bring color and excitement to an ever changing landscape. She is also a longtime organic gardener and has received accreditation from the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA). In the warmer months, Jeannie teaches Gardening Classes most Saturday mornings in Garden Center at Stew Leonard's in Norwalk, covering customers' questions ranging from deer resistant plants and perennials to pruning and shrub care.

In addition to holding a certificate in commercial and fine art from the Connecticut Institute of Art, Jeannie also holds a degree from Pace University in Nursing and served as one of the first female police officers in Greenwich, retiring from the force in 1998. However, Jeannie is an artist and painter at heart; she is a member of the Greenwich Arts Council and also belongs to a painting group at the Bennett Center in Stamford, CT.

Jeannie lives and gardens in Norwalk, Conn.

Stew Leonard's Garden Experts Sally Chelso

Danbury CT
Garden Center Workshop Instructor


Sally Chelso has been with Stew Leonard's Danbury store since 1999. Growing up on a dairy farm is where her passion for gardening began.

At the age of ten, Sally's parents moved their dairy farm from upstate New York to Connecticut, where they had ample land to start a vegetable garden. Over the years, her vegetable growing experience evolved into a passion for floral gardening.

For her own garden, Sally favors darker flowers for a richer look. She grows black hollyhocks, gladiolas and elderberry along with fuschia-colored weigela and maroon-hued Asiatic lily.

She loves helping other gardeners grow their green thumb!

Stew Leonard's Garden Experts John Russell

Yonkers NY
Garden Specialist/Designer


John Russell started at Stew Leonard’s in Danbury in 1999 as the Flower Department manager.  He joined the Yonkers team as the Flower Department Manager in 2005.  Gardening is not just a hobby for John; it has been his family's livelihood for generations.

Born to grandparents and parents who were also florists, John remembers visiting the Flower Market in New York City when he was as young as three years old. His fondest memories are of his childhood travels to every state of the union, where his parents taught him about regional native plant and flower species.

For 25 years, John owned 16 greenhouses in Newburgh, N.Y., where he grew and sold his own plants and became an expert in growing, designing and pest management. He has had the distinct honor of growing and arranging for reputable dignitaries and institutions, including New York State Governor George Pataki and New York City's famous St. Patrick's Cathedral.  

Stew Leonard's Garden Experts Rocky Winston

Newington CT
Garden Shop Manager

Rocky Winston joined Stew Leonard's in 2004 and has been the manager of the Newington Garden Department since 2008. He is a graduate of numerous gardening and landscape design classes and has worked with a professional landscaping company in central Connecticut, where he developed his lawn design and maintenance skills.

Rocky enjoys reading about and learning new lawn and garden techniques. But most of all, Rocky loves to meet customers, hear about their garden issues and frustrations, and offer tailored advice for each unique situation. When not helping customers at Stew's, he can be found in his own yard (or at his parents' home nearby) striving to achieve the perfect green lawn and the most beautiful, colorful garden.