Owner - Jon Herlong

As the proud owner of Custom Gardens, I find immense satisfaction in serving the landscaping needs of our community and fostering strong client relationships. Enhancing and expanding our clients’ outdoor spaces is not just a profession but a passion.

I encourage open communication and welcome phone calls and suggestions from our valued clients. Your input is instrumental in our continuous improvement and in tailoring our services to exceed your expectations.

With a background in technical grounds maintenance training, numerous Interlocking Concrete Pavers certifications, and twelve years of hands-on experience in the landscaping field, I bring a wealth of expertise to our endeavors. In 2012, I took the helm of Custom Gardens, recognizing the exceptional knowledge and experience within our existing staff. I retained the entire team, ensuring continuity and a commitment to excellence.

Beyond my professional life, I am a Hampton Roads resident and a proud father of four children. My journey includes service as a U.S. Navy veteran, with two tours of duty in Iraq as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician and later as a Senior EOD Instructor. This background instilled in me a strong work ethic, attention to detail, and a commitment to excellence that I bring to Custom Gardens.

I am also honored to be a member of the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI), further underlining my commitment to staying at the forefront of industry standards and innovations.

Feel free to reach out via email if you have any questions or if there’s anything specific you’d like to discuss. Thank you for entrusting Custom Gardens with your landscaping needs.

Landscape Designer - Kristi Bruening

Kristi’s journey at Custom Gardens reflects her dedication and adaptability. Starting as the Office Manager in 2016, she swiftly transitioned to the role of General Manager within two years to meet the growing client demand. Her multifaceted role now includes the responsibilities of a Landscape Designer, blending creativity with her business acumen.

With a background in Business Management, holding a Bachelor’s of Science degree, Kristi brings a strong foundation to her leadership role. Beyond her professional accomplishments, she is a U.S. Navy Veteran with experience as an aircraft mechanic, showcasing her commitment to excellence and precision.

In her downtime, Kristi finds joy in the company of her boyfriend and a vibrant household that includes two dogs, two cats, and an impressive flock of 40 chickens. This harmonious blend of personal and professional aspects reflects Kristi’s ability to balance diverse responsibilities and passions. Her commitment to both her work and personal life is a testament to her dedication and love for what she does.

Maintenance Manager - Aaron W. Sydenstricker

As a lifelong resident of Virginia, my journey in landscaping began a decade ago when I started as a laborer. Over the years, my dedication and hard work have propelled me upward within the industry. Today, I am honored to serve as the Maintenance Manager at Custom Gardens, leveraging my passion and accumulated knowledge for the benefit of our clients.

My role also extends to being one of the horticulturists on our esteemed staff. This allows me to channel my enthusiasm and expertise directly into the green spaces we cultivate, creating vibrant and thriving landscapes for our clients.

Beyond the professional realm, my heart finds its greatest joy in the company of my beautiful family. In my downtime, I cherish moments spent with my loving wife and our wonderful children – a daughter and a son. Alongside family time, I also value the bonds forged with friends, creating a balanced and fulfilling life outside of the landscaping world.

I am excited about the future, both in continuing to contribute to the beauty of Virginia through our landscaping endeavors and in nurturing the relationships that bring joy and meaning to my personal life.

Garden Care Foreman & Horticulturist - Wayne George

As a native of Gloucester, my roots are deeply intertwined with this community. I graduated from Gloucester High School in 2009 and continued my educational journey at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA. In April 2015, I became a proud member of the Custom Gardens family.

My journey with plants has been a continuous evolution, fueled by a genuine passion for learning. A year into my tenure at Custom Gardens, I earned the designation of Virginia Certified Horticulturist, reflecting my commitment to mastering the intricacies of plant life. Each day is a new opportunity to share my knowledge and answer questions on a variety of topics, ranging from selective pruning and dividing perennials to meticulous hand-weeding.

Beyond the satisfying tasks of my typical workday, I find joy in the company of loved ones. Whether spending time with my wife, son, or friends, or tending to my personal collection of plants, every moment adds to the richness of my life.

If you have any questions or simply want to chat about plants and landscaping, feel free to reach out. I’m here to assist and share the wonders of horticulture with our valued clients at Custom Gardens.

Hunter Thurmond, Garden Care Foreman

Originally from Newport News, Hunter has always loved working with his hands and being outdoors.  He earned a degree in Mathematics from James Madison University, where he also developed a lifelong passion for agriculture and nature. He combines a love for science and hard work to create and maintain beautiful landscapes while putting smiles on his customer’s faces. When he’s not at work, he enjoys photographing nature and spending time outdoors with his wife, Mwazomela. 

Hardscape Foreman - Rob Ballard

Born and raised in Yorktown, Rob found himself working at Custom Gardens when he went to introduce himself to his neighbors, Jon and Catherine Herlong. He offered to mow their lawn and they offered him a job. He started out on our maintenance team in February 2016 but within a month his potential as a hardscape foreman showed when he applied his carpentry knowledge to save the display. Since then, he’s trained with Jon and always makes a great impression on customers with his detail and skill level. In his free time he’s teaching his son Riley carpentry and spending time with his wife, Tegan. 

Office Manager - (Zo) Mwazomela Mbewe

Zo joined Custom Gardens May 2020. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in Applied Math from Mary Baldwin University and spent a semester studying Civil Engineering at University of Virginia. She manages customer service, billing, & social media. In her free time, she loves coming up with new recipes, photography, and trying do-it-yourself (DIY) projects with her husband.

Office Assistant - Hollan Herlong

Hollan has been working with her father (Jon Herlong) since she was a kid. She works in the office, out in the field, and helps with social media. For fun, she likes reading, hiking, playing with dirt, and learning about new plants.