by Len Lear
Burke Brothers is a landscape design/build firm based at 7630 W Cheltenham Ave. in Wyndmoor that has been serving Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs since 1990. Their services include natural and formal landscape design, creative stone work, patios, pools, walkways and gardens as well as landscape maintenance. Their team of landscape designers and installation specialists, led by brothers Kevin and Sean Burke, is “committed to keeping your world a beautiful place to live,” their own mission statement declares.
According to Kevin, “Our clients work closely with one point of contact throughout the project, and that person oversees the entire design and construction process to ensure its successful completion. We understand each client has a unique set of needs and desires, so we always take the time to learn about your home and lifestyle before creating your design. Asking questions and listening carefully to clients’ answers is essential to great service!”
Over the past 15 years Burke Brothers have won more than 30 awards from the Philadelphia Flower Show for showcase gardens, such as “Best Use of Rare and Unusual Tropical Plants,” “Most Distinctive Exhibit in the Show,” “Most Unusual Design Concept,” “Best Achievement Award for Creation of a Dream Golf Course,” etc., as well as many other awards from the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association, The American Horticultural Society, Associated Landscape Contractors of America, Chicago Horticultural Society Flower Show and PLANET, the national trade association representing more than 100,000 landscape and lawn care industry professionals in the U.S.
Now, with all of those accolades, honors and delighted customers, you’d think that Burke Brothers would be satisfied to keep doing business as usual. However, in the spring of this year, the company also walked out on the high wire and entered seriously into the art and science of beekeeping.
Inspired by local beekeepers at the Glenside Farmers Market and by the disheartening state that bees have been in lately, Kevin Burke decided to keep bees at the office. “Coincidentally,” said Kali Smalley, assistant creative director at Burke Brothers, “I had just taken a beekeeping class for personal interest, and we have another designer in the office who has been keeping bees for many years, so it seemed like a perfect fit.”
Burke Brothers joined the Philly Beekeepers Guild and hired a local beekeeper, Adam Schreiber, to teach them the ropes. He helped get them set up with two hives and has been coming out every few weeks to help them monitor their progress. “We’ve been completely fascinated by the bees,” said Kali, “and we’re really hoping to help boost the local population by caring for our hives and helping them over the winter.”
For those who might not be aware of it, honeybees, one of man’s best friends because of their pollination of so many plants, have been in serious decline in recent years, due to something that scientists call Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), but so far no cause has been found. (The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that we owe one in every three bites of food we consume to the pollination provided by honeybees.) Certain pesticides have been suspected as the cause by environmental researchers. One Pennsylvania beekeeper, David Hackenberg, said that of the 3,000 honeybee hives he trucked to Florida, only about 800 were left. Countless other beekeepers have reported similar losses.
The Burke Brothers hives are practically in their front yard at the office in Wyndmoor. They are both located to the right side of their building beneath an oak tree. The company has no plans for commercial honey. “The goal is just to help out the bees,” said Kali, “and the honey is an added benefit that we will just be giving away to friends and clients.”
Kevin Burke and his wife, Jen, also run the Sara’s Smiles Foundation, a designated 501(c)(3) organization they created after their 5-year-old daughter, Sara, died in May, 2008, due to a malignant brain tumor. Their foundation carries on her memory, spirit and legacy of hope, determination and cheer.
The foundation gives out “Inspiration Kits” to every child admitted to the oncology units in five Mid-Atlantic children’s hospitals. The kits contain items in a durable, portable box that can travel throughout the hospital with the children, supplying, storing and protecting materials that not only light up the children’s rooms but their spirits as well.