The Birth of A Company

Updated: Jan 11, 2019


It's Thursday Jan 11th, 2018, I can hardly believe the month is almost half over. I really shouldn't be surprised that time seems to fly by so fast, after all we are coming up to our first anniversary of being in our St Albert space and it seems as if the year has just blown by. I'm not going to reflect too much on the past year in this first blog as I think that can be saved for a another time, for this my first official business blog I think I'll let  you know a little bit about us and how we came to be this little garden and floral design studio in St. Albert the botanical city. 

The Wheelbarrow Gardener was born out of a project I spearheaded in Morinville. In the fall of 2010. I along with a small group of enthusiastic gardeners decided that Morniville needed a community garden. I had spent some time in Vancouver that summer and had the opportunity to experienced several different community gardens throughout the city and surrounding communities. One thing that fascinated me was how everyone regardless of nationality, religion, economic status, age or gender worked together towards a common goal. The gardeners all had different abilities, skills and knowledge but growing and harvesting plants and flowers was the ultimate goal and each garden group figured out a way to do it and do it well. I wanted to bring that back to my community.

I had grown up with parents that were avid gardeners, Dad tended the lawn and flower gardens, mom grew the vegetables, so I was surrounded by stewards of nature and no doubt through the process of osmosis learned so much from them without really even knowing it but, I was in my early 40s now and was noticing in the community the art of gardening  especially growing, harvesting and cooking fresh vegetables was lost on a generation. Young people in their twenties and early thirties had grandparents that gardened and preserved the harvest but their own parents didn't seem to have those same skills. Blame it on the advancement of technology, an economy were both parents had to work, better preservation of food and packaging of goods.  I'm not sure what was the cause but there seemed to be no one in their life that was willing or able to teach this basic life skill to this new generation living on their own for their first time. I actually met a young lady that had no clue how to cook a fresh green bean, all she knew was how to open the can of beans and warm them up on the stove.

I digress -  anyways after many months of planning, securing funds, writing grants and meeting with local government and community groups the Morinville Centennial Community Gardens was born. 10 4x8 raised beds in the back yard of the United Church and within one year of that a second piece of land was donated by the town. A much larger garden was created with bigger beds, garden plots grown specifically for the food bank, fruit trees and shrubs and a shed. I am no longer a part of that group, but they are still doing some amazing things there with the addition of  wheelchair accessible pathways, a Gazebo and plans for so much more.

While I was part of the community gardens I found that people would come to me with their questions. I was the president of the group so I should know something right? At first it was questions about vegetable gardening, then I started getting questions about plants and flowers, which lead me to visiting their homes and giving suggestions for their gardens and landscaping. I felt that if I was to be doing these things then I best make sure I know what I was talking about, so I enrolled in the Organic Master Gardener Program via Gaia College. It was a program put on by the Stony Plain Horticultural society. I completed the program but never received a certificate because I missed the same class two years in a row out of no fault of my own - funny how life works. Since then I've enrolled in the Prairie Horticulture Certificate distant learning program at Olds college and am working slowly at that  one class at a time. I have to say though that the biggest educator is experience, I have learned more through trial and error than any book i've read or any class I've taken. 

Once I had some education under my belt I felt that perhaps there was a job in all of this, I certainly saw the need, family, friends and neighbours needing help with designs for their yards, and gardens, consultations on what plants and flowers would grow best for them and then came the maintenance. What started out as just a small side job for friends looking after their yard when they had gone away for a few weeks vacation in the summer has led to one of our biggest and most important services that we offer during the summer months. From those that need us for just a few days while they are away to those that need us there every week to look after their gardens because they physically can't or they don't have time to do it themselves or simple don't want to. Whatever the reason is, we'll be there to look after the garden so you don't have to. 

In 2014 I decided there was enough side jobs in the summer that i could do this part time from home as a business. I decided on a name The Wheelbarrow Gardener, completed all the important paperwork and applied for home based business license. I wanted the company to reflect the values that I believed in, do good work, don't promise more than you can deliver and provide clear value for the time and money clients invest. It was important that people knew I was working for the little guy - hence the name The Wheelbarrow Gardener - If I can't complete your project with nothing more than my wheelbarrow, my shovel a rake and a strong back then the project is too big. There are enough landscape and gardening companies out there that can look after you if you require a tree spade or a backhoe or skid steer. I wanted to do the smaller design projects that people didn't feel comfortable approaching the big guys for but felt they couldn't do it on their own either due to lack of ability, knowledge or time. 

This will be our 4th year in business and we have not changed our priorities or values, we are still working for the little guy. Seniors who want to stay in their homes with some help, homes and condominiums that need assistance with short or long term garden maintenance ( we don't do lawns). Homes or businesses looking for creative container planters, and small design projects that we can complete with our lovely wheelbarrow, shovel and amazing gardening crew. We offer garden consultations where we can come and give you advice and a plan for your garden, and garden coaching where we will actually come and work with you in the garden, rubber boots and all to teach you the skills needed for you to be successful. We continue to learn from the previous years and we are always looking for ways to improve our services and give you the very best value for your dollars spent.  

So as I sit here and it's -32 with a windchill of -40 outside, I think about our goals for this year which is to continue on with our great services but also provide more educational opportunities for people. We want to host more gardening workshops, we started a gardening Facebook group called From Seed to Vase with The Wheelbarrow Gardener / Florist where group members can share their experiences, knowledge and ideas and we can provide answers to their gardening questions, and well as you can see we want to create a blog that will have gardening content as part of the regular posts. We look forward to Spring, what this and the next few years have in store for us, we are ready for wherever this journey takes us, I hope you'll join us for the trip.

In the next blog we'll have the story about the birth of The Wheelbarrow Florist, why we combined the two and how we ended up here in St. Albert. 

Here are links to stories  about The Morinville Community Gardens  and The Wheelbarrow Gardener from Morinville News

Community Garden Stories  

The Wheelbarrow Gardener Stories and articles

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