May 29, 2024

Earth in Our Hands

Category: Resident Story

Author: grace michaels

Bayview residents Marilyn and Susan share a piece of their small business success story:

In the middle of our lives, there we were—hanging out a shingle that said
Gardenscapes – Herbs & Perennials. When we began our partnership, we
talked about owning a business together. Fast forward 10 years and we were
doing it.

Both of us loved nature and gardening, so a gardening venture seemed
perfect for us. Gardening was very popular at the time, and we knew we had
a market. We owned 1 1/2 acres of land in a good location for a nursery and
we both wanted a break from our careers in health care and business. We
had a combination of skills and work experiences that we thought would be
a plus in a business and we were both ready for the adventure. Our capital
investment was one we could risk to see if we were truly entrepreneurs.

We developed a business plan, got a license for a home-based business, and
had an artist friend develop a logo with our chosen name, Gardenscapes.
Both of us took courses at the local community colleges in nursery
management and horticulture and Susan became a certified horticulturist.

We decided to create a destination nursery growing and selling herb &
perennial plants and offering related services, such as garden design,
gardening how-to workshops on-site and fun events such as a lavender
festival. We built our first greenhouse and turned our “barn” into our retail

Susan building a special flower basket for a local artist, who
had created this huge metal basket

Gardenscapes grew slowly but steadily over a 8-year period. The business
began with the two of us doing it all, but we took on employees overtime.
Susan did garden design and consulting, Marilyn was in charge of plant
propagation and both collaborated on the business and finance maters. We
both especially liked growing the plants, teaching the workshops, and
sharing our gardens with our customers.

Each year we did a workshop on Mother’s Day for mothers and daughters
creating a beautiful hanging basket. We had seen these baskets on a trip to
Victoria, BC, fell in love with them and found the instructions in Sunset
magazine. The workshop was a big hit. Marilyn supervised the growing of
the plants in preparation for the class and Susan advertised the event in the
Newsletter we produced each month.

Over time we put up another bigger greenhouse and planted a huge area in
lavender. As the lavender matured, it was a beautiful sight and customers
loved bringing their friends to see it. So we created a celebration of lavender
event. It included a herbal luncheon, learning how to make lavender wands
and cook with lavender. We have a great recipe for lavender lemonade from
that event.

Part of the fun was finding new and unusual plants each year to introduce to
our customers. Avid gardeners love being the first in their own group of
gardening friends with something no one had seen or obtained yet.
Vancouver centennial geraniums was one of our most popular perennial
“introductions”. The plant became a staple in our own gardens.

We grew the business for 8 years and then decided to end it. The reasons
were complex. Suffice it to say that we thought it was time to do it. We
fulfilled our dream to create a business together and the journey was a good
one. Gardenscapes provided us with a unique connection to both the earth
and many other human beings. We met many different kinds of people.
Most of us had something in common – loving nature and digging in the dirt.
We learned from each other and shared gardening stories sprinkled with
laughter and tears. It became evident that gardens and plants brought joy &
comfort to us all. Both of us were able to use our creativity in so many ways,
from designing gardens for our customers to figuring out how to handle the
life cycle of a fungus gnat in the greenhouses organically. We developed a
deep respect for entrepreneurs and the risk & work in having your own
business. This adventure in our shared lives has a special place in both our
hearts. Our current gardening is much scaled down from the Gardenscapes
days, but it still brings us joy.

Susan in a workshop on creating holiday wreaths with an employee and

11 West Aloha Street

Seattle, WA 98119

Phone: (206) 284-7330