By Gwynne Owen
Retirement sale; going out of business; everything must go! After thirty-five years of self-employment and upon turning sixty-five, I have decided to shut down my retail garden center and move on to new adventures. Gardening has been an exercise in faith and optimism and it will be hard to say good-bye to the Greenhouse and all it has meant to me, my employees, and all my customers.
Who knew when my Dad died in 1982, and that inheriting his brand new key start self-propelled lawn mower would be the beginning of my career in lawn care, landscaping, flower planting, and then to owning and operating Gwynne’s Greenhouse. But it was! Thanks Dad!
It’s been a long and winding road with lots of ups and downs, but it’s been just grand to go to work everyday and be able to play and create with plants, color, and design.
I started mowing lawns in Boulder in 1983 and had the good fortune to plant a small garden at Bennigans in the Village by McGuckins. That garden caught the eye of the property management company at the Village and I was approached about designing and planting the beds for the Village. At first I said no, but a couple of years later after having expanded my skills and customer base, I was approached again, and so I said “Yes.” For the rest of the 80s and into the 90s I designed and planted the Village. Of course, that led to many other projects in Boulder, some of which my crew still plant and maintain to this day.
Some of the other projects that I’ve had a hand in over the years are the Table Mesa Shopping Center, Basemar Center, Williams Village Shopping Center, Arapahoe Village Shopping Center, Buffalo Village Shopping Center, Water Street, Canyon Center, Sunrise Shopping Center, Walnut Gardens Shopping Center, Willow Springs Shopping Center, Louisville, GunBarrel, Longmont, numerous personal residences, HOAs and business parks. We also had a booth at the Boulder Farmer’s Market in the 80s and early 90s, and then switched to the Estes Park Farmer’s Market in the late 90s and early 2000s. More recently we have kept our field contracts for the W.W. Reynolds Companies, Unico Properties, and the Town of Lyons.
Lots of great employees have joined my path along the way. In the 80s, one of my Wyoming friends, Becky Green, helped in my second year mowing lawns and building a few rock gardens. My good friend Joan Cheng and Ann Powers along with other seasonal employees joined me for a lot of years. And then I met Karen Jolley (the hardest working employee ever!) along with Karen White. We had a quite a team for several years. And then in the 90s the opportunity to buy the Greenhouse from Lee Junge materialized. At that time my Mom, Ruth Peterson, who by then had been widowed twice and was dating and living with Don Colard pitched in to get things going. Don built that shed at the back of my perennial display area and the gift room inside the Greenhouse. He also went around the property and removed a lot of the overgrown trees and shrubs. Anyone who knows Don, knows he loved using his chainsaw.
In the early 90s I had another great field crew along with some knowledgeable people who helped run the Greenhouse. Sarah Wadleigh, Mary Marcotte, Garima Fairfax, and Joan Cheng, along with Linda Crawford, and Melissa Wilson, (Sad to say that Linda & Melissa are no longer with us.) And once again, Karen Jolley filled in during the early Spring, preparing plants. And, there was Guadalupe Gonzalez and her friends that endlessly transplanted all our little seedlings. Carmen Cruz who helped me then and is helping now, along with her son Aaron Vasquez. My daughter, Erica Althans-Schmidt, helped on and off through so many years and brought on board her friends from Lyons High along with Carly and Jenny Meckle, Ally Chorey, Ellie Smith, Jasmin Salisbury and her mom, Lori Salisbury. Valerie Kay worked for a season too. And who could forget my friend Nancy Thorwardson (again, no longer with us) and all those crazy musicians that helped when we were re-doing Table Mesa Shopping Center. Bonnie Paine, Dango Rose and Charlie Rose, yep; to name a few. Holding down the fort at the Greenhouse and in the field was Kelli Carter, Craig Revord, and Eddie Lee.
Eddie was instrumental in hanging all those Christmas light displays at the GardenShoppe when we sold Christmas trees. He absolutely loved creating them and worked tirelessly in all kinds of weather stringing the lights. (Eddie is no longer with us either.) Mae Winkler, Tracey Eaton, Nancy Thorwardson, Diane Duncan and my daughter, Erica, helped create all those beautiful displays inside the GardenShoppe gift shop before it became Headquarters.
Ernie Weir (and my ex-husband Ernie Owen, along with his friends Randy Klarich and John White) helped with all things mechanical and operated the tractor to unload deliveries, move dirt, job materials, etc. Through all the years there have been many seasonal employees. We employed about a dozen employees every year to accomplish all our projects and keep the greenhouse looking sharp. It’s hard to remember everyone’s name but I can still recall so many faces in my memories. If I failed to mention your name it was not intentional. For the last ten years until now my core staff has been Peggy Story, Mary Marcotte, Diane Duncan, Kate Hart, Martha Garza, Maria Rodriquez, Irene Freeman, and Alejandro Romero.
As a team, with all my employees, we have overcome many obstacles building the business from scratch. Some of the hardest events to recover from have been extreme rains in the Spring of 1995, the drought of 2001/02, and of course “The Flood” of 2013. (Thank you Claude Parker and Jeremy Convery who helped me rebuild so much after that event.) As the flood waters first receded, Kevin Braly came over with his son Kyle and cleared volumes of flood silt with his bobcat to make a path from our gate in the parking lot so we could start maneuvering the flood clean-up. Irene Freeman’s husband rescued my horses out of the barn along with the tractor and brought down a generator to keep my well running. Then there was the “Hail Tornado” on June 4, 2015, adding one more setback. What can I say… when it comes to agriculture, Mother Nature rules!
I want to thank all my wonderful customers who have patronized my shop over the years and those who have hired us for our services on residential and commercial properties. Every time a customer has told us how much they love to visit the shop I have suffered a twinge of guilt, knowing that it would be coming to an end. I hope everyone can realize that I gave it my all for as long as I felt I could, and I’m glad that I could share my passion with you. I hope during our upcoming closing sales you will stop by and share any stories with us of your experiences shopping or doing business with us, and maybe find a bargain or two too!