Spring is that delightfully embracing time of year when residents jump into the car to check out greenhouses for the latest garden bulbs, flowers, vegetables, herbs, and seeds.
It’s really a drive to see the beauty of nature’s flowers in bloom. And if you’re on a country tour, it’s also an opportunity to see wildflowers, fields, and newly migrating birds.
Deb Foisey, owner of Deb’s Greenhouse just west of Morinville, has plotted a Google map of a bunch of regional greenhouses – both established and start-ups. The map she created is designed as an open, self-guided greenhouse and garden tour.
About 26 greenhouses are pinned on the Google map – featured on the Deb's Greenhouse website – that extends north to Barrhead, east to Bruderheim, south to Thorsby, and west to Whitecourt.
Virtually every Sturgeon County greenhouse is pinned with its location and phone number. Several of the stops include: Deb’s Greenhouse, St. Albert Greenhouses, Birchwood Meadows, First Choice Tree Nursery, Blue Heron Gardens and Greenhouses, Prairie Gardens, LCJ Greenhouses, and the Bloom & Basket Greenhouses.
On the surface it appears counter-productive to advertise your competitors. Foisey disagrees. As past-president of the Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association, a post she held for four years, she says different strategies are required to market urban and rural businesses.
“If I was to advertise my business, people might not see much value in coming to just one greenhouse. But every greenhouse has something special they are known for. One greenhouse might not be enough motivation to come, but if you can see a variety of greenhouses in the area, it’s more motivation,” said Foisey.
She says the success of every greenhouse is, in part, dependant on the survival of their neighbour.
“Our industry is uniquely supportive of each other. There’s enough room in the market for everyone. The plants we grow are inclusive to every age, ability, and every demographic. Everyone has an appreciation for a beautiful plant. When you think about it, we’re really spoiled to have as many greenhouses as we do.”
For devout gardeners, the greenhouse tour is an opportunity to select new plants being marketed, purchase local hand-crafted items, and snap stunning photos. It’s also a chance for growers to check out the competition and chat about industry trends.
Although Foisey’s concept is innovative, she credits the late Lois Hole for leadership within the industry – a woman who broke the rules with her easy-going, can-do approach.
“The Hole family paved the way for the industry. They did things out of the box. They innovated and that made it a big deal. It was really led by a strong woman. Lois was ahead of her time.”