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Hope Gardiner along with her husband, Matt, are the proprietors of Boone Gardiner Garden Center, family owned and operated since 1899. Hope is full of energy and knowledge, truly someone whose work is their life’s passion. Family and work are all a seamless inateraction for this couple. We are thrilled to feature Hope today in our FACES of Louisville feature.

Tell us a little about your job and what you do at Boone Gardiner Garden Center.

I do a little bit of everything. There is no day exactly like another. I run the retail side and I do the books. Right now I’m watering plants a lot, growing an amazing vegetable garden and taking care of a variety of farm animals in the petting zoo. I am doing more and more propagation so we can grow our own plant material in-house.

Have you always been interested in plants and flowers?

I can remember as a young child planting a flower garden in the back yard with my mom, but I never really thought that plants and flowers would be my career. I always looked at plants and flowers as a hobby. It wasn’t until college that I ever considered this as a career, but they were always a part of my life.

Least favorite “chore” at your job?

I have never been good at balancing my check book and now I’ve had to step into a position managing the books here at the garden center. I’ve learned how and I know how important the position is, but it is certainly a chore instead of an enjoyment.

Tell us about all your extended furry family here. Do you have a favorite?

I have always had dogs and it’s very common for garden centers to have cats. Our Airedale Terrier, Katie, and the garden center cats, Little Bits and Scout, are part of the family. Our first two dairy goats were adopted from the Walden School in 2010. The school children bottled fed these babies, Daisy and Pansy, and raised them until school was out for summer and the goats needed a home so we agreed to take them. After that Matt (my husband) wanted chickens, so we arranged to purchase some chicks, at 25 days old, that arrived in the mail February 2010 and raised them in our basement until they could be moved to an outside coop here at the garden center. In February this year, we were blessed with our first two baby goats, Rosie and her big brother Thorn. Right after we moved the family to live here on the Garden Center property, my son wanted a pig. After several months of stalling he decided he wanted a Tasmanian Devil, so I decided it was time to look at a pig! What I learned was that you don’t just get one pig because they are such social animals, so we ended up with Sweet Pea and Bubba. In May, I added the two hives of Honey Bees that I tend to as well. And, one Saturday night about a month ago, our neighbors — the South Oldham Fire Department — called to ask us to come out to the fence as they had something for me. It ended up being a gosling that had separated from its family and was running up and down the road in front of the fire station for several hours. We created an area and dug a pond for him.  Then we were afraid he was lonely so we just adopted two ducks to share the space and keep him company. It’s a zoo around here! I definitely enjoy each and every one of them, as a Mother never picks favorites.

What is your vision for the garden center?

It started with wanting my two children to have the opportunity to understand and respect hard work and know where their food comes from, all while having fun and getting to use their imagination. After one of their pre-school teachers started asking about the garden center because my children had different “pets” than the other kids, we arranged for the school to bring a field trip out to study nature. Parents now bring their children out to see the farm animals, collect fresh eggs and feed the pigs marshmallows. Growing up going to my grandparents farm every Sunday, and now taking my children to my parent’s farm every Sunday as well, I forgot how many children don’t have that farm connection. I let the children feed the goldfish in the pond, they can climb the wood chip piles, chase butterflies and learn how potatoes and onions grow in the ground. I love being able to create that connection between the children and everything here: nature, flower and vegetable gardening, bugs and farm animals.

This is truly a family business. You work and live on the property with your family. Is it hard to balance work and family or does it all bleed into one?

When Matt and I started dating someone called it “vertical integration.”  We met through the nursery industry and have continued working together ever since. Now we are raising our children in the family business. For us, it’s one in the same, we only know this family business lifestyle and somehow it just works for us. We couldn’t imagine anything else or anything we’d enjoy more.

That being said, do you ever “turn off?”

When you love what you do, when your hobby is your work and your work is your family “turning off” is simply turning to the next project. When I get tired of working on the books, I go out to check on the animals or water the vegetable garden. Our front yard is one of the display gardens here at the garden center and I have plans for three more display gardens this fall. The closest to “turning off” here would be devoting time to various community activities and serving as the Speed Art Museum’s pARTnership Board President.

Who is your mentor?

I have been very fortunate in my life to have met many people that have shown and taught me so many things in life. However, my grandmother on my Dad’s side has to stand out as my greatest mentor. She grew up during The Great Depression, survived scarlet fever, graduated college in the 1930’s, was the last one room school house teacher in Woodford County, Kentucky and fought cancer for 54 years. I never once heard her complain or fuss. She taught me the true importance and value of family and that you treat everyone with the same amount of respect no matter how much or how little they have. She was strong and independent while staying a true southern lady. She never raised her voice or missed a hair appointment on Fridays. She was active in the community and church. She raised the family vegetable garden and taught me to freeze, can, pickle, make jams, jelly and the importance of always serving desert and having something cold to drink and to snack on in case someone stopped by to visit. She traveled around world and did everything she wanted to do. At 86 she took at road trip out to Montana with the family to visit my cousin living there. And she ALWAYS had a smile on her face.

What is best advice you have received in business?

Work hard. Treat people the way you would like to be treated. Go that extra mile if you want someone to go that extra mile for you.

What would you secretly love to do?

Take my best girl friends on a spa week somewhere fabulous to be pampered and do nothing.

What is the most treasured thing in your closet?

I’m a big fan of jewelry and have several pieces with sentimental value.

What is your weakness?

Sweets. I don’t do chocolate but love sweet.

Favorite restaurant in Louisville?

I love to eat! Trying to name just one is impossible. Louisville has such an amazing array of restaurants.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott so I’m looking for the next good read.

Favorite thing to do in Louisville:

I love the cultural arts Louisville has to offer; the Speed Art Museum, the Louisville Ballet and the performing arts. As a family, we love the Louisville Botanical Zoo. However, taking my kids to the Zoo can sometimes be dangerous because they always find new animals they want to add to our own “zoo.” I truly enjoy being with and having fun with my friends out on the town.

Three things you cannot live without (besides God, family and friends):

  • Being outside in a garden or on a farm. I enjoy visiting downtown and enjoying the arts but do not like having buildings right on top of me and feeling closed in.
  • My dog or other animals
  • A hot shower in the morning and a Pepsi

A grand thank you to Hope Gardiner, who took time out of her busy schedule for our photo shoot in the 105 degree heat. To link to Boone Gardiner Garden Center, click here.

As always, thank you to Adele Reding Studio and their wonderful work. Their photographs are truly “the best of the best.” To link to their website, click here.

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About the Author
Heidi Potter