FLASHBACK: Remembering spring at the Olsen’s

Apr 10, 2019 | Blog | 3 comments

Standing in my driveway this past weekend I had a flashback to my youth.

When I was a kid I used to work for our family business. It was a garden and property maintenance company and every spring we would manufacture hundreds of moss hanging baskets. We inherited the business from my maternal grandfather Don Snobelen. He was a man of the soil. He loved growing plants and caring for gardens and he did it very well.

One of my earliest memories was when I was maybe 4 or 5. I was standing on our property in front of an old greenhouse filled with brilliant blossoms of cut chrysanthemums. My mom and dad were talking with my paternal grandfather, Ernie Olsen. He was telling them they should name our family business Mt. Newton Gardening. Mt. Newton is a sacred mountain to the WSANEC people. It’s an important place and prominent on the Saanich Peninsula. So that is what my parents named their business.

Emily and I built our family home in the back of the property where I grew up, right on the footprint of a big old greenhouse. Each year we would raise thousands of plants from seed and cuttings. During April and May, my family would build our moss hanging baskets. We used the formula that my grandpa Don refined over decades. The final product was a beautiful and vibrant hanging garden.

The finest moss baskets in the city!

In early June, the baskets would leave our property. Life-long customers would drop by to pick up their order or we would deliver them to familiar locations around town: Market Square, Undersea Gardens, Laurel Point Inn, Chateau Victoria Hotel, the Crystal Gardens and many more.

By the end of June the greenhouse was empty again but we maintained the baskets for a few customers. Throughout the summer I worked alongside my dad. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays he would gently shake me awake at 4:30am. We would load the hoses in the van and head downtown.

As dawn broke, we sat in Tim Horton’s at Uptown getting early morning coffee for my dad and hot chocolate for me. I still choose the toasted coconut donut, perhaps as a salute to the memory of those mornings.

It was a simpler time back then. The Victoria streetscape was quiet. Nobody around. The wonderful aroma of the Portuguese baker wafted across Market Square. I stood watering baskets with a massive 20’ wand until the water ran through overflowing the pan for 30 seconds or so. “Give them a good soak!” My dad would say.”Three times each.”

My dad and I would stand staring across the courtyard silently watering the baskets enjoying the moments of escape, alone in our thoughts but sharing that special moment together.

It is these experiences, my hands in the soil and watering plants, or standing in our boat fishing, another fond memory of time spent with my dad, that shape me as a representative and a decision-maker. Tending to nature has always been an important part of the Olsen’s and Snobelen’s. It’s who we are.

Image by Peter Holmes from Pixabay

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  1. Gudrun Finnen

    The soil, plants, all of nature, is my ” Happy Place ” as well. With gardening Family Roots running deep, I now feel that we may be loosing our battle to save it. Keep up the good fight. Thank you.

  2. Bill F Foster

    Solid nurturing

  3. Ellen Guttormson

    Beautiful story Adam….precious times.

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