By Kristine Archer
Jeannette French’s passion for gardening and landscaping started out as a hobby. Today, the owner of Daisy Designs, a landscape design and consulting firm located in St. John’s, Nfld., has built a successful business out of the pastime she’s loved her whole life.
A lifelong passion
“I grew up gardening, from a very young age, with my mom,” says French, a Newfoundland native. “I raised and tried to grow everything from seed—we even had a greenhouse. I just loved it. My favourite memories of childhood involve gardening with my mom.”
French’s journey from hobbyist to professional began in Mississauga, Ont., where she had moved with her family and established a garden of her own.
“I wanted to be around like-minded people,” she explains. To that end, French decided to take what she calls an ‘intense test’ to be accepted into the Master Gardeners. “It was a really fun group, and it did a lot of things with very little money,” French says of the nonprofit organization. “We had fun and learned a lot.”
The group soon uncovered French’s talent for painting watercolours, at which point she began painting pictures of designers’ finished landscapes and grew increasingly impressed with the work she was capturing. Having already started Daisy Design as a part-time venture, offering graphic design services, French decided to branch out into landscape design and consulting.
“I did some courses at the University of Guelph and started from there,” she says, noting she oversaw a few projects in Mississauga, learning as she went along. “Then my husband got transferred back to Newfoundland, and I started working part-time while I was raising our children. I started up full-time after the kids were old enough that I could leave them for a little while.
A new market
When French made the move back to Newfoundland, she thought it might to tough to break into the industry. As a result, she concentrated on preparing herself for getting established in a new market.
“I did a lot of research and joined the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization for Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE); they kind of helped me get started,” she says. “Then I joined Landscape Newfoundland and Labrador and became a board member in the first election I could run in. I’ve been a board member ever since.”
In addition to her board duties, French also serves as the certification representative for Newfoundland with the Canadian Nursery and Landscaping Association (CNLA), a role that keeps her travelling quite a lot. French is also a judge for the CNLA Landscaping Awards of Excellence, which will be handed out in Vancouver this February.
“I’m really excited to judge landscapes from across Canada this year,” she says. “I judged last year as well and it was fantastic.”