Growing Integrally

Environmentally conscious landscaping in Vancouver

 

By: Brenlee Brothers

Che Nolan started his landscaping business as a bicycle company while taking the Organic Master Gardeners course at Gaia College. He had a bicycle with a trailer on the back that kept a rake, broom and other tools inside. He’d ride around Vancouver, knock on doors and hand out flyers to initiate business for himself. “I just had a few customers and a bike,” he said.

During this time he was working toward his Diploma in Organic Landcare. Before starting the program, Nolan’s knowledge stemmed from his curiosity in past work experiences with a horticulturist, landscaping and gardening at home. “My own interest was in growing food and then everything just kind of happened over time,” he said.

His partner was the one who suggested Nolan try landscaping. “I’m a very physical person, so I really loved being outside doing something physical with my days and learning as much as I possibly could,“ he said. He was so keen to learn; he took books out of the library and constantly asked questions to his landscape bosses. “Learning was the biggest drive for me,” he said.

Irrigated raised beds by Peace Garden. Che Nolan photo
Irrigated raised beds by Peace Garden. Che Nolan photo

 

“By the time I got to Gaia, I had a reasonable handle on things,” he said. With several years work experience in the field prior to that, he kept absorbing as much information as he could.

“I started with that [Gaia College] and I loved it,” he said. “So I just kept going with it.” 

Gaia College opened up a lot of vistas that Nolan wouldn’t have been aware of otherwise. His skill, knowledge and confidence as a landcare practitioner grew. “I used to go knocking on doors looking for work,” he said. “But then after I took that course, I felt good because I was now offering something, I had knowledge and I was able to help people.” The diploma is a valued asset when working in this industry, he said. “Customers expect you to know what you’re talking about and you deliver.”

Nolan also obtained his Residential Landscape Technician Diploma from Douglas College.

About a decade later, Nolan runs a successful Vancouver-based landscaping company called Peace Garden. It focuses on organic, quiet practices which ensure health and peace of mind for customers and their communities. His crew includes himself, two full-time workers and one part-time hand. 

“It’s a real honour to have the knowledge and I just love sharing it with people,” Nolan said. 

Peace Garden offers some unique business methods that set it apart from other landscaping companies, such as re-using plants from work-sites.

 

A vibrant front yard design by Peace Garden. Che Nolan photo
A vibrant front yard design by Peace Garden. Che Nolan photo


Whenever people ask to have certain plants removed from their yard, most companies will take the plant out and dispose of it. But if Nolan can save a plant, he will. Instead of throwing the plants away, he brings them home and puts them on Craigslist for free. Sometimes he will transplant them in his garden for a while until he finds another home for them. Some people are so deeply appreciative, he said. “My favourite thing is when I take a plant from someone’s house and they’re happy that I took it, and then a few hours later I make someone else happy by giving them that plant.” 

 

This yard used to be a sloping green lawn. Peace Garden installed stonework to create two levels and moved in lots of plants. Che Nolan photo
This yard used to be a sloping green lawn.
Peace Garden installed stonework to create two levels and moved in lots of plants.
Che Nolan photo


Peace Garden uses silent, gas-free gardening practices, which is an uncommon, yet interesting approach to landcare, especially in a densely populated place like Vancouver.

Nolan recalls working as a landscaper before starting his own business. It would be 8 a.m. on a job site, and he’d start up a blower in someone’s lawn. Knowing the noise disturbed people in their own homes made Nolan feel uneasy. “I actually quit my job over it,” he said. 

When he realized he didn’t want to be upsetting people in the morning as part of his job, he came up with the idea of silent gardening. The battery-powered tools not only allow Nolan to be conscious of noise-pollution but simultaneously they are far better for the environment. Gas powered tools get the job done faster, but they create more air pollution in one hour than a car does driving for about half a day, Nolan said. “All of this means that if you want to walk lighter on the planet, it’s more important to choose a gas-free gardening company than to drive less. It’s something we often don’t think about.”

“I actually really appreciate that I've been on the other side of it, because I have that experience and I feel that it really enriches why I do what I do,” he said.

Next year Nolan envisions Peace Garden with a second crew and another truck. People can get really focused on growth just for the sake of growth, he said. “I do think it’s important that money serves us; rather than we serve money.”

It’s very easy to lose the integrity of a company by focusing too much on growing the company, he said. He wants to maintain a good work atmosphere for his staff. “We have a really awesome crew right now and as far as growth goes, that's the most important thing,” he said. 

“Basically just keeping that heart and soul in the company.”

 

Che Nolan from Peace Garden. Che Nolan Photo
Che Nolan from Peace Garden. Che Nolan Photo

 

For more information about Peace Garden, please visit: https://peacegardendesigns.com

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