Surrounded by plants, palm trees, gardening and landscaping supplies, Marta Carlson makes telephone calls from her Denver business, Paradise Gardens Garden Center and Landscape.
While this is a far cry from what she was doing 20 years ago, Carlson said sheâ€™s never been happier.
â€œBack then, I had earned a degree in business administration and went to work inside, in an office,â€ said Carlson. â€œI found I couldnâ€™t stand to be inside and I hated wearing high heels everyday.â€
Carlson left the world of the asphalt jungle in favor of dirt, plants, gardening and landscaping.
She took a job at a landscaping business and fell in love with everything horticulture.
Over the years, Carlson said sheâ€™s worked retail at another garden center; as a grower for a large greenhouse in Charlotte; and for various landscaping and lawn maintenance companies.
â€œIâ€™ve worked in so many aspects of horticulture, itâ€™s given me a broader perspective of the industry,â€ said Carlson.
And while she worked in many aspects within the horticulture industry, Carlson said she always wanted to own her own business.
After having two children â€“ Madalyn, now 14, and Daniel, now 8 â€“ Carlson said she decided it was time to go into business for herself.
Her father, Carlâ€™s, job transfer to North Carolina settled the question of the location of her new business.
â€œHe had located to the Denver area 30 years ago to work for the Timken Company,â€ said Carlson. â€œI followed 13 years later. I needed a change.â€
As with new plants placed into the ground, Paradise Gardens Garden Center and Landscape literally started from the ground up.
Carlson said she took an active role in the development of her new business from start to finish.
â€œI designed the whole business, coordinated construction and supervised every aspect of the process,â€ said Carlson. â€˜It was up to me.â€
Paradise Garden Center and Landscape officially opened its doors on Sept. 1, 2000 after eight months of construction on N.C. 16 across from the East Lincoln Rescue base.
Almost seven years ago, Carlson said Denver was a much different place than it is today, as growth had not yet arrived in east Lincoln.
â€œI knew growth was coming,â€ said Carlson. â€œI had to sit and wait for it.â€
Carlsonâ€™s business strictly started out as a garden center. However, early on, Carlson noticed an ever-emerging need for landscaping services.
â€œCustomers also wanted installation and lawn services, so I started building a separate landscaping business,â€ said Carlson.
Today, more than 50 percent of all of her business is landscaping.
Carlson said future plans for Paradise Gardens Garden Center and Landscape include expanding the landscaping business, including offering more different types of landscaping services and increasing the number of her landscaping crews.
As the horticulture industry changes, Paradise Gardens Garden Center and Landscape changes as well.
â€œThe industry says in order to survive, independent garden centers have to offer more services,â€ said Carlson, adding sheâ€™s not concerned about competition coming from the future Lowes Home Improvement on N.C. 73.
Carlson credited her staff as a key ingredient for the success of Paradise Gardens Garden Center and Landscape. When she started her business, there were a total of three people at the store level. Today, she has nine employees.
â€œThey may not have years and years of experience, but they have passion and thatâ€™s more important,â€ said Carlson. â€œI even have a Botany professor that works for me.â€
Carlson added that all of her staff has a love for gardening and the outdoors.
Susan Gilliam has worked for Carlson for about a year.
â€œI like working around the plants,â€ said Gilliam. â€œI kind of have a green thumb.â€
Gilliam said her favorite part of gardening is watching things grow.
â€œPlus, everythingâ€™s so pretty when you plant something,â€ said Gilliam, adding gardening is something that makes everyone happy.
Sandi Nelson, meantime, has worked for Carlson for four years. She discovered Carlson and Paradise Gardens Garden Center and Landscape after moving to Denver.
Her favorite part of gardening is when plants start to bloom.
â€œWe genuinely care about the plants here at the center,â€ said Nelson, adding sheâ€™s learning to have a green thumb. â€œLearning something new everyday really makes a difference.â€
Carlson said her most popular offerings are the seven different varieties of palm trees that currently adorn the outside of her business.
In fact, theyâ€™re flying out of the store as fast as Carlson is getting them in from Florida. She is in the process of planting about 250 trees at a Huntersville-area residence.
â€œWe get palm trees from there because they can handle the North Carolina winters,â€ said Carlson. â€œWeâ€™re installing them all over the lake.â€
While the trees can survive winters here, itâ€™s risky to plant the trees in the winter due to the possibility of a hard freeze.
Carlson said she keeps a stock of trees until the end of each year or until sheâ€™s out of stock in December. She restocks in March.
â€œAt one time, people didnâ€™t realize palm trees could grow here,â€ said Carlson. â€œPeople have seen them used in landscaping and want them for their own landscaping needs.â€
An open house is planned for Saturday and includes Carlsonâ€™s father, Carl, cooking on an outdoor grill and patio set-up from Fun Outdoor Living of Denver to celebrate the beginning of her busy season.
â€œSpring and fall are the busiest times of the year,â€ said Carlson. â€œThis is a very seasonal business.â€
Paradise Gardens Garden Center and Landscape is located on N.C. 16 across from East Lincoln Rescue. The store is opened 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturdays; and noon – 4 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call (704) 489-0622.
by Jon Mayhew