July 15, 2010
Backbone of the business
Laura and Fred Petersen.
Denis Flanagan CLD
Director of public relations and membership services

Denis FlanaganRecently, my wife and I have been regular visitors with some good friends who, unfortunately, have experienced some health issues. I worked with Fred and Laura Petersen for many years in the landscaping business. F.H. Petersen was once the main contractor for the Weall and Cullen’s flagship store in North York, back in the 1970s and ’80s.

During our long drives to the hospital, I found myself reflecting on how this couple’s business had survived and flourished over the years. Their story is a familiar one in our industry. With a young family, they immigrated to Canada, worked in a garden maintenance company, and eventually started their own company. Through hard work and talent, the business evolved from maintenance into a full landscape construction firm.

Through their affiliation with Weall and Cullen, the F.H. Petersen Company often contributed to Landscape Ontario community projects with the Toronto Chapter.

A great deal of the credit for their success belongs to Laura, the backbone of the business. Like so many other landscape companies during the ‘50s ‘60s and ‘70s, the husband was often the public face and onsite supervisor, relying on his wife to raise the children, be a part-time bookkeeper, make appointments, create schedules, order supplies and carry out many other important functions for the business.

The Petersens are from the old school. When I had to discuss a design or a contract, it was always combined with an invitation to sample one of Laura’s home-cooked meals and an occasional glass of schnapps (what a great motivator to develop more business). I was always treated like a member of the family. In fact, Fred and Laura later became our children’s godparents.

Many people in the industry will relate to this story. They already know good business is often built on personal relationships.

Many people were associated with the Cullen business in those days, including Bob Tubby and Jacki Hart, who will no doubt remember the Petersens, and would agree that Laura was typical of all those marvelous women who were truly “Prosperity Partners.”

Today, things have changed a great deal. We see many women who themselves are leaders in the industry, running successful companies and contributing on many boards and committees at Landscape Ontario. They work to promote this great industry that I believe still maintains many of those great family values.

We are often told that our new Green for Life brand, with the young girl on a swing image, symbolizes a strong sense of family connecting with nature. But, perhaps we were beaten to the concept well over 60 years before.

I think it is always important to pay homage to our history and to recognize the commitment made by all of those original partners in prosperity. If you have some particular memories you would like to share, please send your stories to me at dflanagan@landscapeontario.com.

With your permission, we would like to feature them in future issues of Horticulture Review and at the Legacy Room during Landscape Ontario’s Congress.

Belated thanks to Veronica

In my column that appeared in the May issue of Horticulture Review, I omitted mentioning Veronica Schroder, OALA candidate, who spoke on the panel in Picton for the Shire Hall project fundraiser. She was part of the panel that included Steve Poole of Connon Nurseries/CBV, Scott Wentworth of Wentworth Design Group and Mark Cullen, representing Home Hardware. My apologies to Veronica for leaving her name off the list.
Denis Flanagan may be contacted at dflanagan@landscapeontario.com.