October 12, 2021
Caroline de Vries
Caroline de Vries
Caroline de Vries was first made aware of Landscape Ontario while working as a landscape architect in the early 90s. When the recession hit in 1991, de Vries started her own business “by accident,” supplying flower bulbs to the trade.

As an LO member, she says she “received great benefits and met a lot of my customers via trade shows, golf, ski and chapter meetings, and was asked by someone if I would join the Toronto chapter board, and I said yes.” In 2006, de Vries served as Toronto chapter president. 

“I am a very social being,” de Vries said, adding “catching up with existing acquaintances and being introduced to new people with similar interests” is what she enjoys most about volunteering. 

But as both her business and family grew, raising twin girls and then taking care of parents over the age of 90, put de Vries’ volunteer efforts on hold for about two decades. 

“I had no time after work to volunteer,” she recalls. “But now that my girls don’t require my mothering skills — so they tell me — and both my parents died within five months of each other just before COVID, all of a sudden I seem to have more time on my hands again.”

In late 2020, de Vries heard at an All-Chapter Meeting that Landscape Ontario had given each chapter $5,000 to recognize an outstanding frontline worker. 

“At the meeting in January, I believe Tony DiGiovanni mentioned it to our chapter — that we had a winner, and that now someone in the chapter needed to run with it,” de Vries said. “I noticed nobody offered to take it on, so since I had nothing to do anymore, I offered to coordinate the project.”

Shelley Brillinger, executive director of Participation House Markham, won the Toronto chapter frontline worker grant. When Brillinger opted to apply her makeover to the courtyard of Participation House — a facility that enhances the quality of life for individuals with disabilities — the scope of the project grew. The resulting $50,000 makeover provided a new, accessible patio for residents, and de Vries is quick to mention the many individuals and companies who helped to make that happen. The coming together of members for a common goal is something de Vries says was present within the chapter 30 years ago.

“One of the reasons I would attend chapter meetings in the early days was so I could get out to see what other people were working on. It was a nice way to meet someone face-to-face and talk about troubles and we would have speakers come in to show off their work,” de Vries said. 

With a lack of trade shows, in-person seminars, and social events due to COVID, de Vries is hopeful of a future where people can once again connect face-to-face.

Through a chance encounter at the first Canada Blooms, de Vries crossed paths with the two owners of the Toronto-based Oriole Landscaping — George Urvari and Peter Guinane, resulting in personal friendships and a solid business relationship that is approaching 30 years. 

Looking back, de Vries says the opportunity to volunteer could not have come at a better time in her life. With limited in-person meetings and face-to-face visits through the first half of 2021 due to COVID, organizing the garden makeover allowed her to “meet some really nice people,” and brought back some of that face-to-face, social aspect that is such a big part of her life.