When Mound’s Jennifer Buse was 19 years old, she was told that she had cancer. Waiting for her test results to arrive was one of the most stressful periods of her life—so she made sure she was busy. Every week as she waited for the results to come in, she distracted herself by tending to her plants.
“I didn’t even know why I was doing it,” says Buse, “but I was doing it.” Eventually, she underwent chemotherapy in the hospital for a month, and returned home exhausted. “When I came home, my parents picked me up, and there was a beautiful bouquet on the table,” says Buse. “I told my parents, ‘You guys didn’t have to get me flowers!’ and they said, ‘We didn’t.’ ” The flowers were from Buse’s own garden, which had continued to flourish in her absence. “They were so beautiful. They looked like something you could have gotten from a florist.”
Moved by that experience, and drawing on skills learned by helping on her father’s organic farm, Buse cultivated a lifelong passion for plants. For more than 20 years, she worked in the corporate world, but after hours, she still found herself surrounded by people in the gardening and greenhouse businesses. When she knew it was time for a career change, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
“If I’m going to work hard,” says Buse, “I want to make a job for myself, be my own boss.” In 2014, she founded Minnesota Gardens, now located in Chaska, with former spots in Eden Prairie, Plymouth and Tonka Bay.
Minnesota Gardens quickly became a standout for creative florists. As a local family-owned business, Buse ensures that Minnesota Gardens gets quality products grown for the harsh Midwestern climate. But, as always, Buse goes a little bit further. “I know as a shopper, when I’d go to a garden center—oh my gosh, it was the same every time I went. I wanted to let my creative juices flow with these flowers and designing with color.”
Minnesota Gardens is stocked with standards and standouts alike. Still, occasionally a customer will come in looking for a plant that’s not in stock. Rather than a calamity, Buse sees such requests as a treat: “I make it a challenge for myself to see if I can find it and get it for them,” she says. That’s the fun part for me.”
What really sets Minnesota Gardens apart, however, is its devoted workforce. Greenhouses and gardening businesses are often difficult to staff due to the seasonal nature of the work, but Buse’s policies make her an attractive employer. Rather than watching what the competition is paying, Buse puts herself in her employees’ shoes: “I guess I wanted to pay them based on how I wanted to be paid, not on the industry standard at the time. So that’s what I did.”
With many employees enthusiastically returning for a second season, she’s a little surprised by her own success, but employees are direct in their gratitude. Says employee Mark, “The passion she has for what she does not only inspires her staff, but has inspired me. I can’t say enough about Jennifer, and from going from nothing to three stores is inspiring.”
Heading into its second summer, Minnesota Gardens is expanding its horizons with a new garden maintenance and design service. Specializing in formal and cottage gardens, an experienced gardener heads to people’s homes to work with them one-on-one and create exactly what they want from their outdoor space.
Want a gardener to visit your home? Call 612.709.1421 or 612.708.7236.
For answers to all your gardening questions, visit the website here.