Mike Hiel moved to Montana in 1977 upon graduating from Northern Illinois University. For many years he worked with the State of Montana in the reclamation division of abandon mines. He worked in the nursery trade during his time in college and after in Minnesota. In 1988 he opened Shades of Green landscaping and nursery which split to become Gardenwerks. He was the co-founder of Growing Friends of Helena and a past president of the Montana Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA) as well as a certified plant professional with MNLA. He is known around Helena not only for his extensive plant knowledge but also for his community involvement and philanthropy. In short, he is the backbone and spirit of Gardenwerks with over 30 years in the green industry and…just happy to be here and gardening. And also an award winning film producer…who knew.
At the tender age of 12, Pete was forced into hard labor at Gardenwerks. Perhaps the lingering effects of Stockholm syndrome force Peter to share his father’s passion for the green business or perhaps it is genetic, but his creative spirit and problem solving skills are second to none in the industry as you will find out if you work with him. He is a Helena native who holds a B.S. in Environmental Horticulture with an emphasis in Landscape Design from Montana State University, but he still can not escape the working end of a shovel.
Jordan LaRue holds a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Montana, but landscapes to spite his parents. Women want him and men want to be him. Some say he is the most rugged, talented, and wisest of all of the landscapers at Gardenwerks. It is hard to know how many young lives this yoga neophyte and doggerel poet has shaped. He is a true renaissance man known for his hunting prowess, charm, thoughtful criticisms, and world travel. His full title is Tamer of Rocks, Wielder of Shovels, Foreman of Foremans, and most recently Kisser of Babies. He has been with Gardenwerks since 2005 and installing landscapes since 1997 but recently found his calling as a web designer and part-time office manager.
Garden Centre Managre
After an Odyessean-length search for a Garden Centre Manager, we are happy to have found Mae. Or maybe she found us. Mae has been involved in the nursery and landscape industry since graduating from the horticulture and landscape design program at Montana State University in 2007. She struck off on her own odyssey after college where she worked and managed a variety of garden centers from Oregon to Massachusetts, but like all good epics, the hero returns to find what she was looking for was at home all along. She is a certified plant professional with the MNLA and most importantly…a dirt biker.
Another wonderful addition and easy fit to the Gardenwerks family is the talented Caroline Wallace. She comes as an ambassador from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where her love for plants and design were seeded on her parents’ rural farm and cultivated at Virginia Tech. She earned a degree in Landscape Architecture in 2010 and a certificate in permaculture design in 2013. Caroline’s passion lies in designing beautiful, edible, and resource-wise outdoor living and production spaces. She turned her back on moonshine and castrated turkeys to bring her deep-rooted belief in the value of community, collaboration, and a pressing need for communities to be more self-reliant to the Big Sky Country. Thanks Caroline.
Another son of Helena and seasoned Gardenwerks employee is the talented Tim Buswell. He has been in the industry since 2005 and holds a B.A. in Design Management from Arizona State University. His attention to detail is his superpower as his walls and patios will attest. His good looks you ask…well they’re a blessing and a curse, but all part of the package.
Chief Irrigator / Backyard Mechanic
Ian Robertson is a graduate of Pittsburg State University with a B.S. in Field Biology. He has taken several classes on applicable conservative irrigation practices and he personifies Gardenwerks’ commitment to the necessity of wise water practices as individuals and as a community. He has been working with flora and fauna for over 12 years but can talk to you about anything from Hudsons to hound dogs. The government used to pay him to wrestle and wrangle elk in Idaho; skills he now applies to rearing his two young sons. Maybe those boys are the reason he finds relaxation in a mosh pit when he can find one or why he smiles while running a jackhammer.
Nathan “Mule” Welch, aka Outside Nathan is our resident barista, coffee snob and perpetuator of the pun. After an eleven year hiatus in which he searched the globe for a wife and the perfect cup of coffee he returned to his hometown of Helena and his muse, Gardenwerks. Nathan’s poignant conversational skills were seeded at the University of Montana and polished around the world.
Peter 'Pedro' VanHorn
LandscaperMr. VanHorn is the second employee at Gardenwerks with a degree from the University of Montana School of Journalism who doubles as a landscaper. His degree is just the tip of his intellectual iceberg bobbing in the summer heat of a landscape season. Peter enjoys a miser’s commute on a bicycle or his sport motorcycle while reflecting on his youth as a whitewater rafting guide or an executive in the campground maintenance division for the park service. He is a competent motorcycle mechanic with a deep or perhaps obscure knowledge of foreign cars. He grows hair at an accelerated rate and has a contempt for humanities’ gluttonous and wasteful ways. He is an epic Nordic skier and spent last winter grooming the trails at Macdonald pass. He embodies efficiency and we are glad to have him back for another year of hard work and laughs.
Julie Thomas Hintz
Garden Centre Specialist
Julie Thomas Hintz is a Montana native with three grown children. We are proud to say Julie earned her Certified Plant Professional certificate in 2015. She holds a B.A. in political science from the University of Montana but also wields a certificate in plant production and garden design from the University of Maine. Julie can easily be found in our Garden Centre five days a week.
Garden Centre Specialist
Do you recall a great aunt, grandmother or perhaps even your own mother who’s skin was as tough as buffalo hide, who’s kind words healed any wound? An educated woman who worked the earth, raised the children, kept the house and spoke to the animals? A brave woman who knew the secrets of eternal youth or at least refused to die? Meet Roxann LaRue, a retired school teacher from Colorado with B.A. in English from Michigan State University as well as Master’s in Education from Colorado State University. She is that woman and she supplements her retirement by pulling this wagon at Gardenwerks.
Taylor Ferris is our flower pot professional but is commonly found with our maintenance crew. She has a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from Montana State University and can be seen on Helena’s many trails with her pup, Chin. Taylor’s smile, work diversity, and experience make her an essential Gardenwerks employee.
If you see a nine-fingered man with the the bow-legged gate of an eastern Montanan that reminds you of a character out of a Longmire novel or even a Dan Cushman pulp story, that’s our resident bee keeper, Tom. A retired state worker with a handful of degrees, he is a jack of all trades and master of none…except for electricity and computer programing. Beeware the the man in the pith helmet.