Michael Hiel - Owner, Founder, Certified Plant Professional
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.
Peter Hiel - Designer/Foreman, Certified Plant Professional
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 - Foreman
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.
Mae Clark - Garden Centre Managre, Certified Plant Professional
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.
Caroline Wallace - Designer, MNLA President
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.
Tim Buswell - Foreman, ICPI Concrete Paver Installer Certified
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.
Ian Robertson - 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 what seems like a lifetime 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.
Peter 'Pedro' VanHorn - Foreman
Mr. 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 who spends his winters 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.
Ryan Jennings - The Wizard
Mike likes to hire Jack-of-all-trades, but Ryan is perhaps the Jackiest. He is a Mad Max wrenching, artisan welding, craft beer brewing, powder slashing, truth seeking student of life who we are fortunate to work with and when you meet him you will immediately notice a truly honest and inquisitive soul. Hailing from Wooster, Massachusetts he has traveled the farthest from home to be with us. And let’s not forget this creative junky’s bachelor of fine arts degree from MSU.
Sarah Clark - Garden Maintenance Manager
What is quiet, yet chatty; feminine, yet rugged; dirty but happy? Sarah Clark of course. She is the heart and soul of our maintenance division which might be the hardest job at Gardenwerks and certainly the least celebrated. To pull weeds, rake leaves, prune shrubs, fertilize perennials and re-bark beds on a daily basis in the heat of the summer with a discerning eye is nearly impossible, but Sarah does it with zeal and a genuine smile. She is a Whitefish native, an animal lover, a home remodeler, a friend to all children and our hero. Her degree in Animal linguistics is from MSU and she is an essential Gardenwerks employee.
Timmie Smart - Office Manager Extraordinaire
Prince, Bob Dylan, Snoopy and Timmie Smart. Four of the greatest things to come out of Minnesota. But only the truly pleasant Mrs. Smart is at the nucleus of this company. Timmie is yet another journalist from the University of Montana who has succumbed to the gravitational pull of Gardenwerks. If she isn’t cooking our books, answering your phone calls, or corralling the Never Never Boys and Girls of Gardenwerks she’s running on the local trails or chasing a good time with her husband somewhere in Montana or the West.
John LaRue - Invaluable Landscaper
For anyone who thinks the children of today do not have the work ethic of children from yesteryear, I challenge you to outwork John. What he lacks in life and work experience he makes up for with eagerness and hard work. We love seeing his smiling face in the morning and trying to work it off by the end of the day. And for any of you single ladies out there, he is the total package…brains and brawn. Starting in the Fall of 2019 you can find him at Montana Tech pursuing an engineering degree, but until then, check rivers and mountains for one of Helena’s brightest sons.
Roxann LaRue - 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 - Pot Queen
Taylor Ferris is the backbone of our original and beautiful flower pots. She in not only an artist with flowers but with ink and paper as well. She left the Volunteer State many moon ago to earn a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from Montana State University. Taylor’s smile, work diversity, and experience make her an essential Gardenwerks employee.
Tom Rediske - Bee Keeper
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. He is a retired state worker, an electrician, a rockhound, and a computer programmer with a handful of degrees. Beeware the man in the pith helmet.