ON THE JOB with Minnehaha Falls Landscaping

Groundcover spreads early in the spring, and forsythia offers an early pollen and nectar source for bees. (Photo submitted)

Russ Henry started gardening with his mom when he was a kid. His first job was pushing the lawnmover around the neighborhood when he was 10.

He has worked in the landscape industry his entire career, starting in plant nurseries as a teen, and then moving on to landscaping companies. "Eventually I founded my own company, Giving Tree Gardens in 2005. In 2017, I founded the non-profit Bee Safe Minneapolis, and purchased Minnehaha Falls Landscaping, a 60-year-old landscaping company," said Henry, who shares ownership with partner Chesney Engquist. "Our companies have been growing ever since we began and continue to grow robustly today."

Minnehaha Falls Landscaping was founded in 1957, and has been located in the Longfellow neighborhood since 1985. "South Minneapolis is our home base as we build and maintain landscapes all over the metro area," stated Henry.

Read on for more from Henry.

How has COVID-19 changed how you operate?

We responded to COVID-19 in a number of ways, all designed to provide safety for our clients and staff. Among these changes are our new No-In-Home meetings with clients; we do all our meetings in the landscape with ample social distance. We are lucky to have three families employed in our company with multiple family members each. This means some of our team members live with each other and we pair up family members on teams as much as possible. We instituted hand sanitizing procedures, and we always wear masks in public spaces. For employees who aren’t feeling well, we offer paid sick time to ensure they will quarantine safely. Additionally we pay for treatment for injured employees, our employees health and well-being is paramount. We take COVID-19 very seriously for the health and safety of everyone we work with and the whole community.

How has demand for your services changed with the pandemic?

Our hearts go out to our friends who own restaurants, movie theatres, gyms, day-cares, and all the artists, cooks, and crafts-people whose livelihoods have been harmed by the pandemic. We are among the lucky ones. Demand for our services has sky-rocketed during the pandemic. With so many folks stuck at home and everyone’s vacation and dining-out budgets left untapped, our phone hasn’t stopped ringing all season. We started booking for next spring in July because we’ve been so booked up. We’ve grown every year since we’ve been in business and this year we weren’t sure if that would be possible.

What trends do you see right now?

People are investing in landscape designs for the long term and transitioning to low-maintenance spaces. We’re installing a lot of patios, walkways, and retaining-walls this year as well as converting a lot of lawns into low-maintenance gardens and no-mow Bee Lawns! This year we’re also seeing a lot of folks install bee, butterfly, and hummingbird gardens. A lot of people are yearning to do something ecologically beneficial with their landscape, and we’re here to help.

How can folks create useful outdoor spaces?

We need to start thinking of turf lawn as a temporary ground cover because it is one of the highest maintenance forms of landscaping. Instead be a hero to local wildlife by adding multiple layers of blooming canopy to your landscape. Grow the urban forest in your own lawn by working from the ground up. Start with composting the soil and then add ground covers, perennials, shrubs, and trees to provide a verdant, attractive space for birds, bees, and butterflies.

How do you seek to be environmentally-friendly in your business practices?

We grow organic habitat in every landscape we manage and we teach hundreds of people every year how they can be heroes to wildlife in their own yards. Each year we install dozens of pollinator friendly landscapes including rain-gardens, butterfly gardens, hummingbird gardens, bee-lawns and food forests. We’ve been organic for 15 years and we use the knowledge we’ve gained to help transition institutions away from the use of pesticides. We started a non-profit organization called Bee-Safe Minneapolis which has helped many organizations (including Minneapolis Public Schools) eliminate all pesticide use indoors and eliminate round-up from school grounds.

What sets your business apart?

Minnehaha Falls Landscaping is a business rooted in healthy soil. Whether designing and installing enchanting landscapes, educating about local ecology, or advocating for safer landscapes for kids and wildlife, we spend all our time giving back to the community that we grew up in. We understand that the health of our community, the health of the planet, and healthy soil are one-in-the-same.

You can follow our adventures and learn all about our methods for soil health, organic landscaping, and low-maintenance gardens on our blog at minnehahafallslandscape.com.


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