ON THE JOB with Minnehaha Falls Landscaping

by Tesha M. Christensen

The ground cover spreads in early spring and forsythias provide bees with an early source of pollen and nectar. (Photo submitted)

Russ Henry began gardening with his mother as a child. His first job was pushing the lawnmower around the neighborhood when he was 10.

He has worked in the landscape industry throughout his career, from nurseries as a teenager to landscaping companies. “I eventually started my own company, Giving Tree Gardens, in 2005. In 2017, I founded the nonprofit Bee Safe Minneapolis and bought Minnehaha Falls Landscaping, a 60-year-old landscaping company,” said Henry, who shares ownership with partner Chesney Engquist. “Our companies have grown since the beginning and are still growing robustly today.”

Minnehaha Falls Landscaping was founded in 1957 and has been in the Longfellow neighborhood since 1985. “South Minneapolis is our home base because we build and maintain landscapes throughout the subway,” said Henry.

Read on for more from Henry.

How has COVID-19 changed the way you work?

We have responded to COVID-19 in a number of ways to keep our customers and employees safe. These changes include our new no-in-home meetings with customers. We all meet in the countryside with great social distance. We are fortunate to have three families, each with several family members, in our company. This means that some of our team members live together and we bring family members together in teams as much as possible. We have introduced hand disinfection procedures and always wear masks in public places. For employees who are not doing well, we offer paid sick leave to ensure they are safely quarantined. In addition, we pay for the treatment of injured employees. The health and wellbeing of our employees are of the utmost importance. We take COVID-19 very seriously for the health and safety of everyone we work with and the entire community.

How has the demand for your services changed with the pandemic?

Our hearts go out to our friends who own restaurants, cinemas, gyms, day-care centers, and all of the artists, chefs and craftsmen whose livelihoods have been damaged by the pandemic. We are among the lucky ones. The demand for our services skyrocketed during the pandemic. With so many people stuck at home and running out of vacation and dining budgets, our phone has not stopped ringing all season. We started booking for next spring in July because we were so fully booked. We’ve grown every year since we’ve been in business, and this year we weren’t sure if that was possible.

What trends are you seeing right now?

People are investing in landscaping in the long term and are switching to low-maintenance rooms. We’re installing lots of terraces, walkways and retaining walls this year, and converting lots of lawns into easy-care gardens and non-mowing bee lawns! This year, many people also install bee, butterfly and hummingbird gardens. Many people long to do something ecologically good with their landscape, and we are here to help.

How can people create useful outdoor spaces?

We need to start looking at lawns as temporary land cover as it is one of the easiest forms of landscaping. Instead, be a hero to the local wildlife by adding multiple layers of flowering canopies to your landscape. Grow the urban forest in your own lawn by working from scratch. Start by composting the soil and

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