She Digs Her Job CAROLE CONTINUES IN HER FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS—AND AGAIN AT HIS SIDE
BY JESSICA LASKEY SHOPTALK
hen Carole Detherage talks about her “growing” business, she could be referring to either her steadily increasing bottom line or the beautiful outdoor landscapes she creates as co-owner of The Garden Tutors, the garden design and education company she has run since 2006. And when she talks about having “roots,” she could be referring to the varietals she plants as well as her family history in the gardening business. “My family has worked with plants for more than 60 years and three generations,” says Detherage, who grew up in the Central Valley. “We had a retail garden center and nursery in Modesto starting in 1949, so I grew up learning from my grandparents as well as my father. Because of that, we’re uniquely able to offer the best advice and service available because we have such a deep and expansive knowledge of plants and gardening.” When Detherage moved to Sacramento for her husband’s job in 2004, she decided to start doing smallscale garden design work that allowed her schedule to stay flexible so she could take care of her school-age kids, including her developmentally disabled youngest daughter. “It’s been difficult to work for anybody else since she was born,” Detherage says, “so I started The Garden Tutors as a way to continue helping people create their vision of a usable and enjoyable outdoor space.
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Carole Detherage and her father improve gardens as part of The Garden Tutors
But as my kids have gotten older, it’s been easier to focus on growing the business. My daughter is in a really good adult program now and as she’s needed me less and less, I’ve found myself wanting to do more and more.”
Lucky for Detherage, just around the time she was itching for more involvement in the industry, her father closed the nursery in Modesto and moved to Sacramento in 2010—
and the dynamic duo was back together again. “When my dad joined me, it gave me more security knowing there was someone else to help pick up the slack,” Detherage says. “I could make more commitments and take on more clients and we could market ourselves a lot more. “We even have a new partner, Gabriel, who has an impressive background in construction. So what started as a father-daughter team to tutor clients about the best plant choices for their needs has now expanded into a full-service landscaping firm.” Not surprisingly, Sacramento residents need Detherage’s expertise now more than ever in the current climate. “The drought has been a gamechanger,” she says. “It’s had a major impact on the direction of the entire industry. The palette of plant material that people want to use has completely changed—we focus on efficient water usage and plant diversity with an emphasis on native plants—which is exciting, but also creates some challenges. “For example, California native plants don’t transplant in the same way as other plants do, so you have to be a little bit more particular about the size (they’re harder to transplant when they’re larger), you have to be very careful about how much water they get and you have to pay a lot more attention to what’s around them. In the past, you didn’t need to group plants with similar water needs together because they could tolerate a wider range of watering levels.”