She’s Unpaved Parking Lots, Planted a Paradise

July 2, 2018

By Sheila Julson


Christine Goldsworthy began gardening as a teenager while living “up north” in Florence, Wis., where she was surrounded by forest and the outdoors. She studied archeology and art at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. —Jennifer Kresse

How would Mother Nature do it? That is a question that Outpost Natural Foods employee and gardener Christine Goldsworthy often asks herself when considering garden design for three of Outpost’s four locations.

Goldsworthy, an employee at Outpost’s State Street location for 25 years, has been designing, planting, and maintaining the gardens at the stores, beginning with the State Street store in Wauwatosa, for close to 18 years. After her garden design was completed there, Outpost asked her to come up with a plan for the Capitol Drive location, and then for the Bay View store after it opened in 2005. She occasionally gardens at Outpost’s Mequon store, but due to its large rain garden and edible landscape, a landscape architect is primarily in charge of garden design and maintenance there.

Shoppers heading into the Bay View Outpost, 2826 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., see eye-catching yellow and purple irises and milkweed standing tall near hostas, purple Veronica, columbine, and dainty yellow creeping buttercup. Prairie fire and white crabapple trees shade lady’s mantle, salvia, and primrose. 

Sea holly

Near the entrance, eryngium, or sea holly, turns steely blue toward the end of June. “It’s in the rattlesnake master family and native to the Midwest,” Goldsworthy said. “It gets attention because it’s so unique.” When it is in bloom, she leaves information cards about it at the customer service desks because of the number of people who inquire about it.

She groups sage, chives, and winter savory, but food safety regulations prohibit their use by the store’s café. A large rose bush fans out on the wall near the outdoor seating area and there are three pear trees at the south end of the lot. The north end garden includes a monarch butterfly garden. In an island near the front doors, there is a path between the trees and plants. “That path was intentional,” Goldsworthy said. “I wanted to bring people to another spot.” She created a microhabitat where customers are momentarily encompassed by trees and flowers. She is gratified that the path is well traveled.

The pear trees were planted to honor Pam Menhert, Outpost’s longtime general manager.

Margaret Bert Mittelstadt, Outpost’s community relations director, said the pear tree was chosen because it is held in high regard in many cultures and religions and is said to represent salvation, comfort, and affection. The pear symbolizes abundance, the Christian cross, longevity, is associated with the Virgin Mary, and was sacred to Hera, queen of the heavens and Venus, goddess of love. “Pear trees used to be planted in celebration at the birth of girl babies,” she said. “If you saw a pear tree in your dreams, it meant new opportunities.”

An island near the entry to the store is like a mini park. Christine Goldsworthy created a microhabitat where customers are momentarily encompassed by trees and flowers when they travel the path through it. —Katherine Keller

A knack for gardening

Goldsworthy started gardening as a teenager while living “up north,” in Florence, Wis., near the Michigan border. “My sisters and I were surrounded by the woods and the outdoor world,” Goldsworthy said.

She moved to Milwaukee when she was 19 to attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she studied archeology and art. She lived on the East Side during the 1980s and was inspired by a neighborhood movement called Wild Ones, which promoted replacing monoculture grass lawns with native plants.

Goldsworthy’s art studies have influenced her gardening style. “I really like groundcovers because of the textures and different variations. Flowers are gorgeous when they’re blooming, and they stand out, but they are so short-lived,” she said. “Groundcovers allow you to work low and add other higher stuff, working in different shapes and spaces, just like a painting or a sculpture.” She also likes incorporating groundcovers because they help keep weeds down.

Planning and maintaining

The gardening duties take up most of Goldsworthy’s work tasks during the spring and summer months. During winter, she works in various store departments at the State Street location. 

But during the gardening season, she primarily is responsible for all planting, weeding, and watering duties herself.

While establishing the State Street garden, trees and bushes were purchased, but most of the perennials came from Goldsworthy’s and others’ yards. The cactus and the yellow and light purple irises all came from coworkers’ yards,” she said. She also went to friends’ homes and dug up perennials. She brought wild daisies and groundcovers, such as Artemisia and wormwood, from her visits to Northern Wisconsin.

“I think there’s a lot of similarity of the plants at all the locations because as a garden grows, I dig up plants from one location and take them to another, so there’s no cost involved. I’m not buying any plants,” she said. “It’s interesting for me to go back and recollect where a lot of things came from. It’s a really nice way that gardens are built, by people sharing.”

Sometimes people approach Goldsworthy to talk about gardening, and she’s always open to sharing her knowledge. One tip she offers is to just do it. “And don’t take it personally if things don’t survive,” she added. “There are so many things that could go wrong, but the more you learn, (the more) you start noticing things like relationships between different insects, and the weather, and you become like that farmer who can taste and feel the soil. It takes a lot of time. But often when things don’t work out, there’s something else going on—it’s not just you!”

Goldsworthy has faced challenges designing and maintaining gardens that are primarily in or around parking lots. The winter snow and salt from the parking lot kill some plants. People occasionally let their cars idle, and heat from engines will harm the plants. “People walk on things,” she said. “Or people pull right up until they bump the curb and hit stuff.”

Limited soil depth in the areas around parking lots can also prevent plants from growing to their full stature. Goldsworthy said she will cut back some plants in fall, but she keeps certain things for winter wildlife. “It’s a selective process of what you choose to leave. Mother Nature doesn’t go in there and rake and remove stuff, so you balance everything to work with nature,” she said.

Daisies, irises, and Dusty Miller grace the entryway to Outpost in Wauwatosa at 70th and State streets. —Katherine Keller

A few years ago, there were ducks nesting at the State Street store. Goldsworthy has also seen bunnies. 

“A couple summers ago while I was working at State Street, a man who lives nearby approached me, and he wanted me to know that he had beehives. He said he “made sure the bees always came down to the store gardens,” Goldsworthy said, explaining that he thought he recognized his bees. “It was rewarding to hear that.” 

For Goldsworthy it’s not just about pretty flowers. It’s also learning about the interconnectivity of plants and soil and climate and the variables that often change from year to year. She is still learning “how things in the garden play out.” Why, for example, are there so many aphids one year but not another? What can she plant to attract the aphids to draw them away from an infested plant that she wants to protect? 

Goldsworthy delights in the creativity involved with gardening and seeing the plants grow and develop. “It’s hard when a favorite plant doesn’t make it through the winter,” she said, “but being outside and noticing these relationships, I’m always learning and adding things to the puzzle.”

In 2003, the State Street store was bestowed with the Mayor of Wauwatosa Beautification Award. Goldsworthy worked with the Wehr Nature Center to create a landscape that qualified and received its Native Habitat Certification. She also worked with Monarch Watch, a program of the Entomology Department of the University of Kansas, to provide milkweed plants, nectar sources, and shelter to sustain migrating Monarch butterflies. The Bay View garden is certified and registered by the organization as a Monarch Waystation.

Outpost Natural Foods, 2826 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., in Bay View, 2004, soon after it purchased the former Kohl’s store, and before Christine Goldsworthy worked her landscaping magic. Courtesy Outpost Natural Foods

Outpost Natural Foods, 2826 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., 2018. —Katherine Keller

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2 Comments on "She’s Unpaved Parking Lots, Planted a Paradise"

  1. Judy Mayer on Fri, 6th Jul 2018 7:40 pm 

    This is a wonderfully written article. Not only a tribute to Christine’s amazing talents but also to Outpost for allowing Christine to follow her passion to grow such beautiful and thoughtful gardens.

  2. Lora Hyler on Tue, 17th Jul 2018 2:50 pm 

    Great article.
    As an Outpost board member, I appreciate the many ways our food cooperative embraces wellness. Thanks to Christine Goldsworthy for all she does.

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