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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Countryside Nursery: A Dream Grows In Williamstown

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Friday, May 27, 2005

Countryside Landscaping owner Gerard St. Hilaire examines nursery plantings.
Williamstown – The scene was picture perfect: Countryside Landscaping owner Gerard St. Hilaire sat in a white work truck and gazed across a vista of mist-shrouded greenery as a long-absent sun sent a slice of nature’s light through gray-shaded, silver-lined clouds.

“This has always been my dream,” he said. “And it’s a dream come true.”

Home-Grown Plants

The “dream” is a new business-owned and operated nursery that covers about 4 acres and hosts a small forest of trees, perennials, and many other plantings. The growing area is outfitted with a customized, computerized irrigation system that delivers moisture to the plantings “as they like it,” said St. Hilaire.


Countryside employees Jess Kaiser, James Hall, and Pat Jayko prepare to pot ferns.
A Canadian hemlock tree thirsts for consistent water, while a spruce tree likes a dry break between waterings, St. Hilaire explained. The irrigation system permits the correct amount of water for each and every species of greenery at the nursery, he added.

The nursery was designed to benefit the firm’s more than 1,100 customers and the plantings are not sold to the general public.

“This is all set up for our clients, and the public doesn’t come in to buy,” he said. “But this is a big advantage to our customers.”

Company clients include residential and commercial customers and the firm offers a full complement of services.

“Our special thing is that we have hired a team of folks with degrees in horticulture, so that folks don’t get misinformation [about their plantings],” he said.

Landscape customers may expect on-site consultations that review soil, sunlight, shade, moisture, and other outdoor conditions. Recommendations are made and customers armed with accurate information then visit the nursery to select plantings.

“It makes a big difference when people can come in and see and touch,” St. Hilaire said. “We acclimate our clients to what will happen when things go into the yard.”

Waste Not, Want Not

The business presently employs about 77 workers and St. Hilaire predicted that by the end of this landscaping season, he will have a workforce of 99 seasonal and year-round employees. In addition to landscaping, the firm hosts snowplowing, masonry, and lawn-mowing divisions. An on-premises recycling system is expected to turn mountains of leafy yard debris into top-quality topsoil. Town residents may bring leaves and similar yard debris to an established site at the adjacent town garage; St. Hilaire uses the material for mulch.

“We are going to turn them [piles of suitable debris] every 40 days and irrigate them a couple times,” he said. “In about 90 days this will be mulch.”

“We have no waste here and I’m very proud of that,” said St.

Company horticulturist Will Steller and employee Darlene Waitt tackle an October Glory red maple tree.
Hilaire, and added that everything is put to purpose at the site.

Mowing A Path to Success

The business launched in May 1988 and has followed a Cinderella-like path: when St. Hilaire made his business debut, he operated a push-style lawn mower and traveled via car. He first opened a business site on Route 7 near the Chef’s Hat restaurant. During October 2004, he moved his rapidly-growing business to a Simonds Road site adjacent to the Williamstown Department of Public Works headquarters, after purchasing about 19 town-owned acres for $152,000. The business has grown from a one-man, one-mower operation to a well-respected company with a fleet of trucks and additional equipment.

“This is a $1 million facility, counting everything,” St. Hilaire said of the new site. “We sell about $500,000 a year in plant materials and we lose very, very little. I’m on top of stuff like you wouldn’t believe. If I get one bad load of mulch, I go ballistic, and that’s why we are making our own.”


One view of the Countryside Landscaping company's new nursery.
His customers and his employees are the backbone of his company and St. Hilaire said he is committed to treating both groups well. Customers are serviced at more than 110 percent effort and employees are offered good wages and benefits, he said.

“We appreciate all out clients,” he said. “We treat our second homeowners as though they are sitting right in the house watching us. Our business is all done by referrals and we can’t keep up.”

“I’m just proud,” he said. “I’m proud of my employees. We’re all excited about trees and shrubs. We beautify, and it’s a high. It’s hard, physical work and if you don’t really love this stuff, you probably won’t last too long here. We work for people who appreciate what we do and it’s an energy and it’s great.”

Worker and customer safety is priority, St. Hilaire said, and added that the property was designed to keep things flowing safely and smoothly.

“Everything is done in a one-way circular motion with 24-foot roadways,” he said. “We have drive-through buildings, we have security cameras over the entire site. We recycle all our water and no insecticide is used on the trees. We have tool check-out for the work crews. It’s all OSHA [federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration] approved and we are planning to invite OSHA to come visit and help us become even more safety efficient.”

Efficiency is the key to success, from the building heating systems to the growing strategy to the service delivery, St. Hilaire said.

“The secret is efficiency,” he said. “We outsource nothing and working conditions here are only going to get better in the coming years. You see our signs, with the company creed, the mission, the goals and objectives? You give those things and you work ‘em all the time.”

A Happy, Happy, Guy

Hard work, customer satisfaction, a do-it-yourself approach and an employee team made up of “the best people anywhere” have carried St. Hilaire and the company to an idyllic place, he said.

A happy, happy, St. Hilaire


“This is all about coming into a thriving, happy atmosphere and making a living doing what you love doing,” he said. “I’m a happy, happy guy.”

Countryside Landscaping may be reached by calling 413-458-5586.

Susan Bush may be reached at 802-823-9367 or by e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net.
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