A New Season For The Whaletown Garden Centre

Noah Davidson traces his gardening itch back to the family plot in Ontario  but prior to his arrival on Cortes Island, he worked in restaurants. He started out behind the cash register of his father’s restaurant in Toronto and went on to work in a number of fast food establishments. This continued after his move to British Columbia. Noah worked at the Floathouse Restaurant, in Gorge Harbour Marina, during his first two years on Cortes Island.  

“A couple of seasons after working with them, I decided to experiment with the possibility of starting a business on my own property. I remember asking the Gorge, ‘if this doesn’t work out, would you mind hiring me back, because I don’t know whether this is going to be a grand success or a grand failure.’  They said, ‘you know, you’ve given us two good years and we’d certainly take you back,” he explained.  

Photo courtesy Noah Davidson

Cortes Currents: have you ever gone back to work for the Float House?

Noah Davidson:”No, that was the beginning of entrepreneurship for me. I really haven’t had to branch out too far from there since then.”

Cortes Currents: One of the first things you notice upon entering the Whaletown Garden Centre, is two garden chairs with the sign ‘registered psychiatrist’ slung between them. 

Noah Davidson: “The Garden Centre can be a place of helping people find garden supplies, but sometimes maybe turns into some deep conversations.  A friend delivered me a sign that says ‘registered psychologist,’ even though I’m definitely not a registered psychologist. I proudly display it  on my Adirondack chairs where two people can  pull up a seat and have a chat. It brought in a lot of good laughs.”

He emailed, “My passion comes from helping people find success in their garden, whether they’re growing one pot on the deck or they have five acres of land. If someone’s issue can be solved with a 20 minute conversation, with or without making a sale, my aim is that people will leave Whaletown Garden Centre happy and informed. Customers have told me it’s one of the many things that  keep them coming back  to Whaletown Garden Centre.”
“I established Whaletown Garden Centre in 2008 with the goal of bringing a comprehensive garden supply centre to Cortes Island. Over the last 15 years of operation, I’ve tried to hone in on the items that gardeners on Cortes are looking for. As of today, Whaletown Garden Centre has over 500 different products available. Even with our small island population, Cortes has a great community of passionate gardeners, and it was my hope that Whaletown Garden Centre would meet their needs and save them a trip off island. Competitive pricing is something I take very seriously. I am constantly looking for the best products I can source at fair and affordable prices for my customers.”

Noah Davidson: “I carry everything from different fertilizer products, to help with funguses, pathogens and issues with bugs. I have lots of tools, everything from forks and rakes and shovels, axes,  pruning tools,  Reemay,  hoses, even some obscure tools like the old dutch hoe, or pick mattock. The list goes on and on. I’ve tried to put out various different advertisements that  cover a lot of the products that I carry, but I don’t think people can really get the idea unless they actually come in and see what’s available.”

“I also bring in manure from a poultry farm in Black Creek. I carry peat moss, coco coir, potting soil, worm castings, perlite, vermiculite, mushroom manure and plenty of other  soil products. One of the other things that I focus on is a decent West Coast seed selection. Every year I bring in this year’s fresh seeds and try to cover all the bases as far as what people would need for their veggie garden, a little bit of a mix of flowers and that kind of thing.” 

Cortes Currents: You also grow veggies and flowers. 

Noah Davidson: “We do, between myself and Izabelle we try to grow many food related garden starts with our limited greenhouse space and a light set up that gives us a little bit of an early start. We move from lights to either a greenhouse or a cold frame, and then we put it up on our roadside stand which has the sign Awesome Plants. We try to keep it pretty stocked for most of the early spring into the beginning of the summer. Once the hot weather kicks in, we usually pull back because just keeping all those tiny pots wet can be a real battle, multiple waterings a day kind of thing.” 

“By the time the real heat hits, we slow down our propagation side of things. It’s something that we would like to expand more into as we create  more warm greenhouse space to be able to start as many trays as possible.”

“Right now is the time to get the garden established. Usually it starts with amending the soil, cleaning up any weeds and getting a vision of where you’re going to put what. What things bring you joy, or are tasty to you? What do you want to put the energy into?”

“Then seed starting. Whether people start their own seeds or whether they’re picking up starts from one of the various places on or off the island. Get those things plugged into the garden and then, obviously, maintenance, fertilizing, and watering. It’s just a good time of year to  get started if you plan on doing something in the garden.” 

Cortes Currents: There’s a lot of jars of Awesome maple syrup and pickles in the Garden Centre. 

Noah Davidson: “My partner Izabelle Perry is very passionate about canning. One of our most popular items is the maple syrup that we bring in from Quebec and Izabelle jars it up. We label it Awesome Maple Syrup.  It  really does  fit the name.   We’ve created a lot of converts and we moved through a fair amount of that syrup and jams and jellies and pickles and all kinds of other stuff that Izabelle cans up. She used to do the markets, but has  gotten more busy with  her welding, so she’s eased back off the markets.  People still come by  for the odd jar of this or that.”

Noah emailed, “Operating a small business on Cortes has been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. The support of the community has been overwhelming. I can only hope that customers continue to find value in what I’m offering and that new community members won’t hesitate to come check out their local garden supply shop. Here they will find a huge selection, great prices and excellent service. I’m looking forward to the 2024 gardening season and so far we’re off to a great start!” 

Noah Davidson: “I’m really passionate about gardening.  It’s the reason that I started and continue to nurture this business. It’s pretty great to have all the supplies you could possibly need for your garden right in your front yard.  I definitely take advantage of it.  I try not to spend too much money on myself, but my garden certainly gets a fair amount of attention.” 

“I have visions for the future of even a more comprehensive dialed garden. I really enjoy the back and forth that goes on with customers as far as giving ideas and gaining ideas. Being that I talk about gardening,  four days a week,  seven hours a day or whatever, It creates endless possibilities of things that I could add or try. That’s one of the other great things about gardening, You’ve never learnt it all.  No matter how knowledgeable you are about gardening, there’s always something to learn.”

Top image credit: some of the starts – courtesy Noah Davidson

Sign-up for Cortes Currents email-out:

To receive an emailed catalogue of articles on Cortes Currents, send a (blank) email to subscribe to your desired frequency: