I have had so many people ask me over the years how I got my start in the garden industry and for the most part, Carmen Johnston Gardens began over a decade ago as I began to pursue my passion in gardening. However, my roots in “playing in the dirt” go back many more years than that starting as a child growing up in Columbia, SC and then Lawrenceville, GA. My dad has been one of the biggest catalysts of my career in gardening through his example as an entrepreneur and as one of the most hard-working men I know.
Growing up, my dad owned two restaurants in Columbia, Werner’s, a fine dining establishment, and Vienna Pastries, a pastry shop. He went to culinary school in Austria and then studied in France, England, and Bermuda. His work ethic has always been one of his greatest characteristics as he regularly worked 70-90 hours a week in his restaurants. He instilled this work ethic in myself and my sister Marie-Louise as he assigned us summer homework, we had to turn into him on a weekly basis! Some of my fondest memories with my father are from the times he would cook for us. One of our favorites were the potato pancakes he would make topped with homemade apple sauce. He also made apple strudel and these incredible steaks rubbed with Dijon mustard. Eating together as a family were the times I have cherished for many years. Because he worked in a restaurant, he always had incredible kitchen technology he brought home! Our home was one of the only ones to have a Cuisinart and I distinctly remember him purchasing a bright orange mandolin slicer in Munich. On Sundays my sister and I would go down to Werner’s and my dad would make us iced coffees with his incredible espresso machine. This was before even Starbucks knew what an iced coffee was! In the iced coffee he would add vanilla or coffee ice cream and put homemade whipped cream on top. Boy were my sister and I hyped up after those Sunday trips!
Even on top of his long work weeks, dad prioritized his yard and garden, wanting it to be the greenest around. He would come home from work at 11 at night and use his car headlights so he could mow the grass! There were always many projects and concoctions going on in our garage including fish emulsions and homemade fertilizer. He would order 500-1000 earth worms in the mail and as kids we would help spread them across the yard. His love for gardening and creativity in what he did fueled my passion and planted my roots, very literally, in a garden!
My dad has given me a wonderful gift in not only my passion for gardening but most importantly, my work ethic. For my success in my career I gladly credit my wonderful father, and all he has taught me. To each father in your live, take the time this Father’s Day to thank them for the lessons they have taught us, both through their example and maybe through crazy adventures along the way!