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Award winning Landscape Architect, trained behind the Iron Curtain

Sometimes it can take longer than expected to make a dream a reality. And sometimes it can take years before the opportunity to do just that is available.

Take, for example, the time Maria Zabehlicky had to take before she could start her award winning company, Stray's Nursery and Landscape services ' It took her and her husband Jaromir eight years just to get out of a country where entrepreneurship was no longer allowed. Following that it took a few years of learning the English language and a good number of jobs before Mrs. Zabehlicky could branch opt into her own -specialty.

My husband bagged seed and I cleaned and check the seed samples. We had about four part-time jobs and in the evenings we took English classes," said Mrs. Zabehlicky of their arrival in Richmond Hill. "I don't know how we did it but if you have a goal I think everyone can do it with just a little hardship."

Mrs. Zabehlicky’s specialty is design in landscaping, from fine rockery work, indoor and outdoor waterfalls, to stone work, court gardens and fountains and pools. The Polish daughter of a lawyer, she received training in horticulture and landscape architecture at university in Czechoslovakia.

She worked in agriculture research and later worked in parks designing and supervision in Teplice, a spa city. Having been always interested in horticulture and surroundings due to holidays in the mountains prior to the communist government.

Teplice offered the Perfect opportunity to develop her ability. Teplice is situated in a valley, surrounded by mountains, with streams, rivers and mountain lakes, and its natural beauty and old structures offered the chance to work to her potential, a potential realized now by the awards collected for her designs.

The first recognition came in 1974, a scant five years following the opening of the business on a part time basis. Mrs. Zabehlicky took second prize for her water garden in the Spring Flower an Garden Show in Toronto. More awards followed and 1983 saw Mrs. Zabehlicky be one of eight Canadian designers out of 240 enter the final competition. Stray's Nursery and Landscape Services took the highest award.

Mc Donald’s (Restaurant) really takes care of their landscaping and design so it was quite an honor. I'm fussy enough to want perfection," she said.

That striving for perfection was one of the reasons that motivated Mr. and Mrs. Zabehlicky to leave Czechoslovakia. It took eight years of asking to leave for a vacation, a time when starting a family had to be put off, before the couple left their home never to return. As soon as they arrived in Canada, they started "to build a family, a future, a business and learn the language."

Armed with determination and hope, it didn't take long for the couple to settle in Richmond Hill. Later, when Mr. Zabehlicky 'secured a good job which he still holds today, Mrs. Zabehlicky started designing and supervising for a Japanese company, gaining recognition with awards. About 1970 she rented a little office and started her own company, still working part time for the company, which she still keeps ties with.

We weren’t busy at first but we didn’t complain. It was a job for me,” she said. “It wasn’t a tough time then because my husband was working and I was working part time for the Japanese company while still sewing in the winter. My sewing is strictly hobby now but I haven't any time,"

With two young boys and an expanding business. The Zabehlicky's moved to a new site, on Highway 9 just east of the Tottenham Road, in 1977. Mrs. Zabehlicky designed their home, the nursery buildings and all of the landscaping on the property.

Stray's Nursery now employs six people as well as Mrs. Zabehlicky whose callused palms betray her love for working with her hands on the sites. The company's reputation has spoken for itself for a number of years and recommendations by satisfied customers allow for all the business Mrs. Zabehlicky can handle.

Many of her customers, such as the Old Mill Restaurant near the Humber River, call annually for her work.

She has worked at some places for eight years and most creations she checks up on two or three years later. At all places she advises and explains to owners about care and upkeep for their landscaped property.

While the majority of work Mrs. Zabehlicky, first started with, was in Richmond Hill, she is now working all over, a fact that relates nicely to the name of the company.

"When we first started working for ourselves we were looking for a proper name and we couldn't find one. We even called consultants for names. We couldn't use Zabehlicky because it's terrible for Canadians to pronounce. We eventually looked up the translation of our name and found it means lost somewhere in a forest, straying. And we are strays in a forest, a country. So we tried it."

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*Award winning Landscape Architect, trained behind the Iron Curtain*






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Stray's Landscaping Services Ltd
Box 1140
Tottenham, ON L0G 1W0

Phone: 905-880-1777
Fax: 905-880-1747
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