Landscape Architect, trained behind the Iron Curtain
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.
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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,"
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.
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.
of her customers, such as the Old Mill Restaurant near the Humber River, call
annually for her work.
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.
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
"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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