As spring gardening season prepares to get underway, Chalet Landscape, Nursery and Garden Center, Wilmette, Ill., is receiving prestigious industry awards for innovation, landscape design, retail merchandising and ecology.

Chalet welcomes spring with numerous awards

As spring gardening season prepares to get underway, Chalet Landscape, Nursery and Garden Center, Wilmette, Ill., is receiving prestigious industry awards for innovation, landscape design, retail merchandising and ecology.

Among them: the 2009 Judges’ Award, presented last week by the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association (ILCA), Oak Brook, Ill. The award recognizes the “best in the best” in Illinois. With a score of 96 out of a possible 100, judges described Chalet’s work as “flawless attention to detail.”

Illinois Landscape Contractors Association Awards Chalet also is receiving four, gold Excellence in Landscape Awards from the ILCA. The honors recognize the company’s design/construction and maintenance of two residential properties, one in Lake Forest, Ill., and the other in Wilmette, Ill.

In Lake Forest, a formal, structured and manicured landscape reflects the beauty, elegance and permanence of a period Italianesque villa. Beyond the front entryway, garden visitors are greeted by a three-tiered, limestone fountain surrounded by a large semicircular pergola with hand-carved limestone columns and a sunken garden.

Between this and the residence, a parterre contains more than 1,000 Green Velvet boxwood and two matching limestone water features, both fountains with one also doubling as a Jacuzzi. Highlights include an adjacent folly purchased by the owner at auction in Florence, Italy.

In Wilmette, a stately English Tudor is complemented by a formal, manicured and symmetrical garden. Dense yew and Green Velvet boxwood hedges line the front foundation and are meticulously trimmed while ‘Tina’ crabapples flank the front entry, left natural to contrast with the structured landscape. As visitors travel down a bluestone service walk from the brick driveway to the rear yard pool area, a diverse and colorful array of Daphne, rhododendron, viburnum and astilbe catch the eye.

A mixed border softens the edges of the nearby pool deck while groupings of Norway spruce and dark green arborvitae provide privacy. An adjacent secret garden provides an intimate getaway. Other features include a functional and practical serpentine stone seat wall and hidden vegetable garden.

“Chalet’s landscape professionals put emphasis on teamwork and these prestigious awards recognize each person’s commitment to service and quality,” says Kevin Marko, landscape division manager. “We are honored to be recognized by the industry and our peers.”

For information on the ILCA Awards, please visit

Revolutionary 100 National Award

Today’s Garden Center magazine has named the North Shore garden retail center, located just off the Eden’s Expressway in Wilmette, Ill., its 2009 Revolutionary 100 National Award recipient. This places Chalet No. 1 in the country for community stewardship, customer service practices, employee training and incentive programs, industry contributions, marketing activities and profitability.

Last August, garden center owners or managers completed a 42-question online survey covering just about every aspect of their business. Points were awarded based on each response. Chalet’s intense commitment to its people – employees and customers – earned it the top spot.

The 92-year-old, family-owned company is no stranger to a tough economy, and learned long ago that investing in and developing good people for the job is the most important long-term strategy. “In fact,” says Larry Thalmann III, Chalet’s president, “we’ve built our brand on it.”

Strategies include professional development through a mandatory, eight-week winter program called “Chalet College,” which covers a broad range of information on products and services. There’s also leadership, management development, customer service and stress management training, as well as tuition reimbursement. Internal committees ensure all voices are heard throughout the company, from environmental best-practices to marketing.

Annual staff field trips provide understanding of the company’s three divisions, including landscape and farm production, as well as retail.

Along with a commitment to continued internal education, Chalet’s primarily free public education series reaches 3,000 adults and 700 children annually and regularly attracts industry leaders as guest lecturers. The company’s Education Center and online resources offer customers tips and ideas on a broad range of subjects, from lawn care and pest control to caring for roses and creating a vertical garden.

Other customer services include free pest and disease diagnosis with a microscope and monitor so customers can see problems first-hand; extensive special events, including the popular spring Garden Faire (May 2-3, 2009); an award-winning informational newsletter; custom designs for glasshouse arrangements; gift baskets and containers; plant delivery and install (including Christmas trees); free gift wrap; a pet essentials department; and a concierge greeting every customer.

To read about Chalet’s Revolutionary 100 Award in the February issue of Today’s Garden Center, visit

Additional Awards

Chalet also is receiving two gold awards from the Illinois Green Industry Association (IGIA), as part of its 2008 Retail Awards competition. The awards are for the company’s 2008 Christmas and spring retail merchandising displays. IGIA is one of the oldest agricultural organizations in Illinois, providing its green-industry members with services and opportunities in professional and business development.

Opportunity Secure Data Destruction (OSDD), Northbrook, Ill., is presenting Chalet with its 2008 Ecology Award. OSDD recycled 3.2 million pounds of paper from the company last year, saving 27,443 trees. OSDD, a social enterprise, is owned by Glenkirk, which provides quality, lifetime support and services to empower individuals with developmental disabilities to participate fully in all areas of community life.

In addition, Chalet has been ranked the No. 1 independent garden center in Illinois and No. 16 in the country for 2008 by Nursery Retailer Magazine. It was named the most innovative garden center in America in 2007 by Garden Center magazine.

Chalet’s garden and retail center is located at 3132 Lake St. in Wilmette, Ill. Its landscape division is housed on a 28,000-square-foot complex on 16 acres in North Chicago, Ill. Chalet also operates a 183-acre growing nursery in Salem, Wis., developing branded products for launch this spring. For information, call 847-256-0561. Or, visit the company online at