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Art and a Country Garden : Out and About with The Wheelbarrow Gardener Leanne
Today's blog is brought to you by Sturgeon County local Valerie Loseth, The Wheelbarrow Gardener. Valerie makes the world a more beautiful place, from backyards to weddings to planters, to workshops and more!

Judy Schafers and her husband Shane own a farm just west of Villeneuve, and even though she is extremely busy wearing the many hats of a mother, business owner and farmer’s wife, Judy has a passion for painting and gardening.  A self-taught artist, Judy has been painting for over 38 years, her paintings are reflective of growing up in a rural setting and having uninterrupted time to explore the outdoors, examining and thinking about the world around her. 

As with most artists, inspiration for their craft comes from a multitude of different sources. For Judy, her inspiration comes from childhood experiences, living her whole life on a farm and her gardens.  “Mother Nature is my greatest influence. It is a fun learning experience to get down on the ground and see what's there, just as much as it is to stare off into the distance, to really look at the shapes and colors that make up the sky and the land. I love it when the light does its magic on seemingly mundane objects such as rocks and leaves and the ever- changing vista of the Alberta landscape. I could go on and on about inspiration! It is everywhere, actually, you just have to pay attention and be open to different ways of seeing things.” explained Judy. 

Designing and growing a flowerbed as a youngster, having a mother and grandmother who were flower lovers and a visit to Buchard Gardens over 27 years ago were catalysts in Judy’s desire to create some gardens on the farm.  “I loved the idea of manifesting a dream/vision and the nurturing part of it. Loved the idea of creating a place all my own, a separate world that I could get lost in and to find gorgeousness every time I turned around”.  She stated that, “The biggest challenge is in learning to let the garden have a say in how it evolves, letting go of the idea that I need to control it all. Therefore, many things have planted themselves where they want, or died prematurely, and I just let much of it be. The worst mistakes I made were planting some things too close together... and bringing home that horribly invasive creeping belleflower that looked so cute and purple in an abandoned farm site.... they are just as difficult to manage as quack grass and thistle”.

Having spent some time helping Judy maintain her gardens, I was curious if she had a favorite spot. “I don't really have a favorite spot, I like most of it, and each section has a different flavor/ feeling attached to it. Some of it is more formal, some more whimsical, some nostalgic. There are items that I have collected that have been or will be used in my paintings. I try to group items together that make sense so that the yard flows and doesn't cause a feeling of confusion. This will be an ongoing tweaking process, but that is the goal. I don't favor some of the spots behind the veggie garden.  My new thing is that I am learning/working to build a food forest in the back yard, and the garden has been no-till for 3 years now. I am planting fruit trees, shrubs and perennial veggies among other things. That's a whole other story, lol!”

Judy noticed how so many of her paintings were inspired by the gardens in general and the flowers and plants that grow there. She began to see how they fed/influenced one another and because of that, it seemed natural to have an art show that combined her two biggest passions. Judy realized that these forms of creative expression should be shared with a greater audience, and with a suggestion from a friend who hosted something similar then moved away, Art and the Country Garden came to fruition. 

In her second year Judy has come to the realization that, “ Art and a Country Garden is not only an Open Studio Art Show and Sale, but a gift to those of my collectors and fans as well as to the community. It is my hope that they enjoy the art of the paintings and the gardens, enjoy a couple of hours in a nice setting away from some of the hustle and bustle, make conversation and connections with others that attend (as well as me and my family) and to come away inspired. There will also be good food!”

I asked Judy what a successful Art and a Country Garden would look like? “It will be successful if lots of people attend, that each person feels welcomed, and leaves feeling inspired and blessed that they took the time to come out. (Of course selling lots of art will help me to be able to keep doing this, and I hope to feel supported by the community as well)

My greater aim is to bring attention to and create more positivity and beauty into the world. I know there are lots of us doing that, but it seems like our society needs all of the good stuff it can get! I really hope that what I do can help, even just a wee bit, to foster a much-needed change in the world. I strongly believe that every bit counts and we might never know how what we do impacts others, for better or worse. It would be satisfying to discover at the end of my days, that I was more frequently contributing to the positive side.”

We are so blessed to have such artistic / creative people willing to give of there time and talents here in Sturgeon County, I hope that on July 9 & 10 you will make a trip out to visit Judy, her paintings and her beautiful gardens.

If you would like more information here is a link to the event on her website.

*all photos courtesy of Judy Schafers

If you know of someone who has a farm, garden or something special that is agricultural based that I could highlight in a blog please contact me. 

Valerie Loseth

You can find me on Facebook and Instagram as The Wheelbarrow Gardener or check out my website at


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