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Filling the Canvas

Bill Strickland proves gardening is good for the mind and soul

Pittsburgh’s own philanthropic leader, Bill Strickland, is a local gem, well-known in the area as the president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation and its subsidiaries, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and the Bidwell Training Center. He’s a very busy man with a chaotic schedule, but one thing he is never too busy for is planting and tending to his garden. Bill’s home garden makes a simple statement of color that has inspired his entire neighborhood to start planting.

Inspiration

Bill and his wife, whose name is ironically Rose, looked at the bigger picture when they started planting, which was hoping to encourage others in their neighborhood to do the same. “I think it sets a theme, and now almost all of our neighbors have planted some kind of garden, which makes for a very festive community,” Bill says.

Bill likes simple flowers clustered together for abundant color. His yard consists of mainly annuals including petunias, begonias, geraniums, and he is a huge fan of New Guinea impatiens. A lover of art, Bill finds much inspiration from his favorite artist, Mark Rothko. “He was known for his broad swatches of color and I like to think of my yard as a canvas and I get to paint these large bodies of color with flowers,” Bill says. “I’ll do a big, long bed of New Guineas or a compacted group of begonias or petunias.”

Other artists that inspire Bill include impressionists Renoir and Matisse, who both used subtle colors and whose paintings were very tied to nature. “I enjoy the work and the outcome of gardening, but it’s also a very powerful psychological lift, to go out and create something beautiful,” he says. “It’s very hopeful and makes you feel good about the day and yourself and nature.”

It’s all in the family

Bill obtains his flowers exclusively from Brenckle’s Farm and Greenhouses, which has led to a long-term friendship. “I feel connected to them as a good, family-owned business that’s working hard in the community and doing the right thing,” Bill says. “They’re very focused on education and I feel like I’m very much a part of that conversation.”

Horticulture Technology is a major at the Bidwell Training Center and has been extremely successful; so much so that a recent graduate of the program has joined Brenckle’s full time.

“I think what Bill has done with the training center is really great because it helps people pursue their dreams,” says Joan Brenckle. “He’s totally committed to what he does and he’s a great person.”

Pay it forward

The Bidwell Training Center is a vocational school that trains students for up to twelve months tuition free. Students include people who have lost a job, never had a job, or have simply come across hard times. “The idea of the program is to get people back on their feet and engage in employment the rest of their life,” Bill says.

Bill says he believes that when people connect with the idea of nature, the whole community benefits; from the growers and planters, to the community itself and the environment. “By continuing to educate and encourage people to garden, I view this as a subject that will only grow as the years go by,” he adds.

Resources:

Brenckle’s Farm and Greenhouses

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