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Working with nature is in Katie Delwiche's blood. Her family had done it for generations in her native Wisconsin. So when she arrived in San Francisco in the early 2000s for art school, she did some gardening on the side. A few clients quickly turned into many. And before she knew it, she became a business owner.
"I'm trying to cultivate this sense of connection," Delwiche said. "At its heart, that's what the business is about."
Cloud and Crow is much more than a job for Delwiche. Yes, she provides gardening, landscaping and garden maintenance services for a fee. And yes, she sells herbal consultations, classes, tinctures and teas. But the relationship she builds with her customers goes deeper than a transaction.
"For a lot of my clients the garden is a place of refuge," Delwiche explained. "I help them create that place of refuge."
A common bit of feedback she gets from clients is the discovery of how relaxing gardening can be. Taking a break from their professional lives and finding Zen in their backyard or terrace (even in bustling San Francisco) helps them unwind. Through gardening, Delwiche fosters the idea of disconnecting from the daily grind, and finding a connection with the earth.
"I find that when my clients become stewards of their garden then that awareness can expand out," she said. "And then they suddenly become stewards of the natural world."
Over the course of several days of filming with Delwiche, she showed off the wide scope of her business. There was an upscale home with a yard full of plants, such as ceanothus and manzanita, intentionally grown to support local wildlife; along with a myriad of other vegetation reflecting the owners' interest in culture and travel. Here, she takes her cues from the owners on how the garden should evolve over time.
Another dynamic garden — owned by an equally dynamic yogi, singer and performer — featured succulents and rhododendrons surrounding statues and a fireplace. Delwiche's friendship with this garden's owner has spanned years and they often engage in discussions about change, both in the garden and in their personal lives.
Lastly, Delwiche went to Cavallo Point, a high-end healing arts center and spa in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, where she offers herbalism classes. There, she often walks patrons through the medicinal properties of various plants, tailoring the experience to their specific needs. The reciprocal enthusiasm she shares with those around her is evident.
"I'm inspired by people who are working on changing their lives for the better," said Delwiche.
Conversations with Delwiche often land back on common themes in gardening and in life: growth, change, nourishment and sustainability. And like all small-business owners, she's been put to the test on each of those themes over the last year. Fortunately for Delwiche, because her work is mostly outdoors, her business has not been as dramatically affected by the pandemic as others'. But her plans for expansion — hiring more employees, teaching in-person classes, getting her own property to work from — have all been put on hold. One thing that hasn't changed, though, is her affirming message on the benefits of connecting with nature.
"It's everyone's birthright," Delwiche said. "It doesn't matter how much money you have or where you live or who you are — everyone is entitled to feel that connection.