Business

Carlyles plant Unique roots

Daryl Carlyle, co-owner of Unique Garden Art & Gifts, puts the finishing touches on a handcrafted pot featuring a leaf imprint. - Graeme Corbett/Morning Star
Daryl Carlyle, co-owner of Unique Garden Art & Gifts, puts the finishing touches on a handcrafted pot featuring a leaf imprint.
— image credit: Graeme Corbett/Morning Star

Whether he’s preparing a five-course meal, or up to his elbows in concrete, Daryl Carlyle always seems to do it with an artisan’s touch.

After more than three decades as a top-class chef, working with Sheraton, Hyatt Regency and Delta hotels, followed by 14 years overseeing the kitchen at the Vernon Golf & Country Club, Carlyle felt it was time for a change. He and wife Anna Marie decided to follow their passion for gardening by opening Unique Garden Art & Gifts.

The couple operates on the same property on Kalamalka Lake Road where Anna Marie’s father, the late Fred Mann, a popular community sports advocate, ran his masonry business for decades.

Anna Marie, formerly involved in hotel and restaurant management, handles the retail side of things, ordering and selling a variety of garden decorations, ranging from handcrafted statues and planters to stone tiles, benches and bird baths.

“I really try to source things that aren’t found at other stores in town. It’s an ongoing process, trying to change things up as we go along,” she said.

Daryl creates much of the product himself, experimenting with concrete to come up with one-of-a-kind creations.

“After 35 years (as a chef), I sort of said ‘That’s a career,’ said Daryl.

“I’ve always loved gardening as a sideline hobby and we thought of how to incorporate that into a business for the future. It was a natural progression – you’ve got the building and it used to be a masonry business in concrete and one thing led to another.”

In particular, Daryl specializes in casting and imprinting giant leaves – elephant ear, gunnera, Japanese rhubarb and hostas – grown by the Carlyles in the back lot.

“We only ever use a leaf once, so every one is unique. People can pick which ones they want. It’s a great selling feature,” said Daryl, noting his casting process produces tensile-strength leaves.

“They’re quite strong, but you do have to be careful not to pick them up by the edges. They’ll survive winter weather.”

Daryl has also developed his own technique using a polymer concrete, which allows him to carve the finished pieces before they fully set.

“I did more research and found this carveable polymer concrete and it opened up a whole new world of what I can do with concrete, instead of just putting bricks and blocks together in stacks.”

“It just evolved from there and every couple of weeks I’m producing a new piece.”

Daryl explains the transition from chef to concrete artisan isn’t as big as one might expect.

“As a chef, you always have to be creative and you have to be moving on and finding what’s new, what’s hot. It seemed like a natural progression doing this because I can use those same skills.”

He adds the big challenge is finding what people like.

“It’s the same as being a chef. You’re told not to do a menu on what you like. It’s what your customers are going to like. But you come into this guessing because it’s so new.”

The Carlyles’ handiwork will be on display at the BX Creek Daylilies open house this weekend and next.

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