Phil Jensen saw his customers as the most important people in the room. He used to say that “Our gardens are our dining room,” and took great joy in providing the best “dining room” around. The gardens became synonymous with quality and happiness. As a drive-in style restaurant, Burgermaster relies on our carhops and the gardens to create a unique and pleasant atmosphere.
The history of the gardens at our restaurants dates all the way back to when Phil founded Burgermaster in 1952. When Phil opened his first restaurant in the University District his wife Mary, a lifetime gardener, began to plan out the gardens around the restaurant and planted all the flowers herself by hand. As time went on and Burgermaster expanded to more locations, Mary continued to take the time to plan out the gardens each season, and she brought in her good friend Mac Duhamel to help. Mac worked at the University Burgermaster planting flowers for over 20 years, and her daughter Karen Scharbau (20 years) still helps plan and select the flowers to this day. Mac recently passed away, but her memory lives on in the beautiful flowers at the University District.
The planning process for the gardens at each location is extensive, as the bulbs for Spring need to be planted the autumn beforehand. This means that the planning must happen almost a year ahead of time. Each year, Mary and her team conceptualize a new color scheme and plan for the gardens. They hand pick which flowers they want to use, and they aim to add at least one new type of tulip to the gardens each year. Mary’s children have always helped with the gardening and her daughters still help pick out flowers at the nursery. As Mary got older and the gardens continued to grow over the years, Andy Undlin (15 years) and Todd Pitts (12 years) were brought on as landscaping and plant specialists. When Burgermaster opened our Mount Vernon location in 2015, each of Phil and Mary’s kids got their spouses to join them in planting all the flowers by hand, alongside Andy and Todd. To this day, Mary still helps oversee all the plantings, and Andy works side by side with her to make sure that our gardens meet her strict standards.
Burgermaster also designs and installs our own hard-scaped landscaping: In Bellevue, the restaurant used to be surrounded by apple orchards. As the orchards were sold off over time, we built a stairway up to the Microsoft building nearby, and we used the space around the restaurant to build raised planting beds. We did keep one stump from an apple tree though, hidden in the landscaping to hold buckets of flowers. Just recently, we built a new picnic section behind the Bellevue restaurant for guests to enjoy on sunny days. In Mill Creek, Burgermaster built a scenic carriage house behind the restaurant and several picnic pavilions that guests can even order from. In Mount Vernon, Mary requested that a Peter Rabbit statue be built for families to come see. The statue was completed last year by Bob, and Peter Rabbit’s wheelbarrow is always filled with seasonal flowers.
Gardening has always been a nostalgic activity for the Jensen family, and we continue to keep our gardens in the Burgermaster family. We often get asked, “Who does all of your beautiful landscaping?” to which we are always happy to reply that we do most of the landscaping in-house. The Jensen children fondly remember hand-digging holes for the bulbs when they were children. Bob says that one year in particular, he remembers planting over 2,400 bulbs in torrential rain to make sure they were planted on time. Andy also began his job with the company by digging alongside Phil’s grandson Alex for the tulips. In Mount Vernon, Manager Anna Hill’s son stops by after school to help tend the garden. On your way to the Tulip Festival this year, stop by to admire his handiwork and enjoy lunch with us in Mount Vernon! To us, the gardens represent family, history, and happiness, and we hope that we convey these values on to our customers.