Fiesta Gardens: The People’s Garden Centre

By Fiesta Farms

/May 17 2024

A Tent in the Parking Lot

The year after Fiesta Farms opened its doors, the store’s owner, Joe Virgona got wind that customers wanted a great, local garden centre. In the 1990s, Christie Pits was home to Italian and Portuguese folks who longed to grow food in their backyards. Joe responded to customer demand and set up a tent across the street from the grocery store.

Fiesta Gardens had a great selection out of the gate.  Dino Virgona, Joe’s son recalls that the garden centre had  “a little of everything.” It was the go-to spot for herbs, perennials, vegetables, soil, clay pots, and more, all sourced from local family-owned suppliers. 

Dino, who now runs Fiesta Farms and Fiesta Gardens with his sister Tracey, came up in the Fiesta family business through the Garden Centre. In 1996 20-year-old Dino knew Fiesta Gardens was his calling.  

Dino shares: “Growing up in Bolton, I was always in the forest, doing my own thing for hours on end. I’ve just always been drawn to nature.” Dino chose to work at Fiesta Gardens instead of at the grocery store because, as he puts it, “I didn’t want to be stuck under a roof all day.” 

You can thank Dino for the fact that Fiesta Gardens is open all summer long and into the fall for Halloween and Christmas. The guy just didn’t want to go inside.

The People’s Garden Centre 

From the outset (and much like the store), Fiesta Gardens sourced the items customers asked for.  Dino explains: “At the start, no one in the store knew anything about gardening. So If customers wanted something, we sourced it.” 

The store’s selection has grown tenfold over 20+ years. But their philosophy remains the same.  As Dino puts it:

“We pretty much give people what they want. If someone asks for something we don’t have, we figure out how to get it. Even if that means sourcing from a little further out.” 

If you don’t see something you want at Fiesta Gardens, just ask for it. That includes anything from trees to annuals to perennials. Customers get to choose what products make it to the Garden Centre. In this way, it’s the people’s store. 

Knowledgable (and awesome) Staff

Fiesta Garden’s friendly staff each have their area of expertise. As Dino puts it: “Each person knows their department.” 

Dino is on annuals and fruit trees. Margaret is the person for perennials, trees and shrubs. John is the guy to hit up for veggies and herbs. Louise is on tropicals. While none of the staff knows everything, collectively they’re a super knowledgeable team. 

Fiesta Gardens’ staff are a special breed. They share Dino’s preference for being outdoors and love being around nature. Even though staff have come and gone from Fiesta Gardens, they tend to stay connected to Dino and one another because they share a unique love of nature and the outdoors.

An Oasis Right in the City

If you’ve been to Fiesta Gardens, you know it’s a magical place. What’s Fiesta Gardens special sauce? It’s a combination of high-quality, locally sourced products, thoughtful organisation and unique, special touches. 

Dino says: “Everyone’s in a good mood when they shop at the Garden Centre. In the grocery store, people are shopping for necessities. In the garden centre, they’re shopping for things they want.” 

Fiesta Gardens is incredibly well organised and clean – a point of pride for Dino and the staff:

“People don’t come in and ask ‘where are the roses?’ There’s signage directing you right to the roses. And, within the rose section, you’ll find a huge variety, all organized based on rose type”

You can always find exactly what you’re looking for. 

In 2006 Dino and Chris redesigned  Fiesta Gardens to improve the stores’ flow and make it a more immersive experience. Today, the store has a central artery that guides shoppers to each department.  The smaller pathways off the main artery guide shoppers to sections such as herbs, perennials and trees. The layout lets customers find what they’re looking for and get lost at the same time. 

The store is designed as a place for people to meander. Classical music, mixed with the sounds of chirping birds, make you feel like you’re in a hidden garden far away from the city. As Dino says: “It’s very relaxing and soothing to be in the Garden Centre because you’re among so much beauty!” 

Staff noticed that customers tended to walk with their heads up, absorbing and enjoying all the plant life around them. As Dino says: “It’s like as soon as you go beyond that fence, the rest of the world melts away and you just enjoy being among the plants.”

People Give a Sh*t

Dino has noticed that today, people are more invested in their gardens and want to dig in and cultivate gardening skills. As Dino puts it: “People give a sh*t. They don’t just want the hanging baskets anymore, they actually want to know how to grow and sustain a beautiful garden.” 

Dino says,

“Some people find gardening intimidating. It’s really about trial and error. You have to be willing to try stuff. Some of it will work out, some may not. Then, come back, and ask us questions. It’s a learning process.  You can only learn to garden by getting your hands dirty.” 

If you’re ready to dig in, visit us at Fiesta Gardens and meander through the aisles. We’re open from 9:00 am — 6:00 pm every day and we stay open extra-late, until 8:00 pm, on Thursdays.

You can also do your shopping in person and have everything delivered. Just walk around, pick up what you like and we’ll bring it to your doorstep.

The tent and the selection have grown over the years, but our values remain the same. We’re here to get you whatever you need to make your garden grow.