Longtime Woodbury residents Genny and Tom Burdette make old things new.
Genny and Tom Burdette have an impressive history in Woodbury. The couple moved to Woodbury’s first development, Woodbury Heights, in 1958, shortly after they married. Since then, the Burdettes say, the city’s sense of community and the memories they’ve developed here are priceless.
While she loves the woods in her backyard and remembers fondly her five kids playing hockey at the dead-end street near their house, Genny Burdette says that one of her favorite parts of their home is her garden. While she was growing up, her family had a garden where they grew strawberries and raspberries. While the fresh fruit caught her interest, it was her father’s flowers that Burdette fell in love with. When she and Tom moved to the Woodbury house, she started a garden of her own—which has grown over the years to 20 gardens total on their property and a few that go across the creek behind their yard.
Burdette self-identifies as a “perfectionist and workaholic,” she says with a smile. Although he tries to help out in the garden every now and then, Tom Burdette says that his wife can be particular about the way she wants her plants. “He’ll help, but I’ll see, and I’ll go, ‘Oh that’s too high,’” Genny says. “I do 99 percent of the gardening.”
The couple is well-known in their neighborhood because of their beautiful gardens. Genny Burdette has even started to help out with her neighbors’ gardens—sometimes even as a secret garden fairy who spends a few minutes quietly giving back. “Sometimes I’ll sneak out under the fence and weed or water for them,” she says.
The Burdettes keep busy, although their three sons and two daughters are now adults and moved out of the house. Genny, who learned to figure skate when her daughters were young, enjoyed skating so much she started teaching it herself. Now in her early 80s, she’s cut back on her classes, but still teaches every once in a while.
“I started [skating] at age 31,” Burdette says. “I was always a strong girl from helping out in my dad’s garden.” Her skating ended up being a large influence on her daughters, who both used their skating skills in various ways throughout their lives. One daughter even followed in her mom’s footsteps and is now teaching skating in St. Paul and Cottage Grove.
When she isn’t gardening or figure skating, Burdette refinishes and sells antiques. (Are you believing her yet when she says she loves to work?)
“About 25 years ago, I was helping some friends out with antiquing,” Burdette says. The more she got involved, the more she realized this was something she wanted to tackle, too. Burdette fell in love with refinishing furniture; she says it’s her favorite part of the antiquing process.
When she wanted to do more than just collect antiques and started thinking about selling, Burdette was met with support. Her friends were encouraging, and Tom was supportive when she used the garage as a home base for her projects.
“I’m very much a perfectionist,” Burdette says, and recalls many nights when she was up until 2 a.m. fixing furniture.
Burdette’s antique projects have been showcased at big sales at their home, where she’s known to offer hot apple cider to all her customers. At this point, she estimates there have been around 1,000 customers who have visited her antique sales from the Woodbury community and beyond.
Now, the Burdettes say they stay involved in Woodbury via their children, many of whom still live in the area. They’re thankful to be in a city they love—surrounded by their large garden, of course, which Genny says is “most beautiful in the middle of summer.”