Working With Your Neighborhood Nursery

I had a nursery in my backyard while I was in high school. I did landscape contracting in College Station, and many of my live oaks still grace the streets there.

A reader of my Facebook page posted this photo (probably Google Earth) four years ago. These are live oaks I planted as a teenager along Jersey Street in College Station. It’s been renamed George Bush Drive – the route to the Presidential Library.

In my young teenager dreams I was going to own a retail nursery. Sterling Cornelius, Lynn Lowrey and Lamberts were my heroes. Mom and Dad took me to their places, and only when I finally got to Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field were the goosebumps any larger.

After two college degrees in floriculture (greenhouses) and ornamental horticulture (nurseries) from Ohio State, I ended up … broadcasting and writing. Go figure. I had no coursework in either.

Continued Below

But, even with that, I still consider myself a nurseryman. I joined the Texas Association of Nurserymen (its old name) when I was 15. I had to lie about my age in order to get my Texas Department of Agriculture license so I could join TAN, and I’ve been an avid supporter of “mom-and-pop” nurseries ever since. They are what landscape horticulture is all about.

So, that’s my wind-up. Here’s my pitch:

Getting the most out of your nursery experience…
When you want plants or gardening products, shop at your local independent retail garden center. Here are my guidelines of how and why you should do so.

Local neighborhood nurseries have the best selections and the most charm. Nicholson Hardie Nursery in the Park Cities in Dallas.

1. Keep it local as much as you can. Retailers in your neighborhood are invested in your city. They’re members of your Chamber. They go to your churches, and their kids go to your schools. Most importantly, they know your soils and your climate, and they know what plants will grow best in your part of the Universe.

Even with 21 nurseries in DFW and more in Houston/Katy/Galveston, Calloways and Cornelius work hard to maintain great selections and that neighborhood feel. They also have scores and scores of Texas Certified, and Master Certified, Nursery Professionals! Sterling Cornelius was the top proponent of the Certification program 40-plus years ago. He would have been so proud of having sold to this great team! Click image for larger view.

2. Texas Certified, and Texas Master Certified Nursery Professionals offer timely, accurate advice. These men and women have studied long and hard hours, and they’ve passed difficult exams covering all aspects of horticulture. You’ll find them at member nurseries of the great Texas Nursery and Landscape Association. (That’s the new name.)

Go where you’ll have a generous choice of well-adapted shrubs and trees as well as informed salespeople standing ready to help you. That’s always been the case at North Haven Gardens in North Dallas since Ralph and Muriel Pinkus opened their doors in 1951. It’s now three generations, one fire and two tornadoes later and they’re still known for their quality and service. Click image for larger view.

3. Take ample samples and large, clear photographs. Don’t hold up a tiny phone image of your entire landscape and ask for detailed help. Take four or five photos and print them on full-sized photo paper. Ask about hiring one of their landscape designers, if they have one, to draw you a plan.

You’ll soon need a second, then a third wagon at Blue Moon Gardens in Chandler (near Tyler). Mary and Sharon are two of the best and most creative plant people in Texas.

4. If you sketch a basic plan of your property yourself so you can ask simple planting advice, do it to-scale. Mark in the measurements.

Need an unusual perennial in the spring? Odds are that Shades of Green Nursery in Frisco (and soon in Celina) will have it. Shrubs and trees, too, of course. Pots and landscape planning.

5. Go in during the week or on a bad-weather day. Spring weekends, especially if the weather is glorious, are really busy. You’ll have more fun, and the employees will be more relaxed about taking time with you. If you’ve ever worked in retail, you know how it is to be under a crush.

There’s a little bit of everything at Stuart Nursery in Weatherford. It’s people and places like this that make road trips exciting for gardeners. Click image for larger view.

6. Have a firm idea of what you need your landscaping to accomplish, because that’s one of the first things the nursery professional will ask.

7. Plant quality will vary from nursery to nursery. Don’t go simply by price! Check pot size, plant health, shape and vigor. Be sure, too, that the plants you’re about to buy are all well adapted to your soils and climate. That’s where local advice from that Texas Certified Nursery Professional is absolutely invaluable. Those big national chain stores just can’t compete.

They’ve been around for several decades, but they’re still one of Texans’ favorite destination garden centers, especially in Spring when the bluebonnets are at prime. The Antique Rose Emporium in Independence has preserved old roses, heirloom plants and beautiful old buildings. And they’ve done it with class.

8. Keep logs and receipts of the plants that you buy. It can all go into one 3-ring notebook with a couple of zipping inserts. Keep your landscape plans and irrigation layout there. You’ll be able to refer back to that information to recall variety names, planting dates, and pests to anticipate any other data you might otherwise forget.

Posted by Neil Sperry
Back To Top