Being a small specialty nursery isn’t like most nursery businesses. Specialty nurseries tend to grow their own plants and it is a passion for the plants that came first.
When we moved here there was already an area set up for what would be the nursery. There was a gravel pad in front of the barn and another on the side and behind where berries were grown. There was even a hoop-house out in the field which just encouraged us to jump into the nursery business. We did like to grow plants. Having access to seeds from my former job and divisions started us on the way. It helped that we brought 25 truck loads of plants from our old garden which were planted, flourished and were soon able to be divided.
We never had very high expectations of making much money from the nursery, I, after all, had been around many of them through my job for years. I’m still reminded of this fact regularly. I’m really glad my retirement puts food on the table. The nursery does put some grain in the chicken feeders and a little hay down for the goats. Sometimes it even lets us hire a bit of part time help. I’m very grateful for the young men and women who have worked with us the last few years. One even has a passion for horticulture which was great. Another had a passion for his car and pizza which generated the same amount of work so that was good. Our current helper has a passion for life which makes it fun for us.
We open just a couple of weekends a month from April to October for the general public. We also open by appointment or for groups. It is always a flurry of activity to get ready. The plants are grown year round and each type has different requirements. The early spring ephemerals were started the previous fall as were many of the divisions. Some of what we grow from seed are started in February and they aren’t ready until a few to several months later along with many of the cuttings. Timing is important and we are getting a bit better at it. We’ve had a lot of plants that started blooming a couple weeks too early or late or maybe not at all. It’s always something. That is the problem with having limited openings. Then again, if we opened more we wouldn’t be able to garden as much and that is what we really like to do.
Our best sales tool is the garden. We don’t have to rely on the plant looking it’s best, although we try. If it is looking good in the garden people are more willing to take a chance on that tiny 4 inch pot becoming that beautiful specimen at some point in the future. Gardeners really are optimistic. That’s the other thing I forgot to mention, the garden needs to look good too. So we weed, plant, spruce up the garden, then go through the nursery removing plants that don’t look their best plus weed all of them and make sure they all have labels and price tags and tidy up the displays. Gary is a master of display and can make the nursery and retail shop look great. Then 10,000 plants later and who knows how many weeds, we are ready to open.
Now comes the fun part, the open days, when we have our public opens. This is the chance to meet a few new customers. My favorite part is seeing our regulars, some who we haven’t seen in awhile. Because we are small we are on first name basis with many of them and they feel like family. Some come with gifts but most with just great attitudes. We haven’t bought jam in 10 years and we always have a special surprise dessert each month but that’s another story. We usually aren’t swamped which for some business models is a bad thing but we like it. It allows us the opportunity to walk the garden with folks and talk about plants and that’s what it’s really all about.
Our 2020 season was quite different than normal. We realized that almost everything we did was for groups of people. The only solution was to let people come by appointment which made the season much more manageable if not particularly profitable. This year we are going to try and get back to our normal schedule with a little modification. We are going to open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday so that will spread people out over 3 days instead of 2. The only time in the past that it seemed like we were really busy was late morning, so if you avoid that time it should be kind of quiet. Our first open will be this weekend, March 26th, 27th and 28th. Gary and I have both been vaccinated but the regular Covid procedures will apply, masks and social distancing. It's spring and the garden is starting to pop.
OGF T-shirts and cookbooks
More of the retail shop
Hand- made Cats
Newer Greenhouse 15X25
Cuttings and seed trays
Old Wooden Greenhouse