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Nurseries begin blooming
Spring like Christmas to area businesses
Deena Warnock deadheads some annual ornamentals at Wise Nursery Monday as the spring nursery season begins. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

      At a time when large scale commercial nurseries are closing and struggling to survive across the country, two local nurseries are weathering the recession and looking forward to a busy spring.
      "I call this time of year, 90 days of glory," said Matthew Wise, owner of Wise Nurseries. "In the retail nursery business, you have about three months in which to make the vast majority of your sales. We should move approximately 100,000 plants/trees/shrubs out of our retail location over the next three months."
      Wise has two locations, a four acre retail center on Northside Drive, and a wholesale growing and sales operation on Hood Loop Road. Wise said it is somewhat ironic that the busiest season in his business is probably not the most optimum time in which to plant.
       "Really, the fall and winter is a better time to plant as far as trees, shrubs, and grasses go, but people really like to get out and work in their yards in the spring when it begins to warm up," he said. "I can't blame them. After a cold, long winter, it feels great to get outside."
       Scott Thompson, owner of Thompson's Garden on Highway 67 South, also said his business has really picked up in the last three weeks.
      "When it began to warm up that third week in February, our sales really took off," he said. "People were buying anything that was blooming. If it had a bloom on it, they wanted it."
       Like Wise, Thompson said the nursery business has been very difficult since residential construction ground to a virtual halt.
       "There have been a number of very large wholesale nurseries that have gone out of business or scaled their operations way back over the last two years," Thompson said. "A number of them sell to big box stores, and that business has been severely impacted by the recession. We have our own nursery and sell directly to the public, and by running a lean operation, we have been able to survive. It is tough right now, and the next three months are tremendously important, but I feel we are positioned to weather the storm for as long as it takes."
       Thompson said even though his nursery specializes in ornamental trees such as Japanese maples, dogwoods, and redbuds, he is continuing to see a big uptick in the sale of fruit producing plants.
       "We have and are continuing to sell a tremendous number of fruit trees and fruit plants," he said. "Thornless blackberries, blueberry bushes, and Japanese persimmons are red hot. There is a movement towards growing your own fruit, and I have seen that over the last three years."
       Tillman, Brannen, and Minick Farm Supply, Inc. on Northside Drive doesn't operate its own nursery, but does stock a tremendous number of plants, trees, and shrubs in the spring. Owner Jeru Minick said he took a chance when the weather began to warm in February by ordering blooming plants earlier than he normally would.
       "It was a little bit of a risk, but the weather was so pretty," Minick said. "I took a gamble, called the greenhouse, and ordered some things that were blooming. Just like that, they sold. If it had a bloom on it, it was gone."
       Minick said his store's plant sale season is very similar to that of Wise and Thompson. "We will be fully stocked in the next couple of weeks, and bulk of our sales will be done by Mother's Day," he said. "It is a lot of work in a short period of time, but that is when people want to buy and plant. So we are gearing up, and looking forward to a busy spring."
       Wise said he would also be fully stocked in the next two weeks.
      "We still have a tremendous amount of plant material to put out," he said. "It is a very exciting time. People are ready to plant, and enjoy their yards. We have some very knowledgeable staff that can help you with any question that you may have from plants to fertilizer to insects on your plants. I encourage folks to come on out and take a look, you might see a Knock Out rose or two that you can't live without."

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