The Great Nursery Tradition

Written by admin on May 20th, 2009

Let’s take a look at our proud nursery heritage in Northeastern Ohio. It all began in 1858 when two entrepreneurs, drawn by climate, variable soils and access to shipping, decided there wasn’t room in Lake County for two nurseries and shook hands to form a partnership. Within forty years this enterprise became Storrs & Harrison Nursery, the largest in the world. Today there are over seventy growers in Lake County. Plus, the nurseries have spread out over all of Northeastern Ohio. Nursery Growers of Lake County Ohio, an association formed in 1927, today represent eight counties with 135 members, both growers and suppliers.

After Storrs & Harrison, many nurseries followed, both large and small, including Cole Nurseries, Kohankies, Champions, Hortons, Wayside Gardens, Bosleys and many more. Oftentimes, a propagator was recruited from Holland, where the nursery tradition goes back centuries, and some of these growers, or their disciples, remain today, growing in the ‘Dutch Tradition’, such as Gied Stroombeek, owner of Roemer Nursery in Madison.

Lake County was the ‘Nursery Capitol of the World’ for many years. Eventually, during the 1960s, research by The Ohio State University demonstrated that plants could be grown on top of the ground in ‘containers’ and harvested year-round. As a result, growth shifted to warmer climates, the southern states and West Coast, where container-plants could be produced year-round without over-wintering structures. Still, Northeastern Ohio remains a hot-bed of nursery activity in terms of industry leadership, innovation and production. Local growers routinely lead state and national nursery organizations. Brotzman’s Nursery (Madison), Lake County Nursery (Perry) and others regularly select or develop new varieties with improved characteristics. In terms of production, two thirds of the U.S. population lives within 500 miles of Northeastern Ohio and local nurseries take advantage by shipping high-quality trees, shrubs and perennials throughout the Eastern Seaboard… west to Chicago-land and beyond.

Lavender Twist Weeping Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’) recently introduced by Brotzman’s Nursery (Madison, OH)

Big yards, barbecue and baseball are proud American traditions…but so is gardening! Visit Jefferson’s Monticello, Washington’s Mount Vernon or, closer to home, Garfield’s Lawnfield (in Mentor!) and you’ll see how important gardening…both flower and food…was to our early leaders! Some think Americans have lost their connection with the soil. Your landscape and back-yard garden are simple, productive ways to reconnect with the wonder and heritage of growing things! Mark Gilson

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