Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Roadside Garden Centers in the Jarvis Neighborhood

The is the upper half of a new Gardening Newspaper in the Long Island region.
I saw another issue of these "Take One" newspapers at my local grocery store, and e-mailed the publisher, Robert McCanless.  My only thought originally was to ask him to list Long Island bloggers in his publication, mine included.
Instead he offered me the chance to contribute text, history,  and photos. We decided to explore the survival ability of my local garden  centers. It was no mystery why these three roadside garden centers were able to compete with big box stores that claim to have "Garden departments."
Fort Hill Nursery is the garden center closest to the Jarvis House, and over the last 35 years many of the plants planted and photographed for this blog have come from Fort Hill.  Here is the iconic Adolf, his daughter Linda, and his son Russell Aebisher who are always there and right up front, meeting their customers with a smile and generations of information about how to help make a backyard garden successful.
Fort Hill is a family business that caters to the hobbist gardener, but they have many unique plants for the home, such as the hundreds of tomato varieties, that 
daughter Linda grows from seed, including heirlooms.  She also  maintains a huge collection of herbs for sale.
 This is a vintage picture of Adolf, Dave, his brother and co-owner, and their father Adolf who originally started a farm stand with his wife Anna on the property that specialized in Chrysanthemums.
Depending on the month, the Aebishers put out a cart with whatever is blooming well for that season, sometimes unusual plants that may not be familiar to most gardeners.  That is where I first saw one of my favorite shrubs,
 the Callicarpa, or as I call it "the purple berry bush."  Birds love it and in the dead of winter is a site to behold.
The lovely and historic Main Street Nursery is just on the opposite side of Huntington.  It has a slightly different focus, but still a family destination.
This month, Main Street is featuring it annual Butterfly Zoo for the delight of children and adults.
Inside the "Zoo" plants ,garden ornaments, and unusual species of butterflies
are artfully arranged.
This is the lush path that leads gardeners and their children to
the year-round farm animal display.
Goats, chickens and roosters, ducks, 
and miniature horses live in a well cared for storybook  barn.
Main Street is owned by two brothers,  Bob and Rich McKean, local fellows that started in this town as teenagers with their own lawn care business.  Bob has a business degree and Rich a Landscape Architecture degree which makes for a great combination.  Their idea was to give the customers an idea of plantings in an actual garden setting.  
Families can even schedule tea parties in their beautiful gazebo.
Down a few miles, but still north  on Route 25A, Northern Boulevard, is the historic Scarsella's Nursery.
The sometimes exotic and always fanciful  nursery, is west in Laurel Hollow.
 Randy Stratham, above, is the current steward of the this establishment complete with historic Gold Coast estate greenhouses, remnants of a glorious chapter of Long Island history.  As the large estates in the area were broken up and razed, the greenhouses were moved one by one to this site.
 When I saw this sign that said Orchids, it brought me back to my very distant childhood in Nassau County.  I lived right behind the most magical garden center of them all, Wheatley Gardens, horticulturists to the Gold Coast families.  Before there were jet planes hauling exotic plants and blooms from all parts of the globe, Wheatley Gardens on the huge corner of Glen Cove Road and Northern Boulevard in Greenvale, grew orchids in their Orchid greenhouse, Hydrangeas in another greenhouse, Easter Lilies, Carnations, Dutch bulbs, and Begonias, ferns, and other flowers for arrangements.  I would go every day after school to watch the workers make special horseshoe shaped garlands of red roses for their winning race horses, huge colorful floral arrangements, amazing satin bows, and when the seasons changed piles of flowers that were ripped out of greenhouses to make room for the next planting of propagated blooms.
If there were slight burns from the "cold room," workers would give me bundles of flowers to take home.   We would jump into piles of Carnation plants that were discarded so  new ones could be planted.  Green African talking Parrots, Parakeets, Cockatoos,  and Macaws, would call and whistle after us when we went home for dinner.
Scarsella's continues the tradition.
It is hard to think that some day if people do not care as much as these roadside garden center owners, that the horticultural heritage of Long Island might be lost.


robert schmid said...

i think uncle frank worked for main street nursery ,he even wrecked their van


I like the look of the purple berry bush! I grow a
papyrus plant in my city apartment - it sits mainly
in water, of course, purchased from a Farmer's Market
vendor in Union Square. Nice survey of LI vendors.