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The Art of Running a Small Garden Center or Nursery

Updated on February 21, 2008

Small is cool!

The goal of this lens is to discuss the ups and downs of having your own small nursery or garden center. There is little information available for someone contemplating opening and running a garden center. It’s a career choice that lots of people contemplate but only a few take on, and even fewer succeed. It’s a business of patience and hard work, which is not very popular these days.

We will focus on the small garden center since that’s where most new ventures start. It’s also where the real action is when it comes to the nursery business. The larger concerns are busy homogenizing their shopping experiences, while the smaller centers can be more outlandish and experimental. Putting in a coffee bar or pet center in a garden center is not new and is already becoming mainstream. Small garden centers can be more unique and less mainstream, thus attracting those consumers looking for a more unique and satisfying shopping experience. These consumers are generally willing to pay more for that quality experience.

My wife and I run a small, 2 acre garden center with seasonal help. Our latest venture, The Golden Gecko Garden Center just celebrated its third anniversary. We are building a “destination garden center” that not only services the local community but looks to attract people from further away. My experience comes from working as a nurseryman for 28 years. I got my start driving the delivery truck at Christensen’s Nursery located on the San Francisco Peninsula. I have managed or owned three different nurseries in the foothills of The Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Be sure to check out the direct feed of my blog below. "The Blogging Nurseryman" was the first industry blog to deal with running a small garden center.  

In case you’re wondering we will consider a small garden center or nursery to be one that has sales of less than one million dollars a year. Sound daunting? Let’s get there together.


Innovative Small Garden Centers or Nurseries

We are always on the lookout for garden centers or nurseries that are trying different ways to do business. I am much more interested in a small nursery that chooses to create a new market or idea than a multi-million dollar face lift for some large garden center. It's the small places where the new ideas come from that are eventually are implemented in the larger concerns.

Essential books for the garden center libary

Essential books for the garden center

Sunset Western Garden Book
Sunset Western Garden Book

This book get used more than any other in the nursery. It breaks down the areas of the west into "Sunset Zones" which take into account the various micro-climates of the west better than the U.S.D.A. Zones.

From Vines to Wines: The Complete Guide to Growing Grapes and Making Your Own Wine
From Vines to Wines: The Complete Guide to Growing Grapes and Making Your Own Wine

Micro-vineyards and larger are becoming popular here with home owners. Besides wine is fun and knowing how to make it enhances the enjoyment.


More books for the garden center

Well, I just realized that you have to approve comments by scrolling down on the "My Dashboard" page. I wondered why I hadn't gotten any comments. Now that I have solved that I see I can allow anyone to comment, not just Squidoo members. Gee, it only took me a year to figure that one out.

Tell it like it is. Leave comments here.

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    • Judy Root profile image

      Judy 3 years ago from Canada

      great info!

    • profile image

      Jah 3 years ago specialize in growing fruit tree and citrus, and many persian plants

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      An Online Garden Center must be very rewarding! I thinks it's really nice to have a storefront to show plants & trees.

    • waldenthreenet profile image

      waldenthreenet 6 years ago

      Appreciting valuable topic. Knowing a good location like any other small business is critical. Beside knowing the technical side, the business side is even more important for success. Specialized nursery may be necessary to fit a particular location or community to assure there will be business flow. Conversations helps new ideas. Thanks.

    • profile image

      Miska29 6 years ago

      great lens :)

    • newdaygardens profile image

      newdaygardens 6 years ago from Minnesota

      great lens! Enjoy reading your blog & following the links here. Check out my new lens on preserving historic irises. www.sqidoo/historic-iris-preservation

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great information, thank you!

    • profile image

      ArefinShams 7 years ago

      Thanks for a helpful lens.

    • profile image

      poutine 8 years ago

      Just came back for another visit and checking out some of the links listed.

      Great lens.


    • profile image

      poutine 8 years ago

      Splendid lens, so much information, I've bookmarked it and will be back again

      to check more.


    • WhitneySegura LM profile image

      WhitneySegura LM 9 years ago

      Great lense, I have bookmarked it and will be back soon. If you get a second you should check out these cool Mini Greenhouses they have all kinds of great gardening supplies

    • profile image

      WorldTravelers916 9 years ago

      great lookin lens, i can see why you take so much pride in your work!

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    • profile image

      WorldTravelers916 9 years ago

      great lens, i am a nurse and i take my job very seriously!

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    • profile image

      WorldTravelers916 9 years ago

      great lens! i love working in my garden!

      game online

    • profile image

      WorldTravelers916 9 years ago

      great lens! i love working in my garden!

      game online

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      I have a huge greenhouse at my backyard and when I get tired working on my Harley Davidson Personal Checks site, I go there and do some little gardening! This knowledge you've shared is a fine addition for my gardening hobby! thanks for sharing this!

    • profile image

      Keaka77 9 years ago

      This is some great information. Keep up the good work.

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    • profile image

      Keaka77 9 years ago

      Why girlfiend is about to start a garden. I hope she knows what shes doing. great lens good information.

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    • profile image

      Keaka77 9 years ago

      Good job..My girl is about to start a garden. All flowers.. I hope she knows what shes doing.

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    • profile image

      WorldTravelers916 9 years ago

      i was in EDH and saw one of your pieces very nice!!

      work from home

    • CleftyToo profile image

      CleftyToo 9 years ago

      Great lens! A valuable resource. Great pics too :) I'll send a link this way from my vegetable gardening page...

    • profile image

      PaulMT 10 years ago

      Great lens ! I relate with you as we have a nursery as well. If you get a chance take a look at my lens GrowingHostas. Love all the blogging info.


    • steveffeo lm profile image

      steveffeo lm 10 years ago

      Great lens, I am also starting a gardening business. You have a nice setup

    • profile image

      guzie 10 years ago

      Man great gardening stuff here....Love your lens. I too runs a medium size nursery. I Love what I do, but it is very hard work.

    • Tiddledeewinks LM profile image

      Tiddledeewinks LM 10 years ago

      Love your lens! 5 *'s

    • profile image

      RudiTheGardener 10 years ago

      Hi there Rudi The Gardener here. Real Cool Lens you have here. Gave you a 5star.

    • profile image

      poutine 10 years ago

      Very interesting lens. Love the picture of the sasafrass tree.


    • ChristopherScot1 profile image

      ChristopherScot1 10 years ago

      wow - lots of great information! keep up the good work.

      check us out at A DAY OF HOPE

    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      It's so true!! As a small non-mainstream nursery/garden one has to distinguish. We, in South Africa, do it our way. Honestly; we are still battling to get some income but there is good progress and that keeps us going. and

    • grandma deal profile image

      grandma deal 10 years ago

      I reeeally like this lens. So much great info I can't read it all in one sitting. Which is unusual. The photos are very good

    • profile image

      anonymous 11 years ago


      Thank you so much for putting all this information on your blog! It has been valuable in my research, as I am considering establishing my own small garden center in SW Colorado. I still have lots of research to do, but I plan to make your blog a weekly read.




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