Prestige Landscape Services Nursery plans expansion nine months after opening its doors to the public
“We really try and get stuff that grows well in this area,” said Julie Griffiths. “We really pride ourselves on having things that really do well, so that when [customers] plant [them], they feel rewarded.”
Griffiths is the supervisor of Prestige Landscape Services Nursery, right next door to Fair Street Recycling on Fair Street in south Chico. In March of this year, the business opened to the public as a retail nursery. Both Fair Street Recycling and Prestige Landscape Services—of which the nursery is part—are business divisions of the nonprofit Work Training Center, which provides services and employment to the local developmentally disabled community.
For roughly 35 years, Prestige Landscape Services—which employs a sizeable number of Work Training Center clients—has offered landscaping to local businesses, such as Enloe Medical Center, and residential customers, using plants obtained from a wholesale nursery in Oroville. In February 2003, the business started growing its own plants, and nine years later, the Prestige nursery came into official existence, though for use of Prestige’s landscaping business only.
The nursery’s recent transformation into a retail business is something that Griffiths and Prestige Landscape Services production coordinator Richard Draper agree was an obvious evolution for the business.
“It grew out of an extension of our landscape business wanting plant material that we grew ourselves,” said Draper, who joined Griffiths briefly in a recent interview at the nursery. “We started growing one- and five-gallon container stock to supply our landscaping clients with what we knew they were going to ask for.
“When we became a nursery in February 2012, we started growing seedlings and annuals.”
As Draper spoke, nursery employees and Work Training Center clients Autumn Darby and Maureen McDevitt were busy working inside the nursery greenhouse—which was warm inside, especially compared to the downright chilly weather outside—potting viola and primrose seedlings to be ready for early spring planting.
“We are selling anything from annual color—which we grow ourselves—to perennials, some of which we grow from little plugs [seedlings],” offered Griffiths. Other perennials—plants and trees, such as crape myrtles, various evergreens, Japanese maples and Chinese pistachio trees—still come from the wholesale nursery in Oroville.
All of the nursery’s retail plants are offered “at really competitive prices,” Griffiths said. The list of offerings runs the gamut, from Abelia, Agapanthus, Armeria and azaleas, to zinnias, with many others in between, such as Loropetalum—a genus of shrub in the witch-hazel family—and Nandina domestica, which goes by the common names “heavenly bamboo” and “sacred bamboo.”
The most successful plants for use in Butte County landscaping projects, in Griffiths’ opinion, are the Loropetalums and Nandina domestica; Rhaphiolepis, a genus of small trees and shrubs in the Rosaceae family; Spiraea, a “woody perennial” (as Griffiths described it) and another genus of plants in the Rosaceae family; crape myrtle trees and the many shrubs of the Berberis genus.
While clearly enthused at the nursery’s current offerings, Griffiths’ eyes lit up when she talked of expanding the nursery’s stock.
“We are going to try to get more native plants that grow better and are water-wise, too,” she said, adding that the nursery recently added another area of sprinklers in the stock container area, so “it’s easier to water” a larger number of plants.
A second greenhouse—which currently exists as a Quonset-hut-style metal frame only—is due to be completed “hopefully by spring or the beginning of summer,” Griffiths said.
Also, Griffiths is “developing a seasonal list of plants, whether it’s color bowls or [special] plants for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day,” Draper said.
“Eventually, we want to package our [made-on-site] potting mix for retail sale,” he added.
“And, build a ‘garden shed’ where customers can pick up pots, indoor plants like African violets, and maybe a pair of garden gloves,” Griffiths chimed in.
She brought the conversation back around to the landscaping part of Prestige, pointing out that the nursery is unique in that its retail customers can also hire Griffiths, Darby, McDevitt and nursery employee Larry Azevedo (also a Work Training Center client) to do small-scale landscaping jobs for residential customers, like “annual color changeouts”—periodic switchouts of annual, seasonal flowers.
“We’re trying to specialize a little bit,” she said. “You know, there are a lot of nurseries in Chico, and to keep up with the Joneses, you have to have one or two things you do that are special, and one of ours is planting things for people.
“There are some people who like their yard to look nice, but they don’t like to plant,” she said.