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Native niche

Support from Emerald Coast Growers has helped SugarTree Nursery boost native plant sales.

as seen in Nursery Management Magazine - September 16 Increasing Profits

Coreopsis Jethro TullAs the owner of SugarTree Nursery, Scott Maxwell says that leaning on a long-held relationship with Emerald Coast Growers has helped the nursery see continued success after he took the reins last year. Emerald Coast has been working with SugarTree on fulfilling its native plant demand, and Maxwell says that demand continues to grow.

It’s no surprise that SugarTree is seeing an increased interest in native plants. These days there has been a lot of buzz surrounding them. Maxwell says a combination of media attention and a more educated landscaper have both helped cultivate that interest.

“I think the initial interest actually began with homeowners, who might have read an article or watched an HGTV show,” Maxwell surmises. “That interest then trickled down to the landscaper and created more demand. Natives have become so popular that we’re even seeing them spec’d in commercial landscape projects.”

Miscanthus sinensis AdagioThere are several reasons that native plants have seen such growing interest. Maxwell says the first is survivability. Native plants are able to withstand drought and are even tolerant of other extreme weather conditions and temperatures. With more people being interested in a low-maintenance landscape, native plants are the way to go. And Maxwell says that a good track record of long-term success with native plants in the landscape keeps bringing clients back for more. For the nursery, that’s a boost to the bottom line.

Second is the pest control factor. Using native plants is a natural way to deter pests. Maxwell says that’s been an added benefit of having a variety of native plants at SugarTree as well.

“For the exact same reasons the end user likes having native plants in their landscape, we like having them here at the nursery,” Maxwell says. “Native plants are great from a pest management perspective.”

Lastly, the aesthetic appeal of native plants cannot be overlooked. While native plants were once thought of more in terms of a wildflower prairie application, the increased education has lead more people to realize that native plants can look beautiful in any landscape.

Maxwell adds that he appreciates the fact that Emerald Coast Growers has a nice variety of native plants. SugarTree Nursery grows perennials, shrubs and ornamental grasses, and they sell mostly to re-wholesalers and high-end garden centers. Maxwell says that the top-notch selection from Emerald Coast keeps them on good terms with those clients.

But Maxwell says the working relationship with Emerald Coast is also noteworthy. He praises their customer service and calls their knowledge of the industry “incredibly helpful.”

“Emerald Coast does a great job of keeping up with the industry and really understanding the demand that’s out there,” Maxwell continues. “We feel like they’re incredibly proactive. They know what we’re getting hit with and they’re helping us meet those demands — lately that’s been native plants. As a result of their assistance, they’ve been a huge part of the growth of this nursery.”