American Nurseryman celebrates its centennial-plus-10 this year, joining the likes of Rolls-Royce, the Waikiki Aquarium and Dr. Seuss.

In 1904, Harley-Davidson was a year old, Salvador Dali was born and American Nurseryman emerged on the scene to deliver news of the industry to growers across the country. Actually, the trade journal’s roots can be traced back to the late 1800s, when The National Nurseryman, published by The National Nurseryman Publishing Company, was the voice of the American Association of Nurserymen. American Fruits magazine was launched in 1904; the publication later changed its name to American Nurseryman. The publications had merged with The National Nurseryman and … well … the rest is history.

From its beginnings, American Nurseryman has been known as the authoritative voice of a burgeoning industry, often called, in fact, the “bible of the industry.” Throughout the years the publication has both reflected this vast, diverse green industry as well as led the charge to grow a cohesive, powerful network of growers, landscape professionals and garden center retailers. From the beginning of a century through two World Wars and the Great Depression … through the introduction of an ever-evolving environmental movement … through housing booms and busts and the uncertainties that accompany those times … through increasing public awareness and governmental scrutiny … through scientific breakthroughs and economic setbacks … through labor shortages and mechanical innovations, the green industry in the U.S. and American Nurseryman have grown together.

Throughout the years American Nurseryman has both reflected this vast, diverse green industry as well as led the charge to grow a cohesive, powerful network of growers, landscape professionals and garden center retailers. When we observed our centennial year in 2004, I wrote about what American Nurseryman stands for. We’ve seen some changes since then—a new owner, a new frequency, a few gray hairs—but we really haven’t changed what we do. So here’s a reminder of what American Nurseryman means to us—and to you.

We stand for Authority. Long ago tagged the “bible of the industry,” American Nurseryman speaks to its readers from a position of authority. Because the majority of its articles are penned by experts in the varied fields of commercial horticulture—as they have been since our premiere issue—subscribers learn from the best. Within the pages of this magazine, colleague speaks to colleague and peer teaches peer. Occasionally, though, it’s difficult to find an impartial individual to cover a particular topic. We then turn to our experienced staff editors, who seek the counsel and knowledge of those in the know: the industry professionals. Relying on their guidance, their statements and their advice, we present an unbiased, accurate, authoritative story.

We stand for Balance. Rarely is there only one side to a story. And rarely is there only one segment of the industry that’s affected. Whether this magazine addresses hot topics like natives and invasives, labor management, promotion orders and legislation, or other, seemingly benign subjects, our internal guidelines drive us. Is it fair? Is it appropriate? Is it relevant? Is it applicable? Is it timely? Who will benefit? And, finally, is it balanced?

We stand for Perspective.From its very beginning, this publication recognized the need for an integrated approach to industry coverage. To this day, it remains the only one to do so. We reach growers, landscape professionals and garden center retailers – all professionals who must deal with each other day to day. In an industry that is at once fragmented and integrated, it’s critical that every segment understand one another. Thus, our pledge to serve the entire market serves individuals as well as the industry as a whole.

We stand for Accuracy. American Nurseryman magazine is the final product of a comprehensive process of checks and balances. Editorial copy is not merely scanned from press releases and scammed from other publications. It is original to this publication, whether submitted by a professional in the field of commercial horticulture or written by an American Nurseryman staff editor. Each and every editorial item must be checked—and verified—for accuracy; our reference library is unparalleled. Further, we do not allow articles to be published without the final approval of each author: Once we’ve done our work, the author must then review the piece for accuracy before we go to press.

We stand for Trust. It is our long-standing, steadfast policy that advertorial copy has no place in American Nurseryman: Editorial coverage simply cannot be purchased. What you read in this magazine is unbiased reporting of industry news, trends, research and plants. In fairness to all, we give no special favor to our valued advertisers who purchase display and classified ad space. Readers deserve nothing less, and advertisers respect our stand. Because of this policy, advertisers know the buyers they reach through American Nurseryman trust its content—and, therefore, trust our advertisers.

We stand for Quality. Within the pages of American Nurseryman, authoritative professionals present useful information in a format that’s attractive, accessible, easy-to-read and entertaining. We require focused, crisp writing. We feature clear, pertinent illustrations. We insist on a representative and eye-catching cover. And while we remain stable and true to specific principles, we are not afraid to change to better serve our readers.

We stand for Respect. American Nurseryman readers are educated, intelligent, successful business professionals. And we recognize that. We don’t “dumb it down.” We don’t play games. We don’t waste their time with puzzles and trivia and useless information. At American Nurseryman, we know we can’t fool our readers, and we wouldn’t try to.

Most of all, we stand for Integrity. We say what we mean. We mean what we say. American Nurseryman stands by its word to present its readers with honest, forthright and accurate coverage of the nursery and landscape industry. We’ve done it for 100 110 years. And that’s just the beginning.

Sally D. Benson is the editor director of American Nurseryman. She can be reached at

Going strong at 90+

Palazzi Landscape Gardening is a family business located in northeastern Pennsylvania. It was started in 1921 by Augusto Palazzi. Augusto immigrated from Marche in North Italy in 1908 and took an “Italian job” as an iron molder working for the Plante family (cousins of the Astors) in New London, Connecticut. After work, they made extra money by tending the gardens on the Plante’s estate, and this is how Augusto learned the trade.

In 1917, Augusto started his own gardening business in New London, Connecticut. Then, in 1921, he moved his family to Dunmore, Pennsylvania, just outside of Scranton, and continued to run a gardening business.

Today, Palazzi Landscape Gardening is one of the oldest landscaping companies in America, with over 90 years of business from its loyal customers, many of whom are very close personal friends of the Palazzi’s. Augusto’s grandson, Louis J. Palazzi Jr., now serves as CEO. Palazzi Landscape Gardening specializes in renovating existing landscapes and also provides new installations, following the practices established by Louis’ grandfather, Augusto, and his father, Louis J. Palazzi Sr. The company can do almost anything outdoors to create beauty and provide visual appeal to clients’ homes.

Turning problems into opportunities

Forty years ago, Larry DeWitt worked as a landscaper during his senior year in college. What he didn’t know at the time was how he would pioneer the use of landscape fabric and change the future of the industry forever.

After graduating with a degree in horticulture, he launched DeWitt Landscaping, a landscape design and contracting firm. In 1975, Larry expanded the operation and opened DeWitt Landscaping & Garden Center, a full-service garden center, from design to build. As business grew he also started a rewholesale division.

In 1977, Larry was searching for a material to stop weeds and increase plant growth without the use of chemicals. At the time, black plastic was a landscaper’s only option. From hands-on experience, he knew that plastic stops weeds, but it also blocks out moisture and air. The result: disease, fungus and rot.

“I was using black plastic for weed control in rock gardens and I saw the effects of the suffocated soil,” Larry said. “I turned this problem into an opportunity by producing the first-ever permeable landscape fabric that allowed air and water through. Hence the birth of the DeWitt Company.”

Larry experimented with materials until finally hitting pay dirt. He discovered that woven polypropylene did everything he wanted, and his new landscape fabric, later dubbed DeWitt Weed Barrier™, changed the professional landscaping industry.

“My life and passion became my career, with a mission to always strive for a better tomorrow,” Larry stated.

Since 1974, DeWitt Company has made a serious commitment to the lawn and garden industry by introducing new products, improving existing products, and developing innovative merchandising solutions. Celebrating 40 years in business, DeWitt Company believes the future of the industry is bright and beaming with opportunities to grow, learn and evolve.

“We didn’t invent the wheel, and we didn’t reinvent it either,” Larry said. “We found our inspiration out of our concern for the environment and have continued to create lines of lawn and garden products that are not only innovative, but also dedicated to our philosophy of promoting environmentally responsible products.”

Today, DeWitt offers over 600 products in 14 product categories and operates out of a 300,000-square-foot facility in Sikeston, Missouri. By continually investing in state-of-the-art technology and equipment, DeWitt is able to consistently provide high-performance quality products that save time and are environmentally safe.

Leading by example

Alameda Wholesale Nursery is one of the oldest and largest wholesale nurseries in Colorado. It strives to offer more than 1,000 of the finest varieties of plant material and planting supplies to landscape contractors large and small. Alameda has been serving the nursery industry for more than 69 years and is located on over 30 sprawling and beautiful acres.

Every fall, Alameda Wholesale Nursery has a customer appreciation barbecue. Last October, 500 customers came for brats and Mexican food. In conjunction with that, the staff also celebrated President Stan Brown’s 50th anniversary at the nursery. The staff invited more than 30 of Stan’s mentors, customers and friends that he has made over the years. In preparation for this, Stan got to thinking about all of the “things” we now take for granted that didn’t exist 50 years ago. Stan, who created a display for the barbecue, says that without these things, “I don’t know how we got anything done!”

Here’s his top 10 list:

  1. computers, cellphones, etc.
  2. irrigation systems including clocks, heads, valves and drip
  3. plastic pots
  4. tree spades
  5. wire baskets
  6. nursery jaws
  7. skid steers
  8. potting soils
  9. all the new varieties of plants
  10. shade cloths

Stan asks, “What’s on your list?”

Thirty years of service

Marcus Farms was started by John and Steve Marcus in the early 1980s, when they started planting evergreen trees in western New York with the hope of selling them as Christmas trees. As this market decreased and the balled and burlapped (B&B) industry started to rise, their goals changed, as did the variety of trees they planted.

While maintaining the trees and planting more each year, John was also developing the market and purchasing trees from other growers as they waited for their trees to reach market height. During this time, Steve also managed a contracting business, as Marcus Farms (MFI) was not sustainable until the mid-1990s.

In 1997, with John’s untimely death at age 49, his widow, Susan, became co- owner of the company. Steve managed the employees and developed a rapport with the customers, and Susan left her job as an art teacher at a local public school to manage the finances and build the business acumen.

What distinguishes MFI is the ability to source and ship trees from 5 to 30 feet tall, both B&B and drum-laced. MFI serves a customer base from Chicago to Maine and as far south as Washington, D.C., with many customers throughout New York state. The company’s goal is to meet each customer’s needs with a diverse plant mix, plus optimal attention to their scheduling requirements. MFI coordinates trucking for the majority of the 300-plus shipments each year.

With a corps of experienced and dedicated employees, the farm is able to grow products that meet hardiness requirements throughout the Northeast, in soils conducive to quality root-ball packaging and handling. Although the majority of their trees are shipped to customers in the spring and fall, MFI’s current manager, Steve’s son, Gerrett, is creating a holding yard for the purpose of selling more trees in the summer and other off-season times.

With changes in the U.S. economy over the past number of years, MFI has focused its energy on continuing to maintain high standards of excellence for its evergreen and deciduous trees while continuing to keep prices as low as possible. MFI stands by its slogan, “Quality trees for the nursery trade.”

Along with Gerrett’s leadership, MFI is optimistic that its current inventory of evergreens, conifers and deciduous trees will meet the future needs of its ever-growing customer base.

A legacy of quality plants and customer service

Maine Evergreen Nursery Inc. has been one of the premiere wholesale businesses in Bergen County, New Jersey, since 1963, responsible for supplying the trees and shrubs that beautified much of the New York/New Jersey metropolitan region.

Salvatore “Sam” Costa was the first member of the immediate Costa family to immigrate to America in 1901 from Sicily. After working two jobs, Sam saved enough money to purchase a horse and wagon and began selling produce. He later opened a grocery store.

Sam’s son, Carmen, followed in his father’s footsteps and took over Sam’s grocery accounts when he retired in 1946. Two years later, Carmen bought and opened a store on Main Street in downtown Hackensack, New Jersey.

During the Christmas season, Carmen sold trees and greens at his local grocery mart and always had an interest in horticulture. He became an avid reader of American Nurseryman magazine, and in 1961, Carmen switched from the grocery to the wholesale nursery business. In 1963, he bought property in Maywood, New Jersey, and opened Maine Evergreen Wholesale Nursery.

The Costas purchased trees, shrubs and flowers from all over the nation and Canada and sold them to construction contractors, landscapers, greenhouses, parks departments and others. The business continued to be passed down to family members: To Carmen’s son-in-law, Russ Trocano Sr., and in 2007 to the current owner/operator, Russell P. Trocano, Esq., a practicing attorney in New Jersey and New York. He has served on the board of the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association and continues to be involved with the trade organizations.

The Maine Evergreen Nursery family isn’t defined solely by bloodlines. Tony Dones has been with the nursery for 50 years, and Simitri Delgado for the past 30 years. They both still work full time and are valued immensely for their loyalty, their stories and their history of Maine Evergreen Nursery.

Russell, who was raised in the nursery business, and worked loading and unloading trucks, understands the value of a family business. He continues to grow the business with dedication, salesmanship and business savvy. He offers the same customer service and quality plants that his grandfather did when he started Maine Evergreen Wholesale nursery 50 years ago.

Excellence in trees for 70 years

Since 1944, L.E. Cooke Co. has focused on growing fruit trees that provide great tasting fruit, as well as excellent quality landscape trees and shrubs, with over 1,250 acres in production. The company sells its trees wholesale, and they can be found throughout the U.S. and Canada at leading nurseries and garden centers.

During its 70 years in business, L.E. Cooke Co. has introduced 150 new varieties to the retail nursery trade, 60 of which were named by the company, and the others were developed across the U.S. Many were hybridized for the Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Southern California climates.

L.E. Cooke Co. has 90 acres designated for its scion orchard, which contains budwood and graft wood, as well as seed sources for rootstocks for trees, shrubs and vines. The company grows 1,300 varieties of deciduous trees, shrubs, vines, covering fruit trees, ornamental and shade trees, shrubs, grapes, berries and vegetable plants.

The company’s goal has been to select the best rootstock, best selections for growing quality fruit and the best color in flowering ornamental trees and shrubs. Many patented varieties from across the nation are grown to fill a need in the mild winter and cold areas of the U.S. and Canada.

At all times, L.E. Cooke Co. has hundreds of potential new varieties in the scion orchard for future introductions. The selections come through retail nurseries or fruit hobbyists, which come from seedlings or sports found in many instances by a homeowner.

Today there’s very different fruit for the commercial market compared to the retail home trade. For this reason there’s fast growth in the you-pick and farmers market segments. The difference in fruit has to do with sugar content (sweetness) versus appearance and storage traits.

The new generation is much more food aware due to health and weight concerns. The U.S. population is rapidly changing from the European influence to the Asian-Southern Hemisphere influence, where there’s more involvement with children, and family is becoming more important.

Edibles go toward health, and color goes toward happiness. This is our nursery’s future.

Inspiring Kansas City’s beautiful landscapes

In 1914, Evert Asjes started his business, Rosehill Gardens, with a small growing area at Bales Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri. He kept busy mowing grass, planting flower beds and offering maintenance services to the beautiful mansions in the area that are now home to the Kansas City Museum.

In 1929, Evert moved the business to Holmes Road. By 1933, Evert Asjes Jr. and Catherina Asjes, the children of Evert and Jane Asjes, became active in the company. Evert Jr. was soon recognized as a gifted landscape designer and plantsman. Catherina and Evert’s wife, Kathryn, took responsibility for running the office and garden store. Evert Sr. operated the greenhouses and oversaw company operations until Evert Jr. became owner in 1951.

Evert Asjes III joined the company after graduating from Kansas State University in 1958 with a degree in landscape design. Steve Asjes joined his father, Evert III in 1982, after graduating from the University of Missouri in Columbia, with a degree in horticulture. In 1992, Steve became president of Rosehill Gardens. In late summer, 1992, after 63 years, Rosehill Gardens moved to its present location on East 135th Street.

Through four generations of the Asjes family, Rosehill Gardens flourished through the 20th century. In March 2007, Steve’s long struggle against cancer ended. With his blessing, longtime employees Gary Weidenbach and Curtis Stroud purchased the company. Combined they have nearly 45 years of experience at Rosehill, and they are committed to delivering the same level of experience that has always set Rosehill Gardens apart.

As Rosehill Gardens approaches its 100th year, it continues the tradition Evert began by providing customers with high-quality landscaping products and services, growing 90 percent of what is sold.

Rosehill Gardens now employs a staff of over 150 outstanding individuals. The company has several divisions including landscape design, maintenance, irrigation and lighting, as well as a full-service retail garden center and over 1,000 acres at Rosehill’s Farms. Each of these areas works together to provide customers with the best possible landscaping experience.

To celebrate reaching the century mark, each month in 2014 Rosehill Gardens is giving away 10 trees to a deserving organization in the Kansas City metro area. Elegible organizations include schools, nonprofit community services, churches, senior living facilities, veterans services and animal shelters/rescue centers.