By scouring the globe for the best nursery equipment and hard goods-and making them available for American and Canadian nurserymen-Timm Enterprises Ltd. remains one of the most respected and successful wholesale supply operations in North America.
Otto Timm left his homeland of Germany in 1958 to work at Sheridan Nurseries in Ontario, Canada. He worked at the nursery for three growing seasons before opening Timm Enterprises Ltd. in 1962.
Jan. 1, 1962, was a special New Year’s Day for Otto Timm.
After spending many years working at several nurseries in Europe and Canada, Timm opened his first business – a nursery supply company in Oakville, Ontario. Fifty-one years later, Timm Enterprises Ltd. is still one of the premier North American wholesalers of green industry supplies and equipment, from containers and burlap to cultivators and spading machines.
“Those of us who work on the production of nursery plants are so fortunate to have a reputable, highly respected, family business that supplies us with the finest equipment and hard goods,” says Dwight Hughes Jr., a third-generation nurseryman whose family’s business, Hughes Nursery & Landscaping in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has been a longtime customer of Timm Enterprises. “Timm Enterprises has truly been a leader and trendsetter in the North American nursery industry.”
Otto Timm rented an old Sunday school house in Oakville, Ontario, which served as the first office and warehouse for Timm Enterprises Ltd.
“Otto makes it his business to get to know you. At the same time, he sells his products with such passion that, at the end of the day, it makes sense to buy from him,” adds Case Vanderkruk, vice president, Connon Nurseries Neil Vanderkruk Holdings Inc., a wholesale nursery in Dundas, Ontario, that has been doing business with Timm Enterprises for more than 30 years. “His prices are very competitive, he stands 110 percent behind all of his products, and his products are practical and have a commonsense adaptability to the horticulture industry. I think he eats, drinks and sleeps a product first before he launches it to market.”
Through the years, Timm Enterprises’ business philosophy has not wavered: Provide customers with high-quality products from local sources or imported from overseas manufacturers, as well as exceptional personal service, says Heidi Timm, manager of Timm Enterprises and Otto’s daughter.
“We keep quite a bit of inventory, and we stock a lot of spare parts for the equipment we sell, which benefits our customers,” she adds. “Customer service is paramount. We pride ourselves in shipping in-stock items quickly, and loading drive-in customers is a priority. We always say that no one has to wait for service here.”
The early years
This shows the vendor permit Otto Timm received from the treasury department of the Province of Ontario for his nursery supply company, Timm Enterprises Ltd., which opened on Jan. 1, 1962.
Photos courtesy of Timm Enterprises Ltd.
The son of a plantsman, Otto Timm learned about horticulture by working at several nurseries in his homeland of Germany, including his father’s. Otto left Germany in the mid-1950s to work at a nursery in Boskoop, Holland, where he washed rhododendron roots for export to Canada and the U.S. One of the Canadian businesses that the Dutch nursery exported to was Sheridan Nurseries.
In 1958, Otto traveled to Ontario and accepted a job at Sheridan Nurseries, where he spent the next three growing seasons working in the nursery’s fields. Otto also spent many weekends working at Sheridan’s Clarkson Garden Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. During his time at Sheridan Nurseries, Otto noticed that many supplies needed by the nursery were often not readily available.
“Dad wanted to start a nursery supply business because he saw a need for it,” Heidi says.
After leaving Sheridan Nurseries in the early 1960s, Otto took on several jobs – including growing and selling roses, budding cherries and selling nursery stock – to earn enough money to start his nursery supply business.
On New Year’s Day 1962, Timm Enterprises was born. Otto rented an old Sunday school house in Oakville that served as his office and warehouse. The first items Otto sold were reed mats, plastic labels and Felco shears. He also continued to grow and sell roses.
A couple years ago, Heidi scanned and printed a number of old family slides as a Christmas gift to her parents. Among the slides was a photo of Otto typing his first invoice on the tailgate of a leased station wagon and a photo of her mom, Wil, riding a tractor on farmland that the Timms rented to plant roses in the mid-1960s.
As a Christmas gift to her parents, Otto and Wil Timm, Heidi Timm, manager of Timm Enterprises Ltd., scanned and printed a bunch of old family slides. One of the slides was of Otto typing his first invoice on the back of a leased station wagon.
“Growing up, I was always told that Dad never typed and Mom never drove a tractor. I was really amused to find these photos, which proved that my parents had hidden talents they didn’t want to admit to,” Heidi says, with a laugh.
Another showed Wil driving a tractor. This surprised and amused Heidi, as she was told when she was young that her dad never typed and her mom never drove a tractor.
In the late 1960s, Timm Enterprises claimed it was the first North American supplier to introduce a true European-made potting machine and shaking bed lifter to nurserymen in Canada and the U.S. The Plantarex potting machine was imported from Germany, while the bed lifter was imported from Egedal Maskinfabrik A/S in Denmark.
Today, Timm Enterprises continues to sell Egedal bed lifters and other Egedal nursery and agriculture equipment, such as the following:
- Bed cultivators
- Bedroot pruners
- Energy planters
- Field planters
- Furrow machines
- Mulch/sand spreaders
- Planting machines
- Side diggers
- Sowing machines
- Steam fumigation machines
- Tool carriers
“Otto has literally searched the world for the latest and greatest machinery and made it available to many North American green industry businesses,” says Hughes, who remembers seeing Timm Enterprises exhibits at various nursery trade shows he attended as a teenager with his dad, Dwight Hughes Sr., in the 1960s. “Otto was talking about efficiency and labor-saving production methods long before our industry adopted those processes. Otto is a nurseryman who uses many of the supplies and equipment at his operation. He understands the value of his products and how they can benefit the companies that he serves.”
In 1971, Otto and Wil purchased a 25-acre parcel in Milton, Ontario, where Timm Enterprises’ offices and 23,000-square-foot warehouse are still located. Otto maintains that buying the property at this location was one of the best decisions he ever made, according to Heidi.
In 1971, Otto and Wil Timm purchased a 25-acre parcel in Milton, Ontario, where Timm Enterprises’ offices and 23,000-square-foot warehouse are still located. (This photo does not show the company’s newest and largest building addition.)
The present day
Today, Timm Enterprises employs seven people at its Ontario headquarters – and it is still very much a family business. Although Wil Timm no longer works in the office on a full-time basis, she is Heidi’s “consultant” on accounting and human resources matters.
“Mom doesn’t get much of the glory because she mostly worked in the office, but our success would not have been possible without her,” Heidi says.
Heidi’s sister, Saskia, works as a shipper/receiver, as well as many other jobs that Heidi says is difficult to sum up in a job title. Their brother, Walter, who works as a mechanical engineer with another company, helps out at Timm Enterprises on weekends when he’s needed, Heidi says.
As Timm Enterprises’ president, Otto is still very much involved at the company he founded. While Heidi now oversees day-to-day operations, she says her dad “still makes all of the big decisions.”
Otto Timm grew and sold roses during the early years of Timm Enterprises Ltd.
“He goes on sales calls, and he handles machinery sales, as well,” states Heidi, who adds that her dad is also the company’s horticulture expert. Otto still grows nursery stock, including Picea pungens ‘Hoopsii’ (‘Hoopsii’ blue spruce) and Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’ (‘Pendula’ weeping false cypress), on 10 acres of Timm Enterprises’ property.
The majority of Timm Enterprises’ sales are to North American nurseries; however, it also does some business with landscaping operations, garden centers and municipalities. Heidi estimates that about 60 percent of the operation’s customers are Canadian, and 30 percent are in the U.S. Timm Enterprises also sells equipment to select customers in Mexico, Belize and Peru.
“There are quite a few businesses that have been customers of ours from the beginning or for decades,” Heidi says. “But we also have new customers that have found out about us through word of mouth or advertising. There’s always a balance. But I think it’s our products and service that have kept our existing customers with us through the years.”
The goal, Heidi says, is for a customer to receive their product in a timely manner – whether the customer drives to the Timm Enterprises facility in Ontario for pickup or needs a product shipped to the U.S.
“We don’t sit around; our customers are our priority. If someone drives here, they always get helped right away, even if they didn’t call ahead of time to place an order,” Heidi says. “Because we ship all over North America, our shipping transit times can vary. We ship our products in everything from 1-pound UPS parcels up to 53-foot tractor-trailer loads. For in-stock items, we usually ship the same day or next day. During our busy season, it might take us a little longer to ship, but we do our best to get priority orders out fast.”
Terry Hines, president and general manager, Hale and Hines Nursery Co. in McMinnville, Tenn., who has been a Timm Enterprises customer for more than 10 years, says the business has a great reputation in the North American horticulture industry.
Timm Enterprises Ltd. founder and president Otto Timm is shown on an Egedal Tracmaster tool carrier.Timm Enterprises sells several Egedal nursery and agriculture equipment, which are imported fromDenmark.
“They always do what they say they’ll do. They have integrity and are honest people,” says Hines, who has purchased Lift-Eze nursery containers from Timm Enterprises since 2003. “Otto is very knowledgeable about equipment, and he’s really good at what he does. They’ve carried a lot of specialty equipment through the years, pretty neat things that nobody else had, because of Otto’s knowledge of the European market. They’ve been a great supplier and good friends, too.”
All supplies and equipment that Timm Enterprises sells are sourced from local or offshore manufacturers, according to Heidi. “Dad has visited 20 different countries through the years and has bought from and sold to 18 different countries,” Heidi says. “Some of the countries we import products from include China, Sri Lanka, Germany, Holland, France, Italy and the U.S.”
Because equipment sales to American customers have decreased in recent years due to the struggling economy, Timm Enterprises has shifted its focus to its supply line. “Sales of supplies are doing quite well,” Heidi says. “We do anticipate that equipment sales will increase in the future as the economy picks up.”
According to Heidi, the following three supplies are the most popular with American customers.
Lift-Eze nursery containers. In 2002, Otto was approached by Nuova Pasquini & Bini, an Italian manufacturer of nursery pots for field growing and decorative pots for retail sales, to be the exclusive North American supplier of its Lift-Eze nursery containers. More than 10 years later, this line of rugged, injection-molded containers is one of the top-selling products offered by Timm Enterprises.
“These are special pots with proper handles that extend above the rim, making it easier to lift larger plants,” Heidi says.
Other features of Lift-Eze containers include:
- Sizes range from 8 gallons to 42 gallons.
- Dark gray color reduces heat absorption.
- Heavy rims guarantee problem- free stacking for shipping.
- Great for pot-in-pot growing; allows much faster and easier turning to avoid roots growing through the base container.
- Handles are ideal for attaching loop labels.
- Containers are ultraviolet stabilized and cold-crack stabilized – and recyclable.
TE Weed Prevention COCODISC. Imported by Timm Enterprises from Sri Lanka, the TE Weed Prevention COCODISC can prevent the growth of weeds, including liverwort, in nursery containers. Made from coconut fibers, the TE Weed Prevention COCODISC will not trap heat like plastic discs. Air can penetrate the COCODISC, which allows the roots to breathe.
According to Timm Enterprises, more than 23 million COCODISC have been sold. Other features include:
- Water and fertilizer will easily penetrate the discs; a two-year fertilizer can also be used.
- Hand weeding and herbicide use are eliminated; requires significantly less watering because evaporation is reduced.
- Discs are thick and heavy enough to stay in place – and biodegradable.
Binding tube. Strong, flexible and easy to use, binding tube from Timm Enterprises is a great solution for tying trees to stakes, Heidi says.
Binding tube comes in a continuous coil, and users can cut the tube to the length they need. It is sold in nets in 3-millimeter (mm) and 4-mm diameters, or in pails in 5-mm, 6-mm and 7-mm diameters.
Heidi adds that popular products among her Canadian customers include burlap and wire baskets, bamboo and fiberglass stakes.
Heidi Timm believes the future looks bright for Timm Enterprises. “We often add new items to our product lines, and we expect to continue that in the future,” she says. “Although we don’t have any expansion plans for the near future, it is always a possibility.”
For longtime customers like Case Vanderkruk, their business relationship with Otto Timm and the Timm family will continue for a long time to come.
“In today’s ever-changing business world, smart relationships and networking with good suppliers in the long run is good business practice,” Vanderkruk says. “I feel Timm Enterprises is in it for the long haul – and for the right reasons. Because of that, our relationship will always grow and flourish.”
Jason Bramwell is a freelance writer, and a contributor to and former senior associate editor of American Nurseryman. He can be reached at