Charlie Chestnut retired a long, long time ago. No one really knows what happened to Charlie; in fact, no one really knew Charlie at all. A columnist of sorts for American Nurseryman decades ago, “Charlie Chestnut” wrote about the life and times of a nursery professional and, as befit the times, the prose was less than politically correct. The identity of the real author was never revealed, which is probably a good thing. To this day, however, readers who’ve stuck with us through thick and thin recall with fondness Charlie’s work, and several recently have requested that we reprint some of his columns.
Space doesn’t allow us to publish an entire installment; Charlie was known for his verbosity and often his contributions ran for two or three pages. Alas, the days of 148-page semi-monthly issues are long gone, so we offer here a few bits and pieces of Charlie’s “wisdom.” After this, let’s agree to allow ol’ Chas to rest in peace, shall we?
How to Start a Nursery
I can modestly say that I am purty well posted on nurserymen. I have talked with quite a few. I have been at a nursery or two in my time. In fack, I have even worked off and on at a nursery. So I have decided to go to work and rite it all out so the people can get the benefit of my ideas and probably it will be a help to all.
First I will explain how to get wholesale catalogs from all the different nurserymen so you can buy all the bushes and stuff cheap, or at practically nothing you might say.
First go to work and write a good snappy letter as follows to wit:
Gents: I have a good notion to start a big nursery. I have been raising pie plant for quite a few years so I am already practically a nurseryman now. I have the finest piece of land in the state which is 2 and 1/4 acers. It is right up agin the hard road which you will have to admit is pretty hard to beat for a location. And there aint no nursery within a good ways from my place. Plese send me prices on different stuff in lots of ten thous. of each in car loads. My wifes uncle worked in a nursery one spring and he is going to give me advice on it. I have already got some prices from some other wholesale nurserys so you will have to be low prices if you want to deal with me, etc.
There are several points in this letter that is mighty important. Always tell about getting wholesale prices from other nurserys. That always makes the nurseryman mad and he will be sure to send the holesale prices. Another good idear is to always ask for ten thous. lots of everything. This will be sure of a low price and then if you change your mind and decide to start off a little slower say with a dozen or so of a few kinds you will be able to see that the nurserymen dont get advantage of you. Then after you get prices, write to the one with the lowest prices and tell him you can buy at less than half of what he is asking. All of this may be a little work but remember a penny saved with worth while in any business.
Never send any money with your order but always get stuff charged so you can send in a report and get a reduction on your bill. Mostly likely the nurserymen will ask for references of places where you have bot stuff on tick. Send the name of the store where you buy your chicken feed, the name of the filling station where you are buying gas and then give a list of several relatives that you are on good terms with. Then give the name of the bank in your town. This is a big help. The chances are that if the banker is a friend of yours he will send a good recommendation even if you are a little behind with your note. This will generally fix everything with the nurseryman.
After the nursery stock comes in the spring send a letter right away as follows:
Gents: I have never been so disappointed in my life as when I got the shipment. The frate was over nine dollars and I could have got the stuff delivered right to my place with a truck from (so and so) for nothing. The stuff was all dried out and way undersized. I ordered honeysuckle 1 foot to 18 in. and out of the lot of 25, they was 2 that was only 10 inches and the rest was bearly a foot. On account of such poor packing another nurseryman seen the stuff and says I should not pay a cent for it as nothing will grow and I will be out my frate on it besides. I will have to send it back unless you cut the price in 1/2. Yours truly.
The chances are that the nurseryman will take your offer and then you will save about 1/2 on your stuff. When the bill is due, dont do nothing. Let the nurseryman write two or three times and then drop him a line as follows:
Gents: There is no good to get worked up over your bill. I have a good reputation for paying my bills and I will pay you so there is nothing to worry about. I have had some hard luck this spring so I will not be able to send the money until around the first of Sept. The money I was figuring on I had to use on acct. of one of my boys had his tonsils out and my woman recked the car and we had to trade it in. But I will pay you so dont worry.
You can write again about the first of October and get the bill extended to spring. And by that time you will be able to sell some of the stuff and then you will not have to pay out any of your own money at all and if the nurseryman gets nasty with you then you can send him the money and refuse to deal with him again and until he practically begs you to send him an order.
If you carry out these suggestions for a few years you will have a nursery full of stuff and then you can be holesale yourself.