Sunday Opinion:Local Growers; Independent Garden Centers

I shop almost every grower during the spring planting season within 15 miles of me, just to see what they have cooking,  as I plant annuals for the better part of 8 weeks every spring.   I have my favorites, no doubt.  As nearly all my waking hours are spent making landscapes and gardens, I’ve made relationships with growers.   Rick Brinks,  who grows Bordine’s annual crops,  and Fiona Brinks,  the Vice President of Bordines Nursery, have become friends of mine.  But that does not mitigate the fact that they grow a first rate crop well worth checking out. They make available a huge range of plants, so, so beautifully grown.  Their plant growing ranges in Grand Blanc are fueled in an  ecologically friendly way; what is not to love about this?  Their bio-mass heating system burns waste wood. The short version is that they are heating with a fuel that is less expensive-this savings in fuel gets passed along to customers, and they are recycling waste materials in a way that looks to the future.   The installation was an enormous expense to Bordines,  but they felt it was a good investment financially, and environmentally. I support this kind of thing in my industry.   Independent garden centers and gardeners alike  have a long , serious, and quiet history of commitment to “green” long before it became a media and marketing event.   With locations in Rochester, Clarkston, and Grand Blanc, Bordines is within reach of you.  Their greenhouses are a dream come true-shut your eyes, click your heels together 3 times.  When you open your eyes, you will be looking at a fabulous plant.   A  fabulous  plant  doesn’t appear like magic- I can attest to what they go through to deliver you a well grown plant-is such an important ingredient in any garden.  I can make almost anything grow-except columbines. But only in my dreams could I grow how Rick grows.  He routinely delivers magic. There is no taking a day off, when you are growing a crop.  If the alarm goes off at 3 am signaling a furnace out, you go.  Everything in nature can be frustrating, hostile,  unpredictable, and generally uncooperative-you just hope all four of these don’t happen all at the same time. He has an amazing patience for the whole process. He is a Dutchman whose family settled in Grand Rapids-ok-he has growing genes way better than the rest of us.   Fiona, English bred and born to parents with a long history of involvement in the plant industry, interprets the classic English love of plants and gardens from her own particular point of view. When I think about Bordines, I think about the two of them-and I like what I think.  Given the incredible effort it takes to produce a healthy and robust plant, its amazing how little they cost.  I don’t see them much at this time of year-and they don’t see me much.  Professional garden people have to put their lives on hold this time of year.  We stay friends, as we are in the same boat, rowing our hearts out.  Since I want Bordines to be there, growing great  plants,  I shop there-every chance I get. I think you should too.

Bogie Lake Greenhouse, owned by Mark and Patty Watkins, grows plants for me, custom.  We meet all winter long, reviewing new varieties, making changes, looking at numbers of plants. We review pictures, and make a plan for their new season.  I shop there a lot, as well I should.    They are obliging to a fault; they would deliver in the middle of the night if they thought it would help me.  Their plants are beautifully grown-their greenhouses are chock full of every annual you might expect, and more.  Mark grows unusual plants-too many to list here.  Their place exemplifies old fashioned service-but what they deliver is 21st century in quality and selection.  I have the run of his greenhouses at 5 am, should I want to-and more often than not, he meets me.  Their place is a genuine family business, start to finish.  The Mustang Mark drove to meet Patty, the night he proposed, is still parked on the nursery property-awaiting restoration, in a friendly ocean of road-side weeds.   Their place, south of M-59 on Bogie Lake Road, should be a destination for you.  If you go there often enough, you will want to learn names, and hear the stories.  I value relationships of a personal kind-you will get this from an independent garden center.

Telly’s Greenhouse features every very unusual perennial and tropical plant known to man (that would be George) and more-the property is packed. How he loves plants, and sees that his clients get them,  is astonishing.  I am on vacation when I go there-a busman’s holiday.   Their staff is completely knowledgeable and approachable;  Judy shops my place, and I shop hers. You really ought to meet her; ask for her. They have a very  sophisticated  selection of perennials, and roses;  they are always the first on the block with new plants.  Its not just a store; it’s an experience.

Ralph and Julie, from Julie’s Flowers sell plants at the Pontiac Farmers Market.  They are first rate growers, and cutting edge about what varieties they grow.  Every grower out there on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays during the growing season is first rate. I don’t need to tell you the names-just go there, every week, all season long, and you will be better for it.  So many growers all together-that part is handy.   Marlene Uhlianuk grows what she likes and believes in-no doubt you get a taste of her point of view when you shop there.  Herbs, unusual annuals and perennials, topiaries-whatever she is of a mind to grow.Later, fabulous heirloom tomatoes and potatoes and fresh herbs.    Her advice and opinion comes at no extra charge.   I have had a big love for her for many years. This place precedes, and outstrips any grocery store I know of.  Good plants, and good food, for you and your family.  I have no plans to do without her, or my greater nursery community, as I could not.

Every gardener has  their favorite haunts. The Michigan Gardener,  a monthly magazine detailing everything of any horticultural interest in Michigan,  is a great source for what nurseries might be near you, or interest you.  The magazine is free at your local nursery; their advertisers make it possible for you to have this resource at no charge.  I encourage you to take advantage of it.   Obviously we have a horticultural community-their magazine is devoted to it.  At the helm, two brothers who love gardens.  Read their magazine, and get to know them.

I have places I am keen about.  This does not mean there are not many other places out there deserving of your attention. No matter what places are special to you, the important thing is to shop there.  I like having choices;  diversity is good. We all live in such a frantic world; making something grow, and taking the time to appreciate it, and share it with friends and family,  is no mean accomplishment.  Support your nursery community;  shop them.  This constitutes stimulus in the real sense of the word.  If you are a gardener, I would advise you to quit reading the news, and spend that time checking out your nursery community.

Bogie Lake Greenhouses  1-248-887-5101


  1. Do you ever sleep?????

  2. Great picks … I love them all!(Life would be very dull without Marlene!)

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