North Creek Nurseries is the type of company where ecologically responsible practices are just as important as profits, which is why it is the recipient of Greenhouse Grower’s Excellence in Sustainable Production award and is one of three finalists for 2016 Operation Of The Year.
Based in Landenberg, PA, North Creek’s mission is to propagate the finest quality plants that enhance the relationship between people and sustainable outdoor environments. As a wholesale propagation nursery, it specializes in growing perennials, ornamental grasses, ferns, vines, and shrubs, with an emphasis on native plant offerings geared toward the Eastern U.S. In addition to selling to wholesale growers and landscape contractors, North Creek supplies landscape architects, engineers, municipalities, nature centers, and ecologically driven design firms with landscape-worthy native plants.
Owner Steve Castorani started North Creek Nurseries in 1988 with partner Dale Hendricks. Over the years, Castorani, along with General Manager Tim McGinty and the North Creek team, have made significant contributions to the industry in plant propagation and production. Castorani is also one of the creators behind the American Beauties native plant brand. He is a firm believer in growing plants safely and sustainably.
North Creek Nurseries is a neonicotinoid-free growing facility with a well-established integrated pest management system. Beneficial insects are the frontline preventative control of choice. Low-toxicity, non-synthetic chemicals with short-term residual effects are the last resort when other more ecologically friendly methods fail.
Stewardship Is In North Creek’s DNA
North Creek Nurseries is a SITES (Sustainable Sites Initiative)-compliant grower under The American Society of Landscape Architect’s Initiative, meaning it voluntarily cuts down on waste, reduces chemical use, removes peat from certain soil mixes, conserves energy and water, and more, to meet SITES criteria. As a result, it supplies landscape plugs to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified engineers and landscapers for ecological installations involving storm water management, soil stabilization, landscape restoration, green roofs, and habitat establishment.
Education is also an important part of North Creek’s company values. The company has an entire team dedicated to ecological landscape solutions, which is just one of the many resources it offers to its customers. A living laboratory of extensive trial, demonstration, and pollinator gardens graces North Creek’s Landenberg propagation facility. These landscaped grounds provide a learning environment for industry professionals to study plant performance in bioswales, green roofs, living walls, rain gardens, and storm water management systems. New introductions trialed at North Creek help the company promote plants that stand the test of time.
Thirty brightly colored beehives dot North Creek Nurseries’ property. The bee colonies are not only good for the plants; they also help local beekeeper Walt Broughton increase populations of northern–hardy genetic strains of honeybees, bringing things full circle.
On top of running a busy growing operation, team members spend countless hours out in the community educating others about sustainable growing practices and assisting with habitat restoration. The company also supplies plants for ecological installations through community and municipal partnerships.
North Creek Serves Some High Profile Clients
The recently dedicated Oriole Garden at Camden Yards Stadium in Baltimore, MD, was just one project North Creek was involved in this year. Through the Grow Together Baltimore program, which works with local communities to create great green spaces and urban wildlife habitat for Baltimore residents, North Creek collaborated with The National Wildlife Federation, the Baltimore Orioles, and other organizations on the project. It supplied 12,000 plants and provided guidance on installation to help establish a native plant garden that will attract orioles and other wildlife to the area.
The company also supplied its signature Landscape Plugs for the Longwood Gardens Meadow Expansion in Kennett Square, PA, a project that received the 2015 Land Ethics Award from Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve in New Hope, PA, for the meadow’s use of native plants and its sustainable design protecting the environment. These are just two of the many projects North Creek has been involved in recently.
Sustainability Established, Bring On High-Tech
North Creek Nurseries also stepped in to a new era of growing for its customers with the recent completion of a state-of-the-art production facility. Completed early in 2015, the new installation consolidates 54,720 square-feet of growing space in to a gutter-connected greenhouse that houses a high-efficiency hydronic in-slab heating system, Visser irrigation booms, an energy shade curtain, and a head house with production and seeding lines, among other innovations. The new greenhouse, engineered and designed around continuous flow efficiencies principles, is the latest step in a lean flow integration process started in 2010 to help the company become more efficient and identify ways to cut waste, drive down shrink, and increase profit.
North Creek Nurseries has a strong team that will lead the way during this next phase in the company’s history. That includes the next generation of leaders, with 38 of 87 staff members under the age the age of 40. The future looks bright for them, as well as for the company.