North Creek Nurseries Is Cultivating A Niche In Natives

North Creek Nurseries Is Cultivating A Niche In Natives

If growing plants with a purpose is the future of gardening and landscaping, North Creek Nurseries is ahead of the curve by producing perennials that are not only beautiful but highly functional.

The nursery specializes in perennials, ornamental grasses, ferns and vines with an emphasis on plants that are native to the eastern United States and their cultivars. In addition to promoting plants that attract birds and butterflies or repel deer, demonstration gardens at the Landenberg, Pa., farm show how plants are used for stormwater management by creating rain gardens and bioswales or meadows that serve as buffers for constructed wetlands. A living roof and green wall near the homey office show how these can be constructed in a residential setting.

North Creek was founded in 1988 by Steve Castorani and Dale Hendricks to provide starter plant plugs to wholesale nurseries and retail mail-order businesses. Its trademarked Landscape Plugs are used in restoration projects and by highway departments, municipalities and conservation societies. Castorani became the primary owner in 2009. He and his wife also own Gateway Garden Center in nearby Hockessin, Del.

The Landenberg farm used to be a mushroom farm and has 32 quonset-style greenhouses on 17 acres. The 28-acre farm in Oxford, Pa., used to be owned by Yoder-GreenLeaf and came with a 3-acre greenhouse range. Between the two farms, North Creek produces 7 to 8 million plugs. Plants that are grown to maturity are finished and shipped out of Oxford. All plugs are grown in standard 10- by 20-inch flats in sizes ranging from 72 to 18. Landscape plugs are sizes 38 and 32 and are also ideal for growers who would like to finish in larger pots for a quick turn.

The crop mix spans 409 perennials, 25 ferns, 64 ornamental grasses and six vines. For retailers, North Creek offers a custom line of pot tags with gorgeous photography of plants taken in its gardens. “If you want to sell, you have to have good photography,” Castorani says.

In North Creek’s catalog, plants are listed botanically and then sorted by purpose/conditions – sun or shade; dry, moist or wet soils; bloom time; deer resistance; rain gardens; xeriscapes; green roofs; woodlands; meadows; groundcovers; and butterfly attractants. Seventy percent are considered native plants. A number of plants are unique to North Creek, including a hardy native orchid, Spiranthes cernua odorata ‘Chadd’s Ford’ and a less aggressive solidago ‘Solar Cascade.’

Building A National Brand

The American Beauties Native Plants brand began with a dare from a fellow grower six years ago. “It was a challenge from Mark Sellew of Prides Corner Farm, mister brand, at New England Grows,” Castorani says. “He said you guys are the native plant guys and need a brand with a charitable cause.”

North Creek started regionally, serving its market in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, and the charitable beneficiaries were the Delaware Nature Society and National Wildlife Federation, which promotes gardening to create backyard habitats.

The idea is to take the guesswork out of selling native plants, as more consumers come to garden centers asking for them. The collections also appeal to consumers who would like to plant a butterfly garden, bird garden or a rain garden. Options for dry shade are indicated, too.

The brand is now national and backed by finished plant growers in key regions: Prides Corner, Midwest Groundcovers, Willoway Nursery, Quality Greenhouses, Nashville Natives and Fisher Farms. Plants selected must be appropriate to the region. Spring Meadow Nursery also offers American Beauties native shrubs.

Retailers receive branded kits with more than 50 varieties of native perennials, ornamental grasses, ferns and vines. Each plant comes in a light green branded container with the American Beauties Native Plants logo and a large, fact-filled tag on a stake. The cost of the kit is $1.18 per plant, which includes a 30-cent marketing royalty. Each plant sold benefits the National Wildlife Federation (NWF.org) Bench tape and brochures support the merchandising at retail. For more on this program, visit ABnativeplants.com.

A Sustainable Path

North Creek’s mission is to propagate and market plants that develop the relationship between people and sustainable outdoor environments with a vision to be the leader in developing sustainable horticultural systems. This approach requires a high level of plant and landscape expertise, and many of these plants, which aren’t widely available commercially, can be more difficult to produce. But leading in a less crowded market brings rewards. “We get a good margin,” Castorani says. “There’s less competition, and instead of churning and burning, we get a fair price.”

Leave a Reply

More From Plant Culture...
Double Whammy Merchandise Display At CAST2015

May 28, 2015

Grow Inspiration To Grow The Horticulture Industry

We need to work together as the horticulture industry to inspire and instruct consumers with our plant knowledge and marketing expertise.

Read More
Plant-Select_for-web

May 28, 2015

PlantSelect.org And FindPlants.net Assist Consumers With Growing And Finding Plants

The recently launched PlantSelect.org and FindPlants.net websites offer growing and maintenance tips, where-to-buy information and design ideas to help consumers have success with growing and finding plants.

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

May 27, 2015

Cal-Poly Students And Faculty Ask Industry To Help Save Horticulture Facilities

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential, and/or recreational space. According to a letter from Scott Steinmaus, the horticulture and crop science department head, the proposed changes directly affect the current orchard plantings and other long term plans for the department. The department is committed to making sure that its facilities remain invaluable teaching environments that enable its students to learn about crop, fruit and horticulture production, food safety and pest protection, in addition to providing sites for externally funded research projects that benefit the industry. Industry members are invited to submit comments to the university. According to Steinmaus, a recent eMail to the Cal-Poly community from the university president indicates that all of the input gathered through the end of May will be studied by the planning […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Bee on a Sedum

March 17, 2015

4 Key Pollinator Research Projects To Be Funded By Hort…

The Horticultural Research Institute will grant $125,000 in financial support for four key projects as part of the Horticultural Industry Bee & Pollinator Stewardship Initiative. The Initiative has three primary goals. First, to convene a task force to develop a bee and pollinator stewardship program, including creation of best management practices for plant production. Second, to identify and fund research that will help answer key science questions and fill gaps needed to design and refine the stewardship program. Third, to seek to positively position the horticultural community and its customers by collaborating with other compatible groups interested in augmenting pollinator habitat and protection.

Read More

March 11, 2015

Pollinator Initiative Promotes Bee-Friendly Talking Poi…

AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists are working tirelessly with the ornamental industry's Pollinator Stewardship Initiative on a number of new projects.

Read More

February 11, 2015

Infusion Technology Boosts Seed Performance, Study Sugg…

Seven-year-old wheat seed germination can increase by as much as 83 percent, according to a Vital Force Technology Study that looks at the effects of energy infusion technology on plant vitality.

Read More

February 3, 2015

American Floral Endowment Accepting Research Pre-Propos…

If you are pursuing a floriculture research project, now is the time to apply for funding through the American Floral Endowment. Research pre-proposal applications for 2015-2016 funding are due to AFE by June 1, 2015.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Marijuana’s Trajectory And Ascent To Horticultural Cr…

Marijuana growing is poised for change as growers and researchers focus on improving production practices.

Read More

December 9, 2014

Greenhouse Production: Two Years Of Basics & Beyond…

Greenhouse Grower's Basics & Beyond articles cover some of the latest news and research going on in greenhouse production. Here are article links for the last two years.

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

November 24, 2014

GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile &…

The social garden app GrowIt! takes the Gold Winner award at the design100 2014 Mobile & App Design Awards.

Read More

November 10, 2014

The Perennial Farm Joins HGTV HOME Plant Collection

The Perennial Farm joins the HGTV HOME Plant Collection growers' network for 2015.

Read More
AmericanHort

November 4, 2014

AmericanHort Publishes Revised American Standard For Nu…

AmericanHort announces the revised American Standard for Nursery Stock (ANSI Z60.1) is now available for industry use. The Standard reflects the consensus of the industry regarding how nursery stock — living plants other than annuals — should be specified and sold within the trade.

Read More

September 26, 2014

Master The Art Of Watering

Watering is elemental to healthy plants, but one of the hardest concepts for new employees to master in the greenhouse. Recommend these tips to start them off right.

Read More

September 16, 2014

Ball FloraPlant’s Las Limas Facility Provides Gro…

Ball FloraPlant’s Las Limas farm in Esteli, Nicaragua, is one year away from full production, but sales and quality from the two-year-old facility are right on track.

Read More
Erysimum 'Cheers' from Darwin Perennials

September 15, 2014

Darwin Perennials Takes Production Offshore In Bogota, …

With its recent purchase of a farm in Colombia, Darwin Perennials is ready to amp up supply of its perennial genetics, to provide growers with tried-and-true varieties and comprehensive production specifications.

Read More

July 23, 2014

Plan Now To Prevent Bract Edge Burn On Poinsettias

Reduce fertilizer and water, and allow your poinsettias to develop slowly during the final four weeks of production to avoid bract edge burn.

Read More

July 11, 2014

Growing Your Crops Above Their Base Temperature

Lowering temperature set points in the greenhouse may help you combat rising heating costs.

Read More

May 1, 2014

Growers Report Nutritional Problems On Geraniums

In recent weeks, several growers have contacted Michigan State University Specialists about leaf discoloration on geraniums, especially the purpling of lower leaves.

Read More

April 22, 2014

How Two Postharvest Care Products Worked On Potted Plan…

What your potted plants look like at retail translates to sales or fails. North Carolina State University researchers report on how two postharvest care products performed.

Read More
Dianthus 'Passion' from Emerald Coast Growers

March 27, 2014

Growing Dianthus Successfully

Here's some advice on transplanting and producing this classic perennial favorite.

Read More
Aquilegia canadensis

March 10, 2014

Tips For Producing Aquilegia

Advice on planting, temperature, vernalization, lighting and more on columbine from Emerald Coast Growers' head grower Josiah Raymer.

Read More