Sheridan Nurseries was named Operation of the Year at Greenhouse Grower’s Evening of Excellence, held July 13, at Cultivate’15 in Columbus, Ohio. The company was also awarded for Excellence In Perennials Prouction, based on its reputation for plant quality and the activities the nursery has led and been a part of, both within its company and in the industry at large.
Sheridan Nurseries is Canada’s largest grower of hardy nursery plants and has been in business for more than a century, having opened in 1913.
The operation has two production facilities with a combined 900 acres, plus eight retail garden centers. Its Norval, Ontario, facility includes 83 acres and 340,000 square feet of heated production space. There, Sheridan grows annuals, perennials and vines and propagates its own nursery stock liners. Woody plants, including trees, shrubs, evergreens and broadleaf evergreens, are produced at its Glen Williams, Ontario, container and field nursery, which has more than 162 acres in container production.
Sheridan Nurseries’ customers include independent garden centers, landscape professionals, government and mass merchants throughout northeastern North America, from Minnesota to Newfoundland.
“Our industry is changing, and to keep up with that change, you need to be on the forefront of technology and industry leading initiatives,” says CEO Karl Stensson. “Our senior leaders are accountable for their successes and are empowered to make decisions to improve our business practices and grow our business.”
Because Sheridan is vertically integrated from propagation to retail, the operation can complete trials on new products and packaging formats. Over the past 100 years, Sheridan has introduced more than 30 new cultivars into the marketplace.
Sheridan Nurseries has always been involved in industry organizations, and is a founding member of Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, Canadian Nursery Landscape Association and Landscape Ontario. It also sponsors the Dunington Grubb Award for outstanding landscape installation by Landscape Ontario members.
When boxwood blight was introduced to the industry, Sheridan took the lead working in conjunction with the University of Guelph pest diagnostic department and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to develop the proper handling protocol, and then shared these best practices with industry associations and growers. Sheridan continues to work with Vineland Research Station and the University of Guelph’s horticulture department to test plant growth utilizing optimal fertilizer rates to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the use of peat moss in growing media.
Sheridan Nurseries also makes it a priority to donate to causes throughout greater Toronto, especially those with a focus on children in need, such as Children’s Wish Foundation and Upopolis. The business also hosts a program called Little Diggers, which inspires children to engage in horticulture, and sponsors school greening activities through its Growing Up Green fundraiser. The operation also partners with Princess Margaret ‘Plants for a Cure’ program, in which a contribution from each plant sold in the program is donated directly to the Princess Margaret hospital.
“We have always been leaders and innovators in the Canadian market,” Stensson says. “In 1998, we were recognized as being one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Private Companies. We have survived the Great Depression, two World Wars and many other downturns in the economy. In fact, during this last recession, our staff set out at being the best at what we do.”
As a result, Sheridan Nurseries was awarded the Nursery Grower of the Year in 2012 and 2013 by the Canadian Nursery and Landscape Association and the AIPH International Grower of the Year for an unprecedented two times. Also, two of Sheridan’s garden centers were awarded Garden Center of the Year in Canada.
“To be nominated for Greenhouse Grower’s Operation Of The Year will tell our staff that we are on the right track and that their innovation, creativity and demonstrated industry leadership is valued and recognized by our peers,” Stensson said after initially learning of the nomination. “The value of that knowledge is priceless when it comes to encouraging staff with the necessary drive to win.”