Greer Gardens Story
GREER GARDENS HISTORY
moved his family from Colorado to Oregon in 1952 to enjoy the milder weather of
the Pacific Northwest. At the time the former insurance company executive
didn't realize he had relocated to a climate perfect for cultivating the
dazzling flower that would make his name synonymous with horticultural
settling in Eugene, Edgar began collecting roses, fuchsias, chrysanthemums and a
plant he had never seen or even heard of the rhododendron.
Harold was just a boy when his family began acquiring plants. The
youngster with a knack for science quickly found a way to combine his botanical
curiosity with a burgeoning appreciation for beauty.
At 7, Harold
began hybridizing rhododendrons -- taking the pollen of a male flower and
placing it on the female stigma of another plant. His first attempt at the
extremely challenging process was a colossal failure and belied the enormous
success that would follow.
"I just picked
out the two rhodies that bloomed first for my first cross," Harold recalls. "one
was a lepidote and the other was an elepidote. of course, they're incompatible.
But that's how little I knew at the time."
Harold kept on
experimenting with rhododendrons and when he was only 15, he created a hybrid
that he named Trude Webster in honor of a family friend. In 1971 the
American Rhododendron Society presented the hardy, pastel pink rhododendron with
the society's first Superior Plant Award.
landscape architecture at the University of Oregon and then launched Greer
Gardens in 1972 after the death of his father. The nursery -- an outgrowth
of that fortuitous move to Oregon -- is today an international seller of rare
and unusual plants, and Harold, the president of the business, is a world
authority on rhododendrons.
Greer's Guide to Available Rhododendrons, has sold 30,000 copies and is
now in its third edition. The book is illustrated with pictures from
Harold's horticultural photography, which have appeared in numerous books and
magazines, including the cover of the Smithsonian.
Greer Gardens has gained a reputation as the gold standard for quality in
plants. To gardening experts and hobbyists from around the country, a trip
to the family business operated by Harold and his wife Nancy is something of a
nursery and display garden that originated with backyard sales of a few extra
plants to friends has grown into an enterprise offering over 4,500 different
plants and an inventory virtually unmatched by breadth of varieties and sizes.
Besides a brisk
local trade, Greer Gardens does a thriving catalog business with customers
residing in every state in the US and in many foreign countries, from Sweden to
Australia and from Canada to Japan. The Greer Gardens catalog, begun as a
sketchy mailing to a handful of clients in 1968, has developed into a 160-page,
illustrated publication, regarded as a reference for plantsmen throughout the
focus of Greer Gardens is developing an informative and functional Web site and
integrating it with the office to make all aspects of customer service even more
timely and efficient. At the same time, the nursery continues a
time-honored commitment to bringing new and unusual plants to its customers here
and around the globe.