Nursery owner cultivates quality
CHRISTIANSBURG — Many people from across the country have made flowers a traditional Mother’s Day gift.
For more than three decades, many New River Valley residents have made Third Day Nursery in Christiansburg their traditional venue for making that gift possible.
Sunday will mark the 32nd Mother’s Day that Doug Walsh has celebrated as owner of the four-greenhouse nursery on Roanoke Street, which has a reputation he literally builds each season with his own two hands.
Walsh began working at the nursery, formerly called Christiansburg Lawn and Garden, while he was working toward a degree in forestry at Virginia Tech, which he completed in 1979.
In 1981, he and partner Bob Kessler purchased the nursery, renaming it Greenspier Nursery until Walsh bought out Kessler’s portion of the business in 1991.
Looking for a fresh start, Walsh decided to hold a contest in which people were asked to suggest a new name for his business.
“You can’t imagine how many ‘Green Thumb’ postcards we got,” Walsh said.
In the end, it was Grace Stinchcomb who suggested the name “Third Day Nursery,” paying homage to the day God created the Earth’s vegetation, according to the Genesis creation account.
Though such a religious statement could stimulate a variety of emotions among potential costumers, Walsh said that doesn’t worry him at all.
“We don’t care if it helps or hurts business, that’s not the goal,” Walsh said. “The goal is to honor God.”
Although the name might make them stand out, it’s the unique nature of Walsh’s care of his plants that sustainable horticulturist and agriculture consultant Barry Robinson credited for the nursery’s longevity.
Walsh creates his own custom blend of soil containing the clay compound Weblite and mineral Vermiculite.
The Weblite allows for the soil to hold nutrients longer than typical potting soil due to its high ionic exchange capacity. The Vermiculite, which is a more commonly used element in soils, gives it a sparkling appearance.
According to Walsh, he used to purchase a similar blend in Salem, but by 1983, that blend had stopped being manufactured, forcing him to look elsewhere.
As luck would have it, former Virginia Tech professor Luben Spassoff, whose wife was a frequent visitor of the nursery, guided Walsh on where to get the minerals and how to create the blend by hand.
Today, Walsh said he spends about 40 hours throughout the growing season working to keep a fresh batch of his custom blend on hand.
Robinson, who has worked in professional agriculture for more than 20 years, said hand blending is a very unique feat.
“I don’t think I’ve been anywhere where I’ve seen anyone blend it by hand,” Robinson said.
Simply knowing the proper minerals to use doesn’t ensure a quality product, Robinson said.
The real trick is figuring out the proper consistency and proportions of the soil’s elements.
“It really is tough to get a balance. …There is a fine line,” Robinson said.
Robinson said that over the years, Walsh has mastered a blend of soil that allows for water and nutrients to withhold just long enough to sustain it, but also drain quickly enough to avoid becoming soggy and causing problems such as root rot.
Such attention to detail is one reason Robinson said Walsh’s plants rarely have problems and why he believes Walsh’s customers remain loyal.
“With him being there and doing this himself, he really knows his plants,” Robinson said.
“The bottom line is when someone takes that plant home, they are more likely to have success with it.”
Knowing that Walsh takes such care of his product is one reason Tom Dunkenberger of Shawsville said he has been purchasing plants there for more than 25 years.
“He always raises them with tender, loving care,” Dunkenberger said. “I’ll continue to deal with him till either I pass away or he quits [the business].”
Of course some of every plant’s success depends on its new home life, so Walsh is more than happy to share a few simple tips on plants.
Walsh said the most common reason many plants fail is because they are either over- or under-watered. He added that the best way to avoid either of these is to wait until the plant has just become dry before watering it again, and he added that very few plants can tolerate being wet all the time.
He also said that because the plant will need to remain fertilized, he suggests fertilizing it with each watering, mainly because it makes missing a feeding a lot less likely.
With one of his biggest selling weekends on the horizon, Walsh was also happy to share some gift-giving advice.
For about $20, a person can purchase one of the nursery’s 10-inch hanging annuals, which are made up of six plants and feature three colors.
Walsh said with daily water and fertilizer, these self-cleaning plants could last Mom well into the fall.
Third Day Nursery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is located at 3290 Roanoke St.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643
No Comments »
No comments yet.