AmericanFarm.com

Mountain Road Nursery holds grand opening

By CAROL KINSLEY

Mountain Road Nursery, a retail nursery located near Montpelier, Va., north of Richmond, quietly opened its doors a year ago, but kicked off the spring season this year with a grand opening on May 3. The ceremony included a tree planting rather than a ribbon cutting. Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Matthew J. Lohr assisted with the planting and gave the key note remarks, which were followed by tours, wine tastings and refreshments.
In a telephone interview, owner Christopher Day said he had grown up in the country, where his family had always had a garden. "Mom had flowers, and that continued my whole life," he said.
He wound up working for a pharmaceutical company, most recently at Warner-Lambert, but that wasn't enough. "I wanted to do something for me," he explained, so he started in the horticulture program at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. Taking classes part-time, he finished the program in 2009. Along the way, he did an internship at Strange's Garden Center in Richmond. He continued working there one day a week after he finished school. "I enjoyed it. I focused on the design side and did a few designs myself; however, I decided it was not a money maker for me. I considered going back to school to get a landscape architecture degree."
While surfing the web one day, Day came across a property in Montpelier. "You couldn't beat the price," he said. After more research, he learned it was a wet site because a drainage ditch used to dump water there. More research was required to see if he could put a nursery in and get a septic permit.
"Originally I planned just a little stand on the side of the road, but I needed an engineering plan. If I was going to make the investment, I might as well make it a real garden center. The rest is history."
Mountain Road Nursery opened April 16, 2011. Day worked with VDACS, which recommended holding off on a grand opening until everything was the way he wanted. "So the first year we opened quietly worked out the bugs and made sure we knew what we were doing," he said.
Since Day still works full time at his other job, his partner James Putrino has been a big help. This spring Putrino gave up his other part-time job and went full-time at the nursery. Day is involved in ordering and such things and works weekends; Putrino manages the place and keeps things going when Day is not there. Counting Day himself, there are six part-time employees, putting the nursery ahead of expectations.
With a focus on keeping things local, Mountain Nursery has had a "fantastic" spring. "I have to say the response from people in the community has been great," Day said. "They've been very supportive and understanding."
Day continued, “Buy Local is not simply a catch phrase at MRN,” says Day. “It is the way that we do business. Nearly all of our plants are sourced within the state of Virginia, with the majority of them being produced within Hanover County. Furthermore, we fully support protection of the local environment by only using natural fertilizers, with an additional goal of maintaining all of our plants without the use of chemical pesticides.”
Although it has a strong focus on rare and unusual species, MRN strives to serve all consumers with a wide range of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs.
"We're not a huge operation. We focus on different things that you can't find other places, such as heirloom and gourmet tomatoes. We put in a bunch of varieties and let people taste a few, then sell them plants to take home."
Some other "neat" plants that are growing right now are osmanthus, which has a holly look, butterfly bushes and a lot of native plants, including native azaleas. MRN also has two types of perennial lantana, Orange Crush and Pink Crush, which with care are said to survive the winter.
Day’s primary goals are to share his passion for gardening and landscaping, allay customer’s fears of trying something new and to become a valuable and trusted resource in the community for plants and planting information.
He surveyed the community before settling on business hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday, but he says "If the gate is open, we're open!"
MRN also began setting up a stand at My Manakin Farmer's Market on Broad Street in Manakin-Sabot on Saturday mornings. "We're selling the things we grow. It's helping to get our name out there. It's working pretty well; it's definitely helping with sales. People stop there then come to the nursery.”
Mountain Road Nursery is located at 16829 Mountain Road, Montpelier, Va. 23192.  Further details about the nursery can be found on its website: www.mountainroadnursery.com/.