AlpineEco Nursery: High-Quality Plants for Wetland Restoration

Interview with Katy Wieczorek, Nursery Manager

What is the company’s history?

Alpine Eco Nursery Logo

  AlpineEco Nursery
  Buena Vista, Colo.

The founder and owner of the company, Andy Herb, is an ecologist who has been involved with restoration work for nearly 25 years. A point was reached where he was having difficulty in finding the plants he needed for his projects. He grew up in Buena Vista and his family owns 40 acres just north of town. With that land available, Andy started the nursery seven years ago with the goal of growing wetland and riparian plants for his jobs. With projects occurring throughout the state, Buena Vista has proved to be a good, central location from which to ship the plants.

Installation of willows on Peak 6 in Breckenridge

How do you grow wetland plants?

All of our plants are grown in containers. For the type of plantings we do in wetland and riparian restoration work, we need to maximize root length and depth so we use cones as our planting containers. As much as possible we use plant material that is collected from the project site so we’re assured of having plants that are well adapted to that environment. Once we have them growing in our cones, then they must survive the very harsh climate of the Buena Vista area, which can be very dry and windy with high temperature fluctuations, almost any time of the year. For some plants, they may be project ready in a few months, while starting plants from seed will take a year or more to reach the proper size. We take great pride in the quality of our plants and won’t ship any plants that have not completely rooted throughout the entire cone. This level of quality control insures that our plants will be ready to grow and thrive on our project sites.

What factors are helping to grow your business?

Amorpha fruticosa in a whale hut

The Clean Water Act has been a driving force for our business since it requires wetland restoration or creation if wetlands are disturbed or destroyed. We’re thankful that many of our local and state government agencies take environmental approaches that incorporate our plant material to improve the function of the environment, rather than just trying to make it look pretty. Clients across the region, including in mountain communities like Leadville, Crested Butte and Frisco, as well as along the Front Range in places like Fort Collins, Boulder and Colorado Springs use our plants for their projects. We can provide the hard-to-find plant material that is often required for their wetland mitigation requirements.

How is the labor situation affecting you?

Like many small mountain towns, we have a housing crisis that makes it very hard to get seasonal workers and we need about five. The problem stems from the high cost of housing, and that’s tough for seasonal help who want to be in this environment and may be willing to work hard, but just can’t afford to live here.

Overwintering willows at 8,000 feet

Do you incorporate sustainability into your business?

We do and it’s very important to us. We use organic pest control practices and natural fertilizers (vs. synthetic), and do not use systemic neonic pesticides.

New seedlings

Which CNGA membership benefit are you most excited about?

Before joining AlpineEco Nursery, I worked for many years at the Denver Botanic Gardens and became very familiar with CNGA. I think the thing we look forward to the most is getting involved with CNGA and making good connections. CNGA makes networking very accessible.