How did the company get started?
Our initial family business was Bookcliff Gardens, which was started by my father, Ed Settle, in the early ‘70s. We left Bookcliff Gardens to start a landscape company and leased the property we’re on today, which has become the wholesale holding yard and retail store. In 1980, we acquired land north of Grand Junction to start a tree farm, even though we knew nothing about running a tree farm. After 20 years, we moved the tree farm west to Mack where we now grow on 100 acres. What started as a small holding area has become our main 19-acre nursery center, and we grow many of our own trees at the Mack tree farm.
What are your key markets?
Suppling perennials to the high country market was one of our first. Then we developed a perennial market for the more arid environments like Moab, Utah. Over the years, we’ve diversified to meet the wide ranging needs of customers from deserts to mountains, providing a good selection of trees, shrubs and perennials. Another good market for our trees is the Denver area.
What changes are you seeing in your plant orders?
We’re seeing a new demand from our high country clients for more flowering shrubs, like spirea and hydrangeas, that we previously didn’t think would work in their areas. Locally, we keep stressing the value of more drought-tolerant plants, although it’s a harder sell than you might think, even in the Grand Junction area. People still have a preference for colorful, showy plants, which are often those that require the most water. But, with the help of local architects, we continue sharing our message that native plants in particular can be just as appealing and much less water intensive.
What are some of your biggest challenges?
Labor is our number one challenge. We tried job sharing a few years ago with the corn growers in Olathe, but no longer go that route, since those laborers are now hard to come by, too. Our current workforce is built around younger people from high schools and colleges, but we have to adapt to their different work commitments, which makes scheduling difficult at times. Our second biggest challenge is inventory control. Although we are computerized, we still have to make accurate entries and be consistent—sometimes those things don’t happen the way they should.
What new plants are you trying?
We’ve been supplying more plants that we thought wouldn’t work here, like Red Yucca, which is a Zone 6 plant. Architects are pushing tree diversity and local foresters want to try new varieties, so we’re growing trees that are new for us, such as new varieties of elm, oaks like Burr and Chinkapin as well as maples like Norway.
What do you like most about being a CNGA member?
Lots of things—we’ve met so many good people through the networking that CNGA provides. We like learning about new products and all the great education we get from ProGreen. CNGA helps us get our name out in front of members and we value the lobbying and legislative work the association does on our behalf. The critical part for any member to get the most of your membership is to stay involved.