How did Britton Nursery come to be?
Our company was the vision of Al Britton Sr., who wasn’t a nurseryman by vocation (he was a tax accountant), but a dreamer of possibilities. In 1978, Al Britton Jr. bought the current 6.5-acre property and the company incorporated in 1979. Although Al had wanted to build a nursery complete with trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, it became apparent there just wasn’t enough space to do all of that. By 1998, the operation had streamlined its inventory by eliminating woody plants and focused just on perennials, which made the best use of the space at hand. Currently, our 1.5 acres of irrigated space produces about 135,000 #1 perennials on the ground.
What is unique about your perennial production?
We keep our nursery full all of the time and turn our inventory about 2.5 times a year. Contrary to some nursery strategies, we overwinter a good amount of our perennials. Not only does that improve our plants’ hardiness, but it gives us a quick start in the spring to get our plants out to customers who otherwise might have to wait for other suppliers’ perennials to grow. To ensure that our plants make it through the very unpredictable weather of our winter and spring months, we use frost blankets extensively to stabilize temperatures.
How would you describe the culture of Britton Nursery?
We owe our current culture to Al (Jr.) and Lana Britton. They shaped the values we aspire to and gave us the model by which we treat our employees and customers. It really comes down to nurturing relationships and taking a genuine interest in the people involved with our business. As Al used to say, we “look for the treasure in people.” We value our time together with our employees and share a lot of fun, storytelling and happy hours. We extend this approach to our customers as well. One great benefit of our culture is that our employees feel very connected to this place and the work they do. That’s why even many of our seasonal workers come back year after year – and that is healthy for any company!
What changes have you seen as a result of COVID?
For our industry, the big change is the increase in demand for our plants. That’s a direct result of people who had to stay home and spent money on their landscapes. It’s carrying over to this year, too, as the same people are still interested in gardening. I think we’re seeing ‘preemptive gardening’ where people are expanding what they did last year, but getting an earlier start. We’ve gotten off to a very strong start this year, even better than last year. But we’re seeing some negative effects, too. Availability for certain supplies remains very tight, freight costs have risen, and prices for materials have skyrocketed, particularly in the realm of plastics – trays, containers, packs, etc.
What do you like best about being a CNGA member?
For us, it’s about the friendships and partnerships we have with our fellow members. It’s like we’re part of a fleet of horticulture companies, each with its own character and personality, and who are willing to share, collaborate and sustain long-term friendships. The comradery is very dear to us.
Note: To learn more about Britton Nursery and meet their people, plan to attend the Member BBQ that will be hosted by Britton on July 29. Check the Events section of CNGA’s website for details.