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Looking for a classy garden statue?

Well…I’m afraid I can’t help you much with that.

         But plants?

         Now that’s my realm!

Hi, I’m Nathan Carmichael.  Welcome to my nursery!

 

 

 

 

I’m a hometown guy…raised right here on the hill.

The 7-year-old dirt magnet that loved watching things grow is still around. I’ve just scaled up a bit!

Age 7 ~ I'm a seed magnet. Just can't pass up those store displays!

March 30, 2012

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May 10, 2013

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April 10, 2015

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Folks that come to my sales are curious about my “backyard” setup. I’m often asked, “Do you have a greenhouse?” ( that’s what nurseries do, right?)

Well, I’m not exactly typical. I like to keep things simple. My plants are grown outside in the good ole sunshine, wind, and rain – just like at your house.

Every year I start thousands of baby plants from “scratch” – by seed, cuttings, or division. I also ramp up the choices by buying in small starts to grow out.

If you’re like me, you don’t want to have to coddle your plants and beg them to grow. That’s why I aim for the kinds of shrubs, trees, and perennials that can handle the yo-yo weather of East Tennessee and hardly miss a beat.

And the best part is…you don’t have to own a golden goose to shop here!  My place is chock full of $5.97 plants!

 

But, what you see here on sale days is just one part of the nursery.

  The real magic begins way over on the other side . . .283 paces up the hill, past the chicken coop, and through the gate, to . . .

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the quieter side of the nursery.

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Many of my days are spent out under the maple trees potting up plants (you’ll notice that I sit like this a lot). After each batch I give them a dose of slow release fertilizer and a drink of water and cart them off in my trusty wagon. Oftentimes the real trick is finding a place to put them all. They’ll stick around for awhile to grow and fill in, before I’m satisfied that they are sale worthy.

 

 

 

 

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These little birds nested in the Andorra Spruce in one of the grow beds. The mama seemed to trust me well enough and I made a point not to water them.

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Over on the left are all of the cuttings I rooted last year, They are really starting to green up after a long winter’s nap. I need to get them settled into the grow beds by late spring, so I can get going on making new crop of baby plants.

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The ground around here is pretty much just clay – not exactly what you want to dig in when you’ll be cycling thousands of plants in and out.  I used the boards from an old deck that I dismantled to build my raised beds and then filled them with topsoil.  Finally, I got the first plants in the ground – 300 Dwarf Alberta Spruce.

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One plant at a time gets it done – eventually.

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Once I get a section finished then I mulch around each tiny plant. It’s a bit tedious, but it really makes a big difference in holding the moisture in.

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Keeping it simple.

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Some of my rooted cuttings and young plants are sold wholesale to other growers. That means digging, packing, and shipping within 24 hours in order for them to get to their destinations in good shape.

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By late spring I go into full blown propagation mode – taking cuttings from each named variety of shrub and evergreen that I have. I only work on one variety at a time, and label as I go, so that each plant is properly identified. It’s all about timing and judging when the branches are just right – too new, and they just flop … too thick and woody, and they don’t want to root.

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 Each cutting gets stripped of its bottom leaves, trimmed a bit, dipped in rooting solution, and stuck one by one into  a tray of damp sand. Some are easier to handle than others – with Barberry being the worst. Those tiny thorns are hard to get out of fingers!

 

 

 

As soon as the tray is filled up I put it in the shade where the cuttings are automatically misted at timed intervals throughout the day. To give them a chance to root it’s important that the leaves don’t dry out, but the sand doesn’t stay waterlogged either.

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Though most of the cuttings stay in the sand flats till at least next spring I have to keep my eye on them as they start to root  so I can adjust how much mist they’re getting. Some bask in the consistent moisture, while others start to balk unless they’re moved to the outer edge or even left dry most of the day.

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Gotta keep the dog watered too!

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There’s no such a thing as being caught up on potting.

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By the end of July the new plants are filling out nicely and the whole nursery is lush green.

 

 

 

 

As much as this looks like a one man show, I’m grateful to have a great big family sized support team -Dad, Mom, seven brothers and sisters, and Grandpa & Grandma. You’ll likely get a glimpse of at least one or two of them when you’re here.

They’re always eager to pitch in – I can’t even begin to count all the ways. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them!

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The grass is always greener on the other side. These four-legged weed eaters are just itching to prune my plants. So far there have been no break-ins (otherwise you’d have heard my yell, into the next county).

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I start several kinds of perennials by seed every year, but find them to be rather fickle. However, I have absolutely no trouble with weed seeds. I’m sure their germination rate is 110%!

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The hosta beds were stuffed full so it’s was time to divide them and make more. Boy it was hot that day! I rigged up a quick shade from an old sheet.

My youngest brother,Paul, liked the job of swishing the roots around in the bucket of water to get the dirt off.

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One of the perks of my job.

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Yep, still potting.

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  This is my favorite view of the nursery. I climbed the maple tree with the camera (Mom didn’t want to). I love seeing the neat rows laid out.

 

In the late fall  I spend a few days stocking up on hardwood mulch. I need to stay at least a year ahead on the pile so it has time to break down into dark coarse “dirt” just right for potting.

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“Character building” at age 6

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. . . and still getting plenty of practice!

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 My first mulch pile was a mere ant hill compared to . . .

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18 truckloads per year!

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Potted plants hate sitting around in soggy roots.To help them breathe better I add perlite to help fluff up the dirt and let the water drain through. It looks like bits of styrofoam, but its actually a volcanic glass product (someday when you’re really bored you can read more about it on the internet). I got a lot of looks when I was driving through town with this load.

 

 

Sometime before Christmas, after a few hard freezes to make sure the plants are dormant, I tuck some of them into hoop houses (made of white plastic over pvc pipe frames). These aren’t heated, they just help hold in moisture and protect the potted plants (which are more vulnerable since they are not in the ground) from the drying winter air. I also have to remember to add mouse bait. Otherwise the sneaky little rodents tell all of their friends that the Garden View Motel has cozy accommodations and a breakfast buffet!

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I’m so glad we have four seasons. Winter gives a welcome break from the normal outdoor tasks. That gives me time to catch up on paperwork and all kinds of odds and ends that get pushed aside during warm weather’s tyranny of the urgent. Researching and planning for the coming season is a biggie. I’m always looking for new plants to try and for ways to improve the nursery.

 

 

And what does a nurseryman ask for for Christmas? My sisters insisted that it be wrapped. There were plenty of wild “guesses” as to what it might be. Lots of fun!

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 By the time February rolls around it’s time to get back to it. I only have a short window of time to get all the plants dug out of the grow beds. That way there is little damage to the plants since they are still dormant. Then it’s back to the ole routine of potting and packing up orders to ship out.

This is what the nursery looks like after days of digging. That little patch of sticks in the foreground is where I stuck my hardwood cuttings during the winter. A few kinds of plants don’t follow the crowd. Instead they root slowly from woody sticks “planted” when it’s cold.

And before you can blink an eye it’s spring again . . .

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with 101 things to get done!

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Remember all of those great landscaping ideas you’ve had rolling around in your head?

Now you can make it happen!

 

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           See you at the sale.

I’ll even let you use my wagon!