Thursday, February 24, 2011

A visit to Bates Garden Center...“Beautifying Nashville since 1932”

(part of our November trip to Nashville, Tennessee) My in-laws were kind enough to plan a nursery stop as part of the agenda for our visit. I was beyond thrilled! What a great opportunity to get a glimpse at the local gardening scene via one of the most established nurseries in the area! From their website: “In 1932, at the height of the great depression, Bessie Bates embarked on a most visionary and, at the time, seemingly dubious quest. She convinced a skeptical Byron Bates that they should mortgage their house for $200.00 in order to buy cinder block, lumber and glass to build a "hot house" to grow plants in. The Fall of '32 looked grim. Byron was still convinced they would lose everything they owned. "At least we had a home once", he was heard to say. But Bessie persisted. Bessie Bates was so persistent with her love of growing plants and the love of people, that the five year mortgage was paid off after the first spring season in 1933. Byron Bates was then heard to exclaim, "Look what we have done!"” Don’t you just love that story?

Of course we weren’t visiting during the height of the growing season. In fact they were winding things down during our visit. I must admit seeing these toasted (frostbitten) agaves near the front entrance had me wondering what I was in for. Luckily things looked up after that. Chasmanthium latifolium Amsonia 'Blue Ice' They had a great selection of Mahonia, this one Mahonia x 'Winter Sun. They were all referred to as Oregon Grape Holly. All of a sudden I felt my home state pride swelling (dumb but true). Mahonia 'Soft Caress' (Mahonia eurybracteata)…at the point that I saw this one in November I was still lusting after this plant, I ended up purchasing one in December. Cephalotaxus prostrate, or Japanese Plum Yew. Pretty. My people! Look at those fabulous mature Yucca! And the grasses… These empty greenhouses alluded to the amazing variety of plants that must be available here in the growing season. Prunus persica, Patio Peach, I had no idea Peach trees were so gorgeous! Bates Nursery was heavily marketing Monrovia. The only nursery at home that I’ve seen this level of Monrovia branding at is Shorty’s in Vancouver, WA. They also had an interesting marketing program that I’d never seen before, that is teaming with the local lifestyle magazine Southern Living and their plant collection: Inside the nursery building was where I finally located their healthy agaves. Here we have a fine looking Kissho Kan (gallon size) for $19.99. The smaller agaves were all only $5.99. Of course this is where I started to rationalize what I could send home, fit in my luggage, etc… I ended up buying none of them and have regretted it ever since. My main regret is this one; I believe it may be either Agave titanota or Agave Felipe Otero. It was unlabeled, and those are my best guesses. For $5.99 I should have tried to get it home. These agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ were labeled as “sp annual” and only $9.99!!! Those were gallon sized pots! Oh how I wanted them all. And of course this beautiful specimen Dasylirion longissimum, was AMAZING and at only $208.99 I wasn’t the slightest bit tempted. So, that was my visit to a historic Nashville nursery, someday I hope to go back in season, I imagine this is one hustle and bustle filled place!


  1. There's a lot of interesting plants the different textures and foliage shapes...I would have been in the 5 dollar range myself.

  2. That Kissho Kan is a stunner, as is your closing shot. I can't decide between liberating or frustrating when visiting nurseries in other to do it this way (vicariously)...Thanks!

  3. Nice garden center indeed, but ouch it hurt to see those unprotected Agaves turned to mush.

    Next time just bare-root the plant and bring it home. ;^)

  4. Darla, I wish I could go back and see them in spring...

    ricki, it certainly is cheaper this way!

    Hoover, I thought about going that route but since we weren't checking luggage and I was already using a bit of space in my husbands bag I had no room!


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