Guilford Garden Center first opened its doors in 1963, serving the fast-growing area of the northern and Guilford College areas of Greensboro, NC. Dedicated to providing only the highest quality plants and gardening equipment, Guilford Garden also has a deep commitment to providing the area’s best customer service. This means getting to know our customers personally and understanding their needs. It means taking the time to ask the right questions so our customers have the right tools and products to make their garden successful.
About Christina Larson, Owner
At first glance, it seems like a huge leap from a career in the restaurant business to a garden center owner. True, I did retire in December 2016 from nearly 40 years in the restaurant industry, a career I loved. But then one day barely a month later, I received notice that Guilford Garden Center was on the market. So much for retirement! I knew that blending my love of gardening with my business knowledge and leadership experience would make for the perfect fit. A few calls and visits with Chuck Voight, his family and representatives to negotiate the details, and here I was, holding the keys, right at the end of the busy spring season!
My parents were business owners in a field they loved, too, for a time. I had hoped to join them after college (we figured that my Marketing degree would come in handy), but it didn’t work out. That gene that has lied dormant all these years has now leapt into action.
Gardening is not just a love of mine, more a passion. Ok, an obsession. Let’s just put that out there. In the past 5 years or so I’ve attended dozens of classes, workshops, and events through multiple outlets that I’ve outlined below with links to their websites for your convenience. The learning and experience turned me from hobbyist with more failures than successes into a serious plant geek:
••• Ellen Ashley, garden writer and consultant, was for a time teaching classes at her Summerfield home. In the garden. What could be better than that?! My first encounter was through a Groupon she put out for a discounted class. I took “Shade Gardening” that year, and immediately went home and installed one with lots of Hosta, Ferns, Azaleas, Hellebores, and more lovely plants that thrive in the cool understory of the hardwoods that line the perimeter of my back yard. The next year I took Ellen’s whole series of classes. Just fabulous! She ignited a passion for even more learning in me, which led to my involvement with NC Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener program, and the Guilford Horticultural Society. Here are links to Ellen’s Learn to Garden Blog, and her recent profile in 1808. (photo: Derrick Brady)
••• The next year, I applied for the Master Gardener Volunteer program, and jumped in with both feet. The series of classes are described as like taking a college course every week for 3 months – an accelerated challenge, for sure, and with the latest research-based information out of NC State University and NC A&T University, it’s updated regularly, so most of us continue to take the classes every year as refreshers. But the learning isn’t solely in the classroom, it goes out into the garden at the Guilford County Agricultural Center, 3309 Burlington Road in Greensboro. The demonstration garden is one place where we get to apply the knowledge we’ve gained, and witness the results with hands-on projects in all the themed garden spaces there. If you’ve never visited, please make time to do so in every season! This article in 1808 profiles my mentor in the program, Janet Sommers, and describes why she does it. I’m indebted to her for showing me the ropes and especially for sharing her wisdom about the importance of gardening for pollinators. Greensboro’s bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are thankful, too. Our motto: First we Learn, then we Teach!
••• I also joined the Guilford Horticultural Society for even more education (just can’t get enough of this stuff!). The group of gardening enthusiasts meets the third Monday of each month, September – May, at the Greensboro Science Center to hear a one-hour speaker on a wide variety of topics. We also look forward to garden tours of both public and private gardens around the Triad, Piedmont, and beyond. The big event each year is the Hort Symposium in late Winter – not to be missed, with nationally-recognized speakers. We also have two plant swaps per year, and an end-of-season picnic. Annual membership is only $25.
Out of all of these connections arose my volunteering with Greensboro Beautiful and Cone Health Cancer Center’s Healing Garden. By this point I had to develop my volunteer gardening road trip kit, a little toolbox of hand tools and gloves!
So you’re beginning to see the picture – I eat, sleep, garden, and repeat. Bringing Guilford Garden Center back into focus, then, starts to make perfect sense.
I am so fortunate to have an experienced staff with great horticultural knowledge that can suggest solutions for every garden dilemma. Nan, Shelley, Drew, and Oscar are just the best partners to have in this adventure. And then there are the cats…a story for another day!