The threat of one last burst of cold weather following an unusually long, wet North Texas winter has everyone taking a cautious approach to dabbling in the dirt.
At family-owned Schmitz Garden Center, located near Flower Mound High School, colorful blooms appear in flat after flat throughout the large nursery, ready for spring planting.
Jamie Schmitz is behind the counter busy helping customers who lost trees during the recent storms. The chance for more cold temperatures has some preorders sidelined to the onsite greenhouse.
“We don’t want people to have the expense of buying replacement plants,” said Jamie, who, along with husband, Joe, and father-in-law, Larry, runs the business which began five years ago.
Part-time help comes from daughter Sarah who recently graduated from Texas A & M, as did her father. A handful of other staff provides landscape design, installation, and maintenance, in addition to irrigation and service repair.
Larry Schmitz, a former firefighter who is also known as “Larry Sperry” because of his admiration for the Texas gardening guru, Neil Sperry, was nudged out of retirement to work with plants.
“He is passionate about vegetables,” said Jamie. She swears her father-in-law even has a “private stash” of plants. “He talks to the plants. He smacks the plants. He is hilarious . . . everyone loves him. He is a blessing.”
Jamie, who was raised on a farm, likes interacting with customers and encourages hands on activities for the kids who visit the garden center. She is hoping to prompt more families into growing vegetables at home. That’s why she carries a large variety of vegetable plants.
“(Growing vegetables) is an awesome thing to do with your children,” she said. “I think it’s a healthy thing for families.”
Standing outside among scattered pots of all shapes and sizes, some featuring Pink Panther New Zealand Flax and containers of lobelia and daisies, Susan Randolph, owner of Lantana Gardens, a full service nursery and garden center located near the Lantana Water Tower in Bartonville, makes everything sound easy to grow.
“Growing vegetables in containers is easy,” she said. “We think it’s a better way. It’s just easier. You’re not down on your hands and knees. “
Randolph is preparing large containers that include one tomato plant surrounded by parsley, thyme and oregano plants – all together in one pot.
Fruit trees, she also said, are “easy, easy, easy,” and suggests beginners try a Methley plum although peach, fig and apricot trees grow well in the area, too.
Randolph left a career as a business consultant and chief financial officer to start Lantana Gardens eight years ago.
“This is a new venture and adventure,” she said. “This is much more fun, much more creative.“
She relies on local growers from Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. And though prices may be lower at big box stores on some items, Randolph feels her customers receive “expertise, service, quality, and better selection.”
Randolph’s passion for gardening was prompted by her grandmother.
“My grandmother was an excellent gardener. She had beautiful, gorgeous gardens.”
During the 1950’s and 60’s Randolph’s grandmother grew on five acres in Dallas using organic methods and composting, which are regaining popularity today.
Randolph, like her flowers, is ready for spring and more seasonal-like sunshine.
“The weather is the bane of our existence,” she said. “We had a hard winter. We’re glad it’s over.”