Each of Merrifield Garden Center’s three locations overflows with thousands of plants throughout the year, encompassing such variety that a reporter for CNN’s Eatocracy claimed “I might as well endorse my paychecks straight to them…because I always want to grow what they've got.” Knowledgeable garden experts, 25 of whom have been with Merrifield for 25 years or more, guide customers through row upon row of flowers, trees, shrubs, and other plants, or help them sort through an extensive selection of bulbs and seeds. Visitors may also bump into the founders themselves, or their children and other family members, 38 of whom still work at the thriving business that started 40 years ago. Merrifield doesn’t just proliferate plants, however; amenities such as cafes in Gainesville and Merrifield and a dog park in Gainesville make each garden center into a leisure destination as well. Three of its garden gurus run an hourlong TV show that's been going for more than two decades, and other staff publish gardening advice on the website and Facebook. The staff also work to protect the environment with a variety of eco-friendly initiatives. Besides stocking native plants and water-saving devices for their customers, they also compost more than 20,000 tons of soil and 25,000 cubic yards of brush left over from their comprehensive landscaping services every year. The Gainesville location also gathers old concrete, metal appliances, and rusted Optimus Primes for recycling free of charge.
Since 1945, this family-owned landscaping business and garden center has helped locals transform their yards into lush landscapes and bountiful gardens. The company's secret to longevity is enlisting a staff of passionate expert gardeners and cloning them to populate future generations. Among its members, the landscaping team shares almost 200 years of collective experience, with foremen holding between 12 and 20 years apiece. Company president James Campbell began cultivating his love of all things flora on a farm crew at age 14. In college, he studied ornamental horticulture and then spent four decades working at Campbell & Ferrara, ascending from crew member to foreman to president.
You might get lost in the meandering paths of the indoor-outdoor garden center with 8 acres of trees, shrubs, and seasonal flowers. Thankfully, horticulturists and garden experts roam the grounds, ready to offer you directions and advice. To deter pests, for example, they'll tell you to plant a border of marigolds or a handful of sacrificial Skittles. Hand them a picture of your yard, and they'll predict which plants and flowers will likely thrive there. They also make DIY-ing easy by arranging over 1,000 trees and shrubs into user-friendly categories such as privacy screening, Virginia natives, and four-season. For customers who prefer an expert's help, landscapers offer degrees of assistance, ranging from installing customer-selected plants to completely redesigning yards with putting greens, outdoor kitchens, or waterfalls.
Holly, Woods and Vines bedecks its year-round garden center with a blossoming bevy of annuals, perennials, shrubs, fruit trees, and berries. Gild rooftop gardens with a scented selection of herbs and vegetables ($2.99/pot) or peruse HWV's assortment of colorful pottery, from 6-inch ceramics to human-sized terra-cotta grub salesmen. Co-owners John and Vanessa also furnish their grounds with a floral flotilla of mandevilla vines ($17.99–$59.99), tropical hibiscus ($7.99–$59.99), and a diverse selection of Japanese maples ($79.99+). HWV's well-educated staff can offer shoppers a treasure trove of gardening knowledge, including advice on proper planting procedures, soil amendment tips, and bird and bee couples counseling.
Cravens Nursery's floral phenoms bring more than 30 years of experience to their verdant collection of nursery plants, pottery, and outdoor accoutrement. Cravens stocks two greenhouses full of colorful and custom pottery, from ceramic, fiberglass, and woodenwares to self-watering African violet pots. Peruse Cravens' canvas of botanical and blossoming goodies, from azaleas (currently on sale for $7.99/gallon) and orchids ($29.95+) to more than 100 varieties of herbs. Homeowners can also blanket backyards with heaps of double-shredded hardwood mulch ($2.89/2 cubic feet), or stock up on bulk mulch ($24.99/cubic yard) to cover local football fields, helipads, or football fields that have been used as helipads once or twice.
The family behind SJM Pro Grounds has been tending and landscaping yards since 1994. Drawing on more than 40 years of combined experience, their licensed and insured technicians mow and trim yards and apply fertilizer and weed control to curtail encroaching dandelions and power-hungry thistles. SJM also volunteers its services to GreenCare for Troops, a nationwide program that provides free lawn service to military families whose loved ones are serving away from home.