Despite a fairly steady nursery market, with close to half of responders reporting increased profits this year compared to 2017, 2018 saw some high-profile closures and bankruptcies. However, two heavy hitters in the market — DCA Outdoor and TreeTown USA — have been acquiring operations across the nation this year.
In June 2018, Gardens Alive! announced that it was seeking a buyer for its wholesale nurseries in Cornelius, Ore., Sims, N.C., Smithville, Tenn., and Grand Haven, Mich. Formerly known as Zelenka Farms, Gardens Alive! grew some 5,000 container shrubs, trees, perennials, roses and groundcovers each year for big-box retailers.
ALSO READ: A modern vision: Colonial Gardens, one of the brands operated by DCA Outdoor, is reinventing the garden center model by combining plant retail, local food and agritourism, with a focus on experience, education and entertainment.
Zelenka Farms was founded in 1993 under the name Berry Family of Nurseries. LM Farms, LLC (dba Gardens Alive!) acquired Zelenka Farms out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2016.
This fall, Rio Verde Holdings, LLC purchased the 300-acre Oregon farm from Gardens Alive!. Rio Verde Holdings, LLC is owned by a green industry investment group, which will run the business as Rio Verde Plantas. DCA Outdoor will manage nursery operations.
Earlier this summer, DCA Outdoor purchased Oregon’s Fishback Nursery, as well as Valley Hill Nurseries, a 350-acre operation based in Kentucky.
Also this summer, TreeTown USA, in coordination with Wells Fargo’s acquisition of Color Spot Holdings, acquired the Hines division of Temecula, Calif.-based Color Spot Nurseries, Inc. for an undisclosed amount. The division has three facilities totaling more than 2,000 acres located in California and Oregon. Color Spot had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May.
Bailey Nurseries, based in St. Paul, Minn., announced in October that it was acquiring Carlton Plants, a nursery based in Oregon with facilities close to Bailey’s Oregon operations.
This spring marked the final bare-root season for California-based L.E. Cooke Co. After nearly 75 years, the company ceased its bare root nursery division due to the challenges of producing a large, diverse blend of varieties; selling that product to a declining independent nursery market; and regulatory issues like the state of California’s water use limitations in the wake of the post-recession drought.