In 1905 horticulturalists officially established the Tennessee Nursery Association for the advancement of the state’s horticulture industry and the professionalization of standards. From its very beginning, the founders recognized the potential impact of the nursery industry on the state’s economy. Through the ensuing years industry leaders such as N. W. Hale, Richard Jones, Hoskins Shawdow, Henry Boyd, E. W. Chattin, Lee McClain, D. P. Henegar, Ed Porter, A. D. Cartwright, and Don Shawdow have developed professional unity among the members to further intellectual, social, and business interests and to establish long-range goals.
Almost one hundred years later, the Tennessee Nursery Association has grown from a founding group of 24 to 550 active members, representing a variety of horticultural interests. Wholesale growers comprise 75 percent of the current membership, but retail and garden centers make up an important segment of the industry. Landscapers represent another segment of the membership, with a small one percent of the membership consisting of mail order and grounds maintenance personnel.
The nursery business, which was born in Middle Tennessee, has now spread statewide and boasts a national reputation for quality production. There are over thirty-six thousand certified acres of ornamental plants in Tennessee, with approximately three hundred cultivable species of woody ornamentals. The Volunteer State is the largest producer in the South of narrowleaf evergreens, ornamental trees, and deciduous plants, and Tennessee nurserymen have become the leading producers and developers of new varieties of the flowering dogwood. Nursery and greenhouse production, with more than one thousand growers, represents one of the top agricultural enterprises in the state. It produced 7 percent of the state’s agricultural cash receipts in 1999.
After its establishment in 1905, the nursery association provided a clearinghouse of information for professionals and worked to present a unified effort to resolving major problems. Meetings have now evolved into large trade shows that include educational seminars, attractive displays of products, and up-to-date marketing techniques. The nursery business also engages in professional and cooperative efforts with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and kindred organizations. As caretakers of our environment, nurserymen have cultivated native plants and saved many species from extinction.
Although today’s nurseries range from numerous small family-run operations to large corporations, they share the same bond of commitment and personal attention to quality products and customer service that the founders of the Tennessee Nurserymen’s Association expressed in 1905.