Famous Bay Area nursery in foreclosure

Just read that a Bay Area landmark nursery Western Hills has closed, and is going through foreclosure. According to The San Francisco Chronicle “the nearly 50-year-old nursery and garden, designed and built by San Franciscans Marshall Olbrich and Lester Hawkins, cultivated and popularized many of the plants that thrive in Bay Area gardens today.”

According to the Chronicle “Hawkins died in the mid-1980s, followed by Olbrich in 1991. The partners left the property to a longtime employee until she could no longer care for it. She sold it to local partners Robert Stansel and Joseph Gatta in 2007.” The paper continues, “Stansel and Gatta admittedly had no professional experience running a garden of Western Hills' size and class, but their $1.5 million purchase was a saving grace…”  “The pair intended to hold onto the garden until a local group or nonprofit could take over. In the meantime, they planned to charge for visits to recoup some of the costs.”  Apparently, the slow economy was the final blow.

It’s interesting to read the comments. Everything from, “blame the native species movement for the demise,” to “it can't be THAT popular if it can't even rustle up a few local volunteers for upkeep and 1.5 mil” and “on the positive side, I sincerely hope this is an indication of a turning away from the introduction of lovable exotics. Perhaps this should be viewed as the end of one era, and the beginning of another.”

Gardening is fragmenting into different niches. That’s neither good nor bad, but does have serious implications for anyone wanting to get into or continue in the garden business. Which niche do you decide to service, and which to ignore? Not always an easy choice.