The First Seasonal Plant Search

by Colleen O’Neill Nice

My friend Elaine and I are admitted plant-a-holics. During the cold, snowy weeks of winter, we suppress our insatiable appetite for plants by perusing seed catalogs and reading garden magazines. In the early spring, we visit flower shows for ideas and are always on the look-out for new plants. But by late spring, we are ready to explode with an urgent desire for GREEN and that is when we embark on the first seasonal plant search! 

In early May, our adventure includes a day-long trip up north, with Zehr’s Nursery in Burt, New York, our northern most destination. But more about Zehr’s later. Let’s start at the beginning of our plant-buying spree. First, pack a couple bottles of water. Who knows if we will have time to stop for lunch. Second, take the largest vehicle available. Between Elaine and myself, we have been known to fill a large SUV, top to bottom, with plants – even holding hanging baskets on our laps. Third, throw your wish list out the window. Anything goes on this trip!

Since I live in Clarence, New York, we usually start out the trip with a visit to Garden in the Hollow, one of my favorite local nurseries. Here you can find annuals, perennials, herbs and garden ornaments. They carry a large selection of Steppables® (low growing perennials that can handle light foot traffic) and some unusual ferns that are great for a shady spot. The Slender Crested Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas ‘Linearis Polydactyla’ ) adds a delicate texture in my garden nestled next to the glossy fronds of the Scaly Buckler Fern (Dryopteris x remota). Add  a few impatiens to the mix and allow your Petacites to romp through to create an eye-catching vignette for the shade. (See photo above)

Garden in the Hollow has an extensive selection of accent annuals in 4" pots, which can be combined to make up fabulous mixed containers.  The entrance to the nursery is always welcoming with many plants in bloom.  If a portion of your garden goes blah during the season, you can always find an interesting plant to tuck in –– pansies, daisies, geraniums, anjelonia, sunflowers, zinnias, chrysanthemums or flowering kale. This is one nursery that has lots to offer –  well after the flats of annuals are sold. Don’t leave without trying a chunk of homemade peanut brittle near the cash register. It is to die for...

Traveling west on Main Street, we stop in at Bison Nursery, which has a large  selection of well developed shrubs including viburnum, hydrangea and rhododendron, to name only a few. For a focal point in your garden, try a Japanese umbrella-pine (Sciadopitys verticillata) or a beautiful dogwood (Cornus florida). In addition, Bison sells annuals and perennials and offers landscape design services and installation. For deer problems, try Bison's liquid deer repellent which lasts 6 to 7 months without washing away. A couple of my  neighbors have had excellent results with this product.

Next, traveling west on Main Street (Route 5), we take Transit Road (NY-78) north to Spoth Farm Market. Spoth’s is a family-run business that sells annuals, hanging baskets, mixed pots, roses, a small selection of perennials and many varieties of clay pots. Here, you can find celosia sold in flats, by color (red or yellow), rather than by a muted mix of colors. Try planting a half of a flat of yellow celosia and a half of a flat of red celosia for instant impact in your annual beds.


Be sure to check out Spoth's fruits and vegetables, cut flower bouquets and home-made baked goods. You may want to pick up some fresh vegetables for supper or a pie for dessert.

As you are traveling north on Transit Road, stop in at Stedman's Old  Farm Nurseries, one of two locations on our route today. Explore their plentiful selection of trees, shrubs and perennials. In addition, Stedman's offers design services and landscape installation.  

Continue north on Transit Road to Thering’s Garden & Greenhouse, a 25 year-old family owned business that specializes in zonal geraniums. According to Linda Thering, all the geraniums are propagated from cuttings, not from seed, in a very sterile environment. These immaculate conditions are transferred to the retail greenhouse that Linda oversees for two months in the spring. I must stop here, to advise you that once the locally grown plants are sold, this greenhouse does not restock, thus Thering’s usually closes by the end of June.

Linda’s husband, Richard is an outstanding propagator and fills the greenhouses with healthy, well grown plants including ornamental sweet potato (Ipomoea), bacopa (Sutera cordata), million bells (Calibrachoa) and many varieties of  impatiens, to name only a few. Thering's offers custom-made mixed containers which are popular with many local customers. In addition to annuals and hanging baskets, an ample selection of perennials and herbs is available.

© 2017 Gardens By Colleen. All rights reserved.

Traveling North on Transit Road, we make a stop at Russell’s Tree & Shrub Farm. Now if you are in the market for trees or shrubs, I advise you to dedicate an entire morning or afternoon to peruse the enormous selection at Russell’s. Since a large part of the business is serving landscapers, stock changes quite regularly with new truckloads of plants arriving weekly. For an instant garden, Russell's sells some varieties of perennials fully grown in large contractor-sized containers. The perennial selection is impressive and includes ornamental grasses, ferns, vines, roses, groundcovers and many more. Topsoil and mulch can be purchased by the truckload and a large selection of ornamental stone is on-site. Staff here is friendly and always willing to help.

ProGardens is next on our list of destinations. Owners Jackie and Kevin LoVullo offer unique plants from the Pacific Northwest and Canada. One of their specialty items, grafted evergreens, can be shaped into topiary animals or letters of the alphabet. For a distinct focal point in your landscape, plant an unusual variety of japanese maple, or a broadleaf or narrow leaf evergreen. For hardscape interest, invest in an  Asian handmade pot, which can withstand freezing temperatures outdoors during the winter months. The pots are available in an assortment of sizes, colors and shapes. Gifts for the home and garden include wind chimes, pottery, birdhouses, candles and custom-made rosehip wreaths.  

Next, we travel north on Transit Road to Badding Bros. Farm Market where the greenhouse is packed with annuals sold in flats, 4" accent pots, mixed containers and hanging baskets. They also have a good selection of perennials, vegetable seedlings and herbs. It is one of the few nurseries that sell coleus (Solenostemon) by the flat. With plenty of shade in my backyard, I like to create sweeps of color by bedding out the coleus between perennials. (See photo below). I am also a big Plectranthus fan and found Cuban Oregano (P. amboinicus ) in the herb section. It really adds pizzazz to a mixed container because it is fragrant and unusual, but offers an added bonus when cooking, as a  flavoring for meats.  In addition, Badding Brothers also sells pottery, bagged products (soil, manure and mulch)  and a large selection of fruits and vegetables.

Niagara County Produce is a one-stop shop. From meats, fruits and vegetables to houseplants, ornamentals and pots, the bustle of this market is energizing. In the spring, annuals, perennials and hanging baskets fill the greenhouses. Throughout the summer and fall, locally grown fruits and vegetables are plentiful. During the winter, check out the large selection of houseplants, birdfeeders, bird seed, and ornamental pots. 

Go north on Transit Road to Faery's Nursery, where you will need to spend some time exploring their large assortment of perennials. I discovered the intriguing variegated false sunflower (Heliopsis 'Loraine Sunshine') with eyecatching foliage and added charm from the golden, yellow daisies that bloom in June and continue until frost (see photo below). In addition, Faery's has a large selection of annuals, vegetable seedlings, herbs, houseplants, hanging baskets, shrubs and vines. They also stock fertilizers, bagged products, tools and garden ornaments.

Our next stop will be the second location of Stedman Old Farm Nursery, which is in Newfane. Be sure to follow the signs for Route 78 North, while traveling through Lockport, because the the turns can be a bit tricky. If you are getting hungry, keep an eye out for Reid's (on the left as you proceed down a hill). It is an old fashioned hotdog and hamburger stand with outdoor picnic tables and delicious milkshakes. Farther north on the right, Gordi Harper's Restaurant offers homemade cooking in a diner-style atmosphere. They also sell a small selection of plants out front.

Now, I have to tell you that my friend Elaine is an insider in the business. She is the owner of Elaine's Flower & Gift Shoppe – a full service florist in Depew, New York.  So this next stop is slightly off the beaten path. We  stop at Jones Farm & Greenhouse about 2.8 miles north of Stedman's on Charlotteville Road off of Route 78. Watch for a signal at the corner of Route 78 and Charlotteville Road.  This nursery is a small family owned business with some must-have items. Since Elaine is very busy running her cut flower business, she doesn't have time for seed propagation, but absolutely loves Morning Glories. And Jones' has them in 4" pots ready to be planted. We also pick up hanging baskets of Blue Daze (Evovulus glomeratus), a trailing plant with showy blue flowers that blooms until frost. Jones' has quite a selection of perennials, herbs, vegetable seedlings, hanging baskets and annuals. It is definitely worth a slight detour off the main road.

Keep your eyes open as you continue north on Route78. On the left side of the road, a home gardener advertises her wares with homemade signs. When we passed by during the summer, she was selling bags of irises for a dollar. What a bargain! She also creates rustic garden ornaments that can be purchased.

Next, we travel to Zehr's which is located on West Lake Road (Route 18) in Burt, New York. Although soothing classical music plays in the greenhouse, the assortment of mixed hanging baskets is overwhelming and invigorating. It is painstaking to select just one or two colorful baskets to take home. They make a great Mother's Day gift, so keep that in mind! Consider a living wreath for your door or table. A moss-covered form is filled with annuals, herbs or ivy for these one-of-a -kind creations. Both the hanging baskets and wreaths sell out quickly.

An impressive array of perennials are displayed including several varieties of clematis, iris, peonies, and many shade loving plants. Zehr's sells Kinsman Company's european classic planters including cradles, cauldrons, hayracks and hanging baskets (see photo below). And for those who need instant gratification during our short growing season, use Zehr's 6" pots of annuals to fill out your hanging baskets. This greenhouse continues strong throughout the summer and fall with seasonal annuals and perennials featured.

Just down the road (Route 18) is Marks Nursery in Wilson, New York which has been in business for 95 years. They have an impressive list of hardy flowering shrubs, climbing vines, groundcovers, evergreens, shade and ornamental trees, roses, hedges and perennials. In their small fruit department, check out the red, black and purple raspberries, blackberries, grapes, strawberries, currants, elderberries, gooseberries, and blueberries. Fruit trees include apple, pear, apricot, plum, peach, nectarine, sweet and sour cherry and quince. If you had your heart set on a nut tree, how about an almond, black walnut, English walnut or Chinese chestnut. A catalog is available with a list of the extensive varieties.

Just west of Mark's Nursery off of Route 18 is the Wilson Boat House Restaurant. The friendly staff serves contemporary cuisine with an enchanting view of the Wilson Harbor. Check out their website at for their menu, hours of operation and other helpful information. You may want to plan lunch or dinner here during your plant expedition.

Our last stop is Luff Greenhouse & Florist on N. Ridge Road (Route 93).  Both a wholesale and retail operation, Luff's has many greenhouses full of plants to inspire and energize the home gardener. Rows and rows of annuals scream out to be taken home and planted including geraniums, african daisies, petunias, marigolds, begonias, impatiens, gerbera daisies and so many more. The vast sea of color in the greenhouses is overwhelming.We specifically stop here for their hanging baskets of Scaevola (a trailing plant with fan-shaped lilac-blue flowers) and their large selection of annuals and herbs.

After a wonderfully invigorating visit to so many greenhouses, we were inspired to experiment in our gardens with all our new treasures. On the way home, we realized just how lucky we are to live in an area so rich with diverse plant material. We reminisced about a trip we made to Connecticut last spring where the nurseries were few and far between. And, although exhausted, we promised to call each other in a few weeks to plan our tour of nurseries in the Southtowns. So stay tuned for our next plant search...

Printed in the Upstate Gardeners’ Journal, May-June 2005


Garden in the Hollow

11072 Main Street

Clarence, New York 14031

716-759-1883   716-759-6281


Bison Nursery

9000 Main Street

Clarence, New York 14031



Spoth Farm Market

5817 Transit Road

East Amherst, New York 14051



Stedman's Old Farm Nurseries

9300 Transit Road

East Amherst, New York 14051

716-625-9559  716-688-5505


Thering's Garden & Greenhouse

6575 Transit Road

East Amherst, New York 14051



Russell's Tree & Shrub Farm

9800 Transit Road

East Amherst, New York 14051




10236 Transit Road

East Amherst, New York 14051



Badding Bros. Farm Market

10820 Transit Road

East Amherst, New York 14051



Niagara County Produce

Transit & Millersport

East Amherst, New York 14051



Faery's Plant Market, Inc.

5970 S. Transit Road

Lockport, New York 14094



Stedman Old Farm Nurseries

2857 S Main Street

Newfane, New York 14108



Jones Farm & Greenhouse

6674 Charlotteville Road

Newfane, New York 14108




5353 West Lake Road

Route 18

Burt, New York 14028



Marks Nursery

4402 E. Lake Road

Route 18

Wilson, New York 14172



Luff Greenhouses & Florist

3870 N Ridge Road (Route 93)

Lockport, New York 14094