Visitors to Full Bloom Nursery in Clermont may at times feel as much like tourists as they do customers.
It’s something of an attraction in addition to being a successful horticulture business that caters to a wide range of needs. And that’s just how the owners planned it.
“We decided to make it a little bit different,” says Kellie Bowen, who opened Full Bloom Nursery with her husband, Tim Bowen, in 2003. “We wanted to create a destination, so when people come out they get a wonderful experience. The way we laid the nursery out, it has a lot of shade trees and gravel paths. There aren’t any plants sitting on hot baking asphalt; they’re displayed in a garden setting, which helps give people ideas for using them in their yard.”
Full Bloom Nursery – named Hall County Agribusiness of the Year in 2007 and Gainesville Rotary Farm Family of the Year in 2011 – is only one example of Georgia’s thriving horticulture industry. Overall, including production, processing and marketing of vegetables, fruits, nuts, trees, flowers and shrubs, the economic value of the industry is more than $2.4 billion. Much of that is in the vegetable and fruit and nut segments.
The greenhouse, nursery and turf segment accounts for more than $516 million annually, while the horticulture service industry – including retail florists, lawn care services, and landscaping and garden centers – generates more than $1 billion each year.
A New Direction
Kellie and Tim Bowen thought the industry would make good business sense after they started their ag careers raising cattle and producing hay, as well as training horses and being active in the equine industry. Kellie grew up in South Florida, where her parents owned greenhouses and sold plants, shrubs and flowers wholesale. Tim is from Hall County and was raised on a dairy farm.
Though the Bowens still raise cattle, make hay and enjoy their horses for leisure, their primary focus is on their nursery business.
“We just decided to change direction,” Kellie Bowen says. “Both of us are independent people who like working for ourselves. I had the horticulture background, so we decided to give that a try. We started out small in 2003 and slowly built it up to what it is today. There was a real need in this area for (other nursery options and) not just the seasonal big box stores.”
Full Bloom Nursery has more than 4 acres of perennials, landscaping shrubs and trees in stock and six greenhouses where they propagate and grow plants. It sells only plants that are suited for the local climate, better ensuring they’ll thrive in North Georgia conditions.
Kellie Bowen, who co-hosts a gardening radio show on WDUN in Gainesville, says she enjoys it all when asked to name her favorite part of the business. In the wintertime, when foot traffic to the nursery is slower, she has an appreciation for the solitude that comes from working in the greenhouses.
“In the dead of winter we’re inside propagating plants,” she says, “and there are times when sleet’s hitting the roof of the greenhouse, and it’s nice and warm in there and there are even things blooming.”
But she’s just as adept at her people skills as she is her nursery know-how.
“One of the things I love the most is helping people,” Bowen says. “One of our main focuses here is helping the customer make the right choice and purchasing the right plants for their individual situation – just educating them on what’s best for their situation. We get every question you can imagine and some you can’t.”