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Glenwood Gardens’ roots in community run deep

Donna DanielsStaff Writer

As one of Glenwood Springs’ oldest businesses, Glenwood Gardens is a landmark on the west side of town.Its pagoda-shaped glass dome that caps the central building was carried from coal baron John Cleveland Osgood’s palatial Cleveholm Manor in 1939.The Nieman family established the business in 1939 on four acres. Today it remains an oasis in the busy commercial strip along Highway 6 & 24.In 1992, Hugh and Molly MacPherson bought the gardens from the Niemans. Spring is their busiest season.Racks of petunias and pansies, alyssum and asters are lined up under latticed shades and rest on the ground in the brilliant sunshine of a May afternoon. There are the usual geraniums, rows of snapdragons, varieties of ground cover such as dragon’s blood, Johnny-Jump-Ups and marigolds, roses, dianthus and peace lilies. Glenwood Gardens staff is busy creating hanging baskets, filling planters for custom orders, and making deliveries up and down the valley.”Things get pretty hectic,” Hugh said. “You’ve got to keep running.”Since taking over the business, Hugh said, he’s found some tough competition, not from other nurseries, but the grocery stores.”I don’t knock what they have, but we have much more breadth of product. We have people here who can answer questions,” he said.A significant part of the business is the custom work. Some of the baskets take up to six weeks to grow. A lot of time goes into their creation, he said.Many of the baskets and planters are sold to people who were Nieman customers for many years.Glenwood Gardens also differs from other garden centers in that it grows most of its flowers from seed in its own greenhouses, MacPherson said.In the greenhouses, row on row of seedling trays are sprouting. Hanging baskets brimming with geraniums, petunias and lobelia await delivery.”We have stuff constantly coming on,” he said.It’s a labor-intensive job. During the high season, from May through June, Glenwood Gardens has between 15 and 20 employees. For the rest of the year a permanent crew of five keeps the gardens growing.While Glenwood Gardens prices are usually slightly higher than the grocery stores, MacPherson said they can usually beat the local nurseries. “We try to compete on breadth without charging premium prices,” he said.In fact, when they took over the gardens from the Niemans, they dropped prices by 30 percent.”They were just too high,” he said.MacPherson said he’s also watched each year as the demand for more and different flowers has grown.”It used to be just pansies and petunias,” he laughed.Every year one color always seems to be in fashion, he said. This year it’s blues. Last year it was pinks.”It’s funny. This year we’re short of blue petunias and blue pansies,” he said.Over the years the couple have also added gift items. In the front of the main building are two rooms chock full of cards, gardening journals, candles, straw hats and handbags, picture frames, dried flowers, baskets, botanical soaps and lotions, and of course, gardening tools, even for kids.Central to the gardens is what grows under the historic dome. Tropical plants – banana trees and ficus, ferns and orchids – grow rampant in the warm humid air, and water trickles over stone within the lush greenery.But the jungle setting comes at a price. MacPherson said his natural gas bills can run up to $500 a month in the winter, just to heat the dome.Although this day the MacPhersons are hard at work filing orders and making deliveries, it’s a satisfying business for them.Hugh had been in the finance industry for 25 years and came to a point when he wanted a change.”I had a period in my life when I was doing the same old thing all over again. I’d worked for someone else for 25 years,” he said. He looked around for a business he could run himself. He had no background in horticulture, but a woman who’d worked for the Niemans for years stayed on and showed him the ropes. Although he’s scrambling to keep ahead of the orders, his love for the work is apparent.”It’s a good business,” he said.


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