PARRISH -- It took a few years for the world to catch up with the vision of Otto Bundy and George Lawrence, once they started Horticultural Systems in 1974 east of Parrish.
Instead of the usual crops grown in the area, such as tomatoes and watermelons, they grew sea oats and other salt-tolerant plants for the beach.
In 1995, Roger Triplett and Mark Holdren bought the wholesale plant business, now called Green Seasons Nursery, and broadened its scope and customer base for coastal and upland native plants and grasses.
Today, Green Seasons ships its plants -- sea oats are still king -- to most Florida counties, and to all states bordering the Gulf of Mexico westward to South Padre Island in Texas, and as far north as Virginia Beach. Green Seasons also has island customers in the Bahamas and the Caymans.
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Green Seasons' offerings seem to include a little of everything for the beach, from sea oats to panic grass, dune sunflower and railroad vine. For uplands, it has beauty berry, wild coffee, gallberry, mimosa strigillosa, and more, all grown on about 7 1/2 acres of very organized, intensive nursery space off State Road 62.
"We are comfortable with this space. We propagate from cuttings and germinating seeds," Triplett said. "We turn these greenhouses and our flower crops over several times a year."
Although Green Seasons is well established, it is not necessarily a household name. It is not a retail outlet, and often sells through brokers.
"I like the exchange with customers and with people who have enthusiasm and interest in the business," said Holdren, who majored in horticulture at Virginia Tech.
Interest in native plants has been growing in recent decades, and helped Green Seasons weather the Great Recession better than many nurseries that specialized
in ornamental plants.
"Native plants is what brought us through the recession. We didn't have to lay off anyone," Holdren said.
There is a growing realization that native plants are more likely to thrive in the Florida heat and cycles of drought and torrent without intense use of pesticides and fertilizers.
In addition, native plants are more attractive to butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects and wildlife than imported plants, Holdren said.
"It attracts the naturally occurring wildlife in your area, including bees and other nectar insects," Holdren said.
Holdren and Triplett took different routes to the nursery business. Triplett played in bands, and sold real estate before teaming with Triplett, who had arrived in Manatee County in 1979. Before striking out on his own, Holdren worked with a number of local plant businesses, including Manatee Fruit Co. and Reasoner Nursery.
The partners agree that they like the opportunity to be outside most of the day, and not stuck behind a desk.
They also are proud that what they are doing is in sync with Mother Nature.
"We are trying to help with the natural environment," Triplett said.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.