Hill Nursery started in the fall of 1957 when Mike Johnson built
a greenhouse attached to an old chicken coop on family property.
Although the nursery started as a field grown operation, Mike
was one of the first nurserymen in New England to start growing
landscape plants in containers in 1958. It wasn't long before
the container business was generating more revenue, and fewer
headaches, than the field operation so by 1970 all plants sold
were container grown. By the mid 70's we decided we were as
large as we wanted to be and although we've added a few acres
of containers, we've stayed about the same size trying to get
better rather than bigger.
In the early
years, dwarf conifers and large quantities of broadleaf evergreens,
especially rhododendrons and azaleas, were our principal production.
As the years have passed, the demand has changed; and although we
still grow these plants, we have changed our emphasis to flowering
shrubs and trees, Japanese maples, and many rare and unusual varieties
of plant material, including native plants.
At Summer Hill, we love a challenge so we have put a lot of effort
into the production of "hard to grow" varieties that are uncommon
in the trade. Our enthusiasm in growing hardy bamboo (in 2004 we
will have fifty-two varieties) is an example of this. If someone
says to Mike, "Have you tried growing so and so?" you can bet we'll
have some "so and so's" on the place next year whether we can sell
them or not.
of new varieties, we had to adapt and improve our methods of
overwintering different species - (we were growing in containers
before anyone used polyethylene to cover container grown plants).
We now lose very few plants during the winter. Fertilizers also
had to be changed as we added many "heavy feeders" to our list.
But our irrigation methods and soil mix have stayed about the
same. Landscapers tell us our sand and peat soil mix gives them
far fewer losses than plants coming from lightweight mixes.
This is important for garden center customers as well.
The nursery has two growing areas in North Madison - one on
route 79 where we grow most of our conifers, flowering shrubs
and large rhododendrons. The main nursery is on Summer Hill
Road. This is the area where the propagation facilities are
as well as the office, sales, and shipping areas. Stock blocks
and display gardens are also on Summer Hill Road.
While 80% of our sales are in Connecticut and Massachusetts
we do ship throughout New England and eastern New York with
a few customers as far south as Philadelphia.