Our History

Our History

learn more about Sylvan Nursery

Sylvan Nursery, Inc. is located on approximately 300 acres of prime land in southeastern Massachusetts where the climate assures the best possible growing conditions. The nursery was incorporated in January 1990, but our history began in 1966 with one 50-foot greenhouse. During the past 50 years the nursery has grown from being a part-time hobby to a business housed on 300 acres in the towns of Dartmouth and Westport. We serve over 6000 customers from all parts of New England and the Middle Atlantic states, three-quarters of whom run landscaping firms with the remainder comprised of municipalities, garden centers, landscape architects, and other retail sectors.

Knowledge of plant material and horticulture is the basis of our operation. Among our capable staff we have thirteen Massachusetts Certified Horticulturists. The management has always encouraged the employees to become better informed such that we can excel at serving our customers. Trade shows and in-house sessions where information is shared and training meetings for sales staff are routine during the less hectic winter months. We currently employ 70 full-time employees augmented by 20 part-timers during the busy season.

We have grown into a thriving re-wholesale yard while still being able to specialize in growing heath, heathers, bearberry and native seaside shrubs. Our propagation crew processes over 250,000 cuttings annually in our gutter connected greenhouse. Approximately 200,000 bare-root plants are purchased and potted annually. Half of the total stock sold is balled and burlapped. Containers make up the rest of our stock.

Water continues to be a prime concern. The irrigation system is comprised of 15 wells and 5 ponds. We irrigate 50 acres daily with a combination of equipment. Six Berkeley pumps transport water from the ponds to the growing areas in pipe graduating from 6" at entry to ½" at the nozzles. The pumps are powered by three 454-cubic-inch and three 305-cubic-inch Chevrolet propane driven engines with each having the capacity to deliver 750 GPM at 360 feet. We water 10 acres of plant material by drip irrigation.

All aspects of our nursery production have evolved with water conservation in mind. In 1996 we installed three catch basins to conserve water and to eliminate run-off as much as possible. To deduce pathogens, the reused water is treated with Sanidate 12.0. The placement and spacing of plants, using bark mulch in the B&B areas and using drip irrigation on individual plants all help to save water. In addition, routine irrigation procedures that include hand watering when necessary, irrigating during the time of day when evaporation is at its least all help to cut down on water losses.

For the past several years the primary soil mix used in the containers has been superhumus, which is a by-product of the lumber. Use of superhumus improves the water holding capacity of our container stock while maintaining excellent drainage. We then mix the superhumus with 5 other soil components to create custom blends depending on the type of plants being potted at the time. Our chemical usage is very limited in the nursery. We use controled release fertilizers, sometimes with micronutrients added and less frequently we will use water-soluble fertilizers incorporated with hand watering when needed. Herbicides for weed control include ROUND-UP, ROUT and PREEN, while CLEARY'S and DACONIL exemplify what is used in controlling fungus on heathers and on roses. We use other pesticides sparingly.

The inventory and billing is tracked by a multi-user Hewlett Packard Proliant ML 150 Gen 9 server. A Dell Poweredge SC1420 computer provides access to the internet, email services and acts as a file server. Both systems support twenty one networked desktop computers, nine printers, and three thermal label printers. Real World copyrighted programs handle record keeping for orders, inventory and billing while FileMaker Pro handles delivery scheduling, plant purchase orders and other functions. A scanner and digital cameras give the Sales Department the ability to transmit plant information electronically to customers. Recently, a new building adjacent to the main office was erected to handle group meetings and the storage of files and records.

Another direction for the nursery was taken in 1995 into cattle and hog production. At the
"Triple-S" Farm located near the main nursery we are raising Angus beef cattle and hogs as part of the farm scene. With the exception of some purchased grain, we produce our own naturally grown feed.

Several years ago the nursery purchased two large tracts of land in Dartmouth known as Island View (a photo appeared on the cover of our 2002 catalog) and Dartmoor Farm. These properties are located east and west of Horseneck Road. The fields are utilized in animal feed production and in lining out nursery stock. Nursery stock production, which was once done at the main nursery, has been moved to these two new farms in conjunction with our other three farms.

Our future plans include modernizing our inventory procedures through bar coding and hand-held computers. We are currently "on-line" and have been since 1997, where you can visit us on our web site at www.sylvannursery.com.

We have grown over the past 40 years, but have tried to remain small enough to handle our customers as individuals. Our intent is to keep our customer as the most important element of our business. It is our aim to give the best possible service and product at reasonable prices.

Neil J. Van Sloun, Founder and Chairman of the Board
Jim McBratney, President and CEO