Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it? We grow nursery stock and sell it directly to the public; we don't wholesale it. We grow everything from bedding plants, hanging baskets up through general nursery stock into 24-inch specimen trees. We grow 99 percent of what we sell, one way or another. About the only thing we ever bring in is bedding plants, to round out the inventory, and some bare-root plants. We only sell plants; we do not sell fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides or other dry goods. My mother, Fern Whittington, operates the propagating greenhouse where she takes the cuttings and starts new plants.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? We moved here from Carlsbad, Calif., 31 years ago.

What inspired you to go into this line of work? My stepfather and his brother were in the nursery business. I used to be an electrician and I had a couple of jobs that were just too indoors for me, so I decided to try this instead and I really loved it, especially growing plants.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? I would have tried for a better location. We're just under an acre here in the middle of a residential area and hard to see and find. I have a second property, about 8 acres, now that we may develop some day. For now, we're just using it for a growing garden because it takes a long time to change things around.

What's the toughest business decision you've made? The hardest decision I made was in the beginning, when I quit my other jobs and went strictly into growing plants. That's when the economy was down and I had two children at home at the time. I quit working at Hubbard Brothers Hardware and doing landscape and maintenance. It was a very stressful time for a while. It was a tough time economically back then. But retail nurseries tend to do fairly good in tough times, it can almost help, if you're dealing with homeowners — instead of going on vacations, they stay home, plant gardens and fruit trees. Not carrying fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides or other dry goods was one of the hard business decisions made early. When I had a retail nursery in Southern California, I found it hard to compete with chain stores on those things.

Who are your competitors? We don't really compete with retail nurseries. We compete with the box stores. Because we grow our own plants, we're very competitive with the box stores. Because I grow everything here in the valley, I get to grow my plants in a heavier soil. If you ship across the country you have to grow in an extremely light mix and then the plant has a hard time adapting to heavy soils. Because I don't ship, I can grow in a better mix for the Rogue Valley.

What are your goals? I have a foreman/manager, John Worthington, who works with me, that I think could take care of the place later on. I'd like to move the nursery to the other location, but I'm not too anxious with the down economy. Sometimes I'd like to stay the way I am, but I know I could have a much better nursery and the access would be better. A lot of people see our growing grounds — it's a corner property — even before they see where we are. But it's hard to move everything you have built after 30 years to another location.

What training or education did you need? I worked for my stepfather and uncle in the nursery business. My stepfather was a tremendous, very knowledgeable retailer and my uncle was a very good grower. They had started back in the Depression era and were well-skilled nurserymen who taught me a lot. For a few a years, I managed Schaffer's Nursery in Rainbow, Calif., specializing in bougainvilleas, a tropical flowering vine. I had my own retail nursery in Southern California during the 1970s.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Do something you are going to enjoy. I was financially far better off as an electrician than I was for many years as a nurseryman, but I really enjoy the nursery. It's something you can keep learning. Until the day you die, there are new things to learn.

To suggest ideas for this column, about locally owned businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com