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Nursery grows cutting edge

Redwood's owner strives for good selection

GRANTS PASS-- When Ed Morey opened his Redwood Nursery back in 1981, there wasn't much on the shelves.

Not that there were a lot of shelves to begin with, he recalled.

We were in a little shack that didn't have any heat, he said. Somebody once said that I started out with two onion sets and a pack of seeds. That wasn't far from the truth.

But they were good onion sets and it was a good pack of seeds, he added. Whatever we had, we've always aimed for the best.

Now the nursery and garden center includes a heated building covering more than 9,000 square feet with countless plants and gardening material on 2 acres.

The place is packed with a variety of items. There are pots from Vietnam, wind chimes from the Big Apple, bird baths from the Southwest. Some of the state-of-the-art garden tools look like medieval implements of torture.

Other items are decidedly more trendy.

Some of the personal care products are a little bit of a stretch for me but I can understand gardener's soap and gardener's hand lotion, said Morey, 54. It does all seem to fit in the home and garden category.

The point, Morey said, is that when folks arrive at the store, they should be able to find everything they need.

But don't describe the garden center as eclectic.

It's cutting edge, Morey said. The key word is selection.

`In the New York Gift Show, I must have listened to 20 different wind chimes before deciding on the line we have, he added. It was the best sounding by far.

Yet it would have sounded far fetched had you mentioned to Morey back in the late 1960s that he would be a businessman.

Hailing from Connecticut, he was working on a doctorate in sociology at the New School for Social Research in New York City at the time. One day he decided a career as a college professor was not what he wanted after all.

He hit the road, eventually taking root in Josephine County.

I had no marketable skills in this area, he said. But working out in a garden was one of my most favorite things in the world to do. It was a hobby, a passion, that turned into a job.

I love Josephine County, he said, adding that, when it comes to its residents, the county is very eclectic. We certainly have a diverse population.

Most of whom garden, he noted.

People take their gardening very seriously, he said. I hate to use a buzz word like `lifestyles' but that's what we are looking at here.

Morey and his eight employees make a point of keeping up on gardening lifestyles.

To stay on the cutting edge, you hire good people, he said, noting that one employee has been with the store since it opened while another joined shortly after.

They read trade magazines. They watch the market. And I send them out buying items. They go looking to places like Portland, Seattle, San Francisco. They don't wait for it to fall in their laps.

As a CD of a cricket chirps through the store, customers walk among a variety of displays of garden statues of roosters and frogs and alligators.

There is a logic to it that escapes me completely, Morey says. But I trust my employees. They know what they're doing.

Various sprays and other chemicals are placed in a small room called the Remedies Room, which is reminiscent of a pharmacy.

Everything in here can be dangerous, he says of various garden sprays. It needs that extra pharmaceutical cachet to it.

Or you can putter in the Pot Room, which houses pots from throughout the world, including the giant Vietnamese pots.

Our biggest competition is the chain store, he said. But all the independent nurseries in the valley work together. We buy together.

He pointed to a nearby large quantity of plastic weed barriers.

Four of us (nurseries) go together to buy some of that, he said. pooling together we can buy it cheaper and sell it cheaper.

That helps makes independent nurseries and garden centers competitive with those affiliated with large chain stores, he said.

When it comes to chains, we have more selection, he said. We're the big guys. They are the little guys.