How has the pandemic affected gardening? Everybody seems to be gardening anyway, and I think that’s a good thing; there are people that are gardening out there that haven’t done so before, so we will see how it all works out.
Who does Bracy’s Nursery, LLC sell to? Bracy’s is only wholesale so they sell to independent retail garden centers and landscapers, and not to the big box stores.
Is your brand, Proven Winners®, exclusive to Bracy’s? We grow Proven Winners® plants and Southern Living® Plant Collection among others; and one called Garden Debut®, which we grow for our Texas and Arkansas markets. There are all these plant programs now and it’s hard to keep track!
What is your background? In 1991, with my new Ph.D. in Horticulture from Mississippi State University, I went to work for the LSU Ag Center (Louisiana State University) and stayed for 26 years, retiring in July 2017. I now work for Bracy’s Nursery, and we wholesale in the states from Texas across to the Carolinas, and south to the Gulf of Mexico. Also, I work part-time with Clegg’s Nursery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which is a well-established, independent, retail garden center with four locations. My responsibilities for both are outreach, social media, consumer and industry education, and I advise them on which plants to grow.
What’s the history of Bracy’s? In 1986, Randy and Regina Bracy, founded this operation. Regina’s mom and dad had a ‘U-Pick’ fruit operation, and Randy would sell the peaches at their roadside stand, but people kept asking him for fruit trees to plant. The first 10 years were only fruit trees and bushes, and then he expanded.
How big is their operation now? About 240 acres. Probably in terms of sales, Bracy’s is one of the three largest operations in the state. About eight percent of our crop is still in fruit stock, but the other 92 percent is in ornamental plants whether it’s roses, azaleas, popular shrubs or shade trees, from four-inch ground covers to 45-gallon trees.
What makes Bracy’s different from other wholesale nurseries? We have our programs: Rhapsody in Color, which is our flowering stock, Beneficial Blooms for the pollinator plants, Tropical Paradise plants and foliage, and Backyard Oasis drought-tolerant shrubs. These special programs are not something you see at every wholesale nursery. Bracy’s wants to be the ‘one-stop shop’ for retail garden centers and landscape contractors, helping them to take advantage of our packaging, labeling, and bar-coded price tags. We have a catalog on our website and online ordering if they prefer, instead of calling or faxing, and a sales team that goes out in person to make regular calls. We talk about the Bracy’s Advantage: to know our customers on a first name basis, and try to make it easy for them to do business with us, and in turn easy to sell to their customers.
Are you doing research at Bracy’s? We are working on a native dogwood study in cooperation with the University of Tennessee because of extensive loss of these native plants. We do try to work on a lot of plant trials on site. We also grow some of the LSU Ag SuperPlants, and other southern states special plantings as well, and keep up with their university cooperatives.
What are Bracy’s plans for the future? We are always evolving, adding new plants and taking plants that don’t sell out of production. One of the most common questions that the home gardeners ask is ’where are the pollinator plants?’ We want to promote our new Beneficial Blooms program for hummingbirds, bees and butterflies, so we cultivate four native species of milkweed for Monarch butterflies which is unique, and our labeling and tags keeps it all organized for the customers.
What do you think about us launching a new horticulture publication here in the southern part of the United States? There is really no regional magazine for the Southeastern United States for the commercial horticulture industry at the current time. I think there is a big audience for this, and I hope it can work here.