Now that the weather is warming up, one of the oldest nurseries in Southwest Florida may soon be selling plants, trees, and shrubs, from a retail outlet in Lehigh Acres.
"We're looking for a place now," said David Boyle, a fourth generation owner of the family nursery operation that has before been only a wholesale business. We are moving into a different direction," Boyle said. The nursery is located on the edge of Lehigh in Alva where they have been since 1978.
There are several acres of healthy looking trees from oaks to palms, from all kinds and types of shrubs that will be offered for sale once the new outlet in Lehigh is open.
Landscape designer: David Boyle checks some of the thousands of trees, shrubs, and plants at his family nursery in Lehigh. The business has been in the family for a century. Photo by Mel Toadvine
Running the operation today, David is not only a nursery man but a landscape designer. He can give expert advice about the type of landscaping that is smart for this area, now that the winters have become more colder than before.
"Not all varieties can survive the colder winters, especially if they are young without a mature root formation," he said.
As he spoke, water sprinklers came on to water certain parts of the farm where all the nursery stock is grown. Close by are greenhouses covered with heavy duty plastic. On this particular day during an interview with David Boyle, the temperatures in the green houses were somewhere between 86 and 104 degrees, actually closer to the 100-degree mark.
Boyle had opened the sides to allow the area to cool.
"It's really something how the heat builds up inside them, but I watch them and make sure the temperatures are as they should be to produce healthy plants."
David doesn't remember his great grandfather who came to South Florida at around 1890 and began growing north of Fort Myers, but it was Clarence Eugene Boyle who started the nursery tradition.
"He was responsible for the farming of gladiolus plants in the area today where a street is named for the beautiful plants.
You name a plant, a bush or a tree and you can assured that Boyle probably has it and in different stages of growth. He'll plant it for you as a landscape designer and make suggestions where you may want to put it and later add other plants to your yard.
"This past winter was a rough one, but we survived it. There were several cold nights below freezing, but with the careful use of water and temperature control, very few plantings were lost," Boyle said.
Asked if folks should start cutting back on "burned" areas from the frost and cold, he suggested waiting until the middle of March.
"Some of those brown fronds on the plants tend to cover the inner parts and if you pull it off and we have another frost, the plant could be further damaged. No, I'd wait until the middle of next month ... not much change we'll get a frost after that," he said.
During the cold spells, areas more inland such as eastern Lehigh Acres and Alva received some of the coldest temperatures and if the plants were young and tender, they could have been completely damaged, but with working with plants and putting out some extra money, Boyle can count on his experience and expertise, to save his inventory and he did a very good job after a tour looking at his stock through the nursery areas of his farm.'
And another bit of advice from Boyle is that just because a plant is a native doesn't always mean it can withstand cold temperatures.
"But there are those that can and I always advise homeowners to plant about 60 percent of native or cold resistant plants to about 40 percent of other types. I am always glad to help people when the cold comes and telling them how to protect the more sensitive plants," he said.
Not a day goes by that Boyle is riding a motorized cart throughout and seven and half acres of all types of plant growths. he checks ever thing and knows when and if they should be producing leave and/or fruit or berries.
"My goal is that we have an early spring and I think we are close to it, "he predicted. "That is when I would advise gardeners to begin planting and begin pruning their shrubs." he said.
Recently David's father, Gene Boyle, handed the operations of the nursery business to his son. David began working with his dad when he was a young teenager and learned the business from the ground up.
One interesting comment made by David was that residents in Lee County should realize that we don't live in a tropical climate.
"This area of Southwest Florida is sub-tropical and as we have seen, the area can get the cold freezing temperatures.
When a retail location is selected, Boyle will make the announcement. In the meantime, if you have any questions about planting and other interests, he can be reached at 239-728-2577.