Wayside Gardens: the complete history

January 14, 2018

The year was 1916, and eighteen year old Elmer Schultz was about to graduate from Harvey High School in Painesville, Ohio.   Elmer had grown up in Mentor, which was still a small village with many farms and nurseries, and too small to support its own high school.  For the last four years he had walked, run, or occasionally taken the street car to travel the five miles into Painesville, and five miles back each day.  Elmer didn’t mind; he was young, strong, and athletic, and thoroughly enjoyed the outdoors.

 

As graduation day neared, Elmer pondered what to do with the rest of his life.  His father ran a successful business making and selling candy, and so the logical thing seemed to be to join his father in the candy business.  John Schultz recognized, however, that his son preferred the outdoors, and advised his son that being cooped up inside all day was probably not the best idea.  He knew that many of his neighbors made a decent living in the nursery business, and several such as the Cole Nursery and Storrs & Harrison were extremely successful.  Elmer had taken an interest in growing perennials at an early age, and often helped his neighbor C.B. Gates with his perennial garden just down Heisley Road near the corner of Mentor Avenue.  The father suggested that the nursery business would probably suit the younger Schultz better, and so Elmer had a talk with his neighbor.

 

Gates agreed to let Elmer use three acres of his property.  They would be equals partners.  Gates, who was a cashier at National City Bank, would be the secretary-treasurer; Schultz would be president and in charge of all nursery operations.  The first catalog was issued in 1916, and reveals that the product line focused on hardy perennials and locally grown bulbs.  However, this first documented Wayside Gardens catalog raises more questions than it answers.  The sixteen pages show a substantial inventory, and the text reads as though the nursery had been in business for several decades:

 

“The growing of Gladioli and Dahlias is one of our specialties and during the blooming season acres of these beautiful flowers are a rare sight.  As no flowers are cut with long stems for the market, the bulbs produced here are exceptionally fine and well developed.  These bulbs should not be compared with foreign grown stock, and if high quality in Gladioli is desired, bulbs known to be American grown should be insisted upon.

 

In the finer Dahlias of the Cactus type, many varieties which bloom freely and satisfactorily near the coast are practically failures in the climate of the middle west.  In our continuous trials of new varieties we are obliged to discard nearly all for this reason and grow for sale only those which give a satisfactory amount of bloom.”

 

 

Whether this is the first time the name “Wayside Gardens” was used, or whether Gates had already been using it is not clear.  Neither is it clear to what extent Gates had been engaged in the nursery business prior to partnering with Schultz.  In any event, Wayside Gardens as we know it today, was on its way.

 

While the language of the first catalog appears to address the retail market, the only catalogs we have located from 1918 through Spring of 1922 are titled either “Trade List” or “Wholesale”.  When J.J. Grullemans joined the business, the focus changed forever.

 

Jan Jacobs Grullemans (he later anglicized his name to John James Grullemans; most people referred to him as J.J; close friends called him Jack) was born in Noordwyk Holland in 1890.  His family had operated a very large and prosperous bulb business in Lisse, Holland for four generations, and exported bulbs not only to other European countries, but all over the world.  Grullemans immigrated to the United States in 1906, after three years of apprenticeship in some of England’s leading nurseries.  Once in the U.S. he began selling bulbs for his father’s bulb farm, but with only modest success.  In 1915 he married an American girl, Evelyn, against his family’s wishes and returned to Holland with his new bride.  After a year-long unsuccessful attempt at acclimating his bride to Europe, he returned to the US and settled near Cleveland, Ohio.  For one season he worked in a mailorder seed house and then for three years grew gladiolus bulbs with a partner in Avon, Ohio, about 15 miles west of Cleveland.

 

In 1920 he met Schultz at a gladiola show in Buffalo, New York, and they decided to join forces.  Grullemans used the $16,000 he had saved from his commissions selling bulbs and bought out Gates half interest in the business.  He served as the Secretary-Treasurer and was responsible for sales, while Schultz as President remained in charge of operations, and especially propagation, growing, and digging.

 

Grullemans quickly took over preparation of the catalog, marketing, and all of the business operations.  It was a good partnership, and the business prospered.  Grullemans’ marketing genius combined with Schultz’ ability to propagate and grow quality plants led to remarkable growth.  As sales soared, the nursery expanded, and soon Wayside Gardens was recognized as a major nursery with sales worldwide.

 

The young nurserymen rented 45 acres of land from Schultz’s father on the east side of Heisley Road in Mentor, in a region plush with large, successful nursery firms.  They were able to purchase the land in 1922.  In their 1925 Imported Bulb catalog they proclaim themselves to be the “Largest Growers of Field Grown Perennial Plants in America”.  Their partnership was successful for two reasons.   Schultz was an extraordinary propagator and plantsman.  By the time he left Wayside in 1945 he was recognized as one of the country’s truly great growers.  His skills were complemented by Grullemans, who was a gifted businessman, creative copywriter for the catalog, and keen plantsman who could identify new plants with good market potential before others knew they existed.  His first success was with the Regal Lily (Lilium regale) that E. H. Wilson had introduced from China in 1910.  By 1922 the young nursery had 200,000 bulbs ready for sale and offered them to any nursery listing it in their respective offerings for $0.65 each.  In the 1925 Wayside Gardens catalog select Regal Lily bulbs were offered for $0.85 each along with the notice that: “We have the largest stock of this Lily in the country, growing it by the ten thousand”.  In addition to getting the young firm off on a sound financial footing and permitting the corporation to buy the farm from Shultz’s father,  the Regal Lily established Wayside Gardens as an innovator in the nursery industry, a position it enjoyed throughout the remainder of the century.

 

Maintaining a strong price for a new plant for a decade was to become one of the hallmarks of Grullemans’ management style.  Instead of rushing to the marketplace with a few plants and selling them at an extraordinarily high price for one or two seasons, Grullemans followed a different approach.  He would hold off introducing a new plant for a couple of seasons until he had a large quantity on hand.  Then he would introduce the plant and promote it lavishly, but sell it at just slightly higher prices than more common plants of the same category.  By doing this he kept competitors from rushing in and flooding the market with the plant, thus destroying the market for everyone.  Using his system of mass introduction and heavy promotion, he was able to keep prices up for new items for a decade or longer instead of the two years enjoyed by most new items.

 

For example, in 1935, Grullemans obtained a plant patent (PP No. 118) on ‘Columbia’, a cameo-pink Phlox paniculata cultivar.  He promoted it in front page positions in his spring catalogs for at least four years, often using full color illustrations.  In 1936 his prices were a modest three plants for $1.25 compared to older cultivars he listed at three for a dollar.  By 1938 the price had dropped to three for $1.15.  Newer or red flowered phlox tended to have higher prices, usually selling for $1.45 in groups of three.

 

Grullemans reasoned that men preferred bright colors, especially red, and would pay more for garden plants than his women customers.  The pricing structure of offering perennial plants in minimums of three was an agreement reached by the fledgling Mailorder Association of Nurserymen which was established in 1934 and born out of the desperation of the Great Depression.  This multiple plant pricing strategy seems to have disappeared by 1950.

 

In the early years of Wayside Gardens’ existence, the nursery primarily catered to the large estates of the East and Midwest.  Sales in amounts of $2500 per customer were commonplace before the stock market crash of 1929.  As the effects of the Depression worsened, the grand estates of the robber-baron era vanished and the young firm’s traditional market disappeared.  By this time Grullemans had shifted his focus to rock gardens and plants appropriate for such gardens.  While the firm slipped from $45,000 profit in 1927 on sales of $184,000 to losses of $4000 in 1932 and $16,000 in 1933, the firm managed to weather the storm on cash reserves.  By 1935 it was back in the black with a $5700 profit, selling smaller rock garden plants to an ever-expanding audience.  According to Grullemans in his 1951 interview with Fortune magazine, rock gardens were the garden feature of the depression.

 

As the conditions of the Great Depression eased, Grullemans was convinced that mass mailorder was to be their road to success.  The 1936 spring catalog contained a new product listing, similar to what they were to carry for the remainder of the century.  Wayside was rewarded with a profit margin of $17,000.  In 1937 the firm had $400,000 in sales with the half million dollar mark reached by 1942.  In 1946 sales jumped to a million dollars and in 1950 they were at $1.5 million. During this era Wayside produced about 70% of the plants they sold.  They imported most of their bulbs from the Grullemans sources in Europe and contracted for most of their roses from local growers as well as nurseries in California.  All contracted inventory was grown to Wayside’s specifications.

 

In 1940 the firm listed 2000 items under production on 400 acres of land near Lake Erie.  The nursery consisted of 300 acres in Mentor which included the three acres from the Gates farm, 45 acres purchased from Schultz’s father, nearly 100 acres on the South side of Mentor Avenue (U.S. Route 20) which had been the Sawyer Farm, and additional acquisitions on both sides of Mentor Avenue.  In addition, in 1939 Wayside purchased nearly 100 acres in Perry Township known as the “General Nurseries”.  Here they grew many of their shrubs and small trees.  It was also an area where agricultural inspectors rarely visited, and so Wayside could avoid some of the increasing regulation that was a new challenge to nurseries.  For example, when Wayside was quarantined for Japanese Beetles, they would deliver truckloads of shrubs to the General Nurseries at night.  The shrubs could be shipped from there without any “government interference”.  By this time Wayside was the nation’s largest mail-order nursery.  They claimed to be producing over six million plants, with phlox alone accounting for 300,000 units.

 

The Wayside Gardens catalogs have long been one of the staple references for gardeners.  An annual catalog had long been an important part of many retail nursery operations.  Storrs and Harrison, the largest nursery in the county and one of the largest in the United States, was located just ten miles East in Painesville Township.  It had an enormous catalog and issued five editions each year.  Wayside began with a mere 16 page plant list in 1916.  Less than a year after he joined Wayside, Grullemans changed printers and began a long term relationship with A.B. Morse Company of St. Joseph, Michigan.  In 1921 the wholesale catalog was expanded to 32 pages.  The size was increased from 6” by 9” to 7 ½” by 10 ½”.  For the first time it included a picture on the cover, as well as many A.B. Morse photographs throughout the catalog, illustrating plants as well as their landscape uses.  The next catalog, in the spring of 1922, was essentially identical, but had a different photograph on the cover and included several price increases.  The 1922 Fall catalog boasted that Wayside was the “largest grower in America of hardy perennial plants”.  In the Fall of 1923 the catalog was expanded to 40 pages, and by 1925 both the Spring and Fall editions contained 56 pages.

 

Grullemans implemented a major redesign of the catalog in the Fall of 1925.  Unlike most nurseries of the era, he eliminated the picture on the front cover, and instead used the simple Wayside windmill logo.  The savings on the cover allowed him to include more photographs throughout the catalog, and soon Wayside was using many of its own photographs rather than just using the A.B. Morse stock photos.  The Fall of 1927 catalog expanded to 80 pages and continued at around that size until 1939.  It was then that the catalog took on its greatest expansion, with 136 pages in the Spring 1939 issue, and 180 pages the following year.  Even during the war years the nursery continued to produce at least 176 pages in each Spring issue.

 

In 1934 the Spring catalog was entirely in black and white, but later that year Wayside issued a bulb catalog which included eighteen pages of color plates.  By 1936 Spring and Autumn catalogs included several color plates, and over the years the number of pictures in color steadily increased.

 

No less colorful was Grullemans’ flowery prose.  Superlatives were his favorite adjectives.  A few examples should suffice.  In 1936 he describes the ‘Louisa Schling’ Chrysanthemum as follows:

 

“This splendid variety is outstanding and should find a place in every collection.  The flowers are of good size, fully 3 inches across, with three or four rows of petals, fluffy and distinct in appearance.  Glowing salmon-coppery red in color, changing to a lovely soft bronze-salmon as the flower matures.  It is a remarkably free flowering variety, healthy and attractive in its growth alone, and one of the first to flower.”

 

In the 1948 Autumn catalog he describes a cultivar of Mock Orange named ‘Innocence’ this way:

 

“The long arching branches carry a wealth of large single alabaster-white flowers.  So heavily loaded with flowers are the slender branches as to assume the appearance of sheaves of bloom.  They are of such purity of whiteness as to make all other Mockoranges seem gray by comparison.  The fragrance is delightful, more delicate, yet more penetrating than that of Jasmine.  Its flowers are so intensely white, one constantly marvels at its ethereal effect.  A “must” in every garden.  Ultimate height about 6 feet.”

 

His most extravagant writing, however, was devoted to essays in the first few pages and various inserts.  Inside the cover of the 1947 catalog are four pages of a narrow insert.  The first page reads:

 

“Yours Can Be the Most Beautiful Garden in Your Community

 

Nothing reflects so favorably upon the character, prestige and standing of a woman as does her garden.  Wherever women of culture gather, flowers are certain to be discussed sooner or later.  She is sure to stand out in the eyes of others if hers is an attractive garden, although it need not be the largest or the most expensive, since the charm of a garden lies in the quality of its contents rather than in its size.

 

You can make such a garden your very own – one that is the most talked-about and admired in your community.  To Accomplish this does not require great time, knowledge or expense but merely a study and selection from the large number of superior offerings in the following pages.  In these pages or accompanying your order you will find all the planting instructions and information you need to possess in order to make yours an outstanding garden – knowledge that will bring your garden to the very peak of beauty and perfection.

 

If, as some have stated, you find so many beautiful things in the catalog that you cannot decide which ones to order, just enclose your check and let us make the selections for you as we do for many of our customers.  You will be highly pleased with the results.

 

Start now with the determination to make yours the most beautiful garden in your neighborhood.  It can be accomplished with far less time and expense than you realize.  Plant a few of our lovely creations where they may be seen by passers-by, then watch them pause in admiration and gasp for breath at the sheer beauty of YOUR garden.

 

Know the many thrills – the joy and excitement of bringing new beauty into your life and garden.  Nothing so quickens the spirit as the magic touch of growing things.

 

ORDER TODAY AND REAP SATISFYING REWARDS NEXT SPRING AND SUMMER.”

 

 

The Wayside product line was not limited solely to plants.  Over the years their product line included fertilizers, pesticides, tools, gloves and other sundries.   In his 1939 Spring catalog Grullemans introduced Wayside customers to flower seeds from the one hundred year old English breeder Sutton and Sons of Reading, Pennsylvania.  For two years they offered separate seed catalogs, but due to the exigencies of war in 1942 they combined seeds with their perennial plant listings.  Apparently the seed sales were not sufficiently profitable, and after the War no more mention is made of seeds.

 

In December, 1957, Grullemans was awarded the Gold Medal by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society for the development of his catalog and nursery.  In the citation Grullemans was praised for having “high class merchandise and doing business in a high class manner that will appeal indefinitely to a high class market.”

 

Another marketing technique that Grullemans exploited to the fullest was the continuing promotion of “new introductions”.  Each spring several of the first pages in the catalog would highlight the special qualities of newly discovered plants and the fact that Wayside was the only nursery that could provide them.  With the advent of the Plant Patent Act in 1930, Wayside began to promote many of the earliest patented plants.

 

In 1935 the catalog began with full page coverage of Phlox ‘Columbia’ (Patent No. 118), and Berberis mentorensis, (P.P. 99).  The Mentor Barberry was promoted heavily for several decades as the ideal hedge plant.  Grullemans effused; “So distinctly different and so superior to other hardy barberrys, that the U.S. Government granted us a Patent on it.”  Many of these plants would be described as “new” for many years, and Berberis ‘Mentorensis’ probably hold the record.

 

The 1937 issue opened with a page one headline “Two new phlox – grown by Wayside Gardens only”.  These were the ‘Columbia Phlox’ (P.P. 118) and ‘Augusta’ (the 1937 Catalog indicated “Patent Applied For” and the patent was issued in 1939, P.P. 252).  The next two pages extolled the virtues of Mentor Barberry, and the fourth page was devoted largely to Buddleia ‘Fortune’ (P.P. 206), a 1936 introduction by Wayside Gardens.

 

Among other important Wayside Gardens introduction were Viburnum ‘Burkwoodii’ (P.P. 776) in 19____, and Cornus Kousa ‘Milky Way’ (P.P. 2413) in 1964.

 

Mentor had long been a major rose growing area and was know as “The Rose Capital of the Nation”, at one time producing over five million plants a year.  Among the major growers were Joseph W. Kallay’s Donewell Nurseries, Melvin E. Wyant, Henry Merkle, Gerard J. Klyn, and later Joseph J. Kern, and Paul R. Bosley.  One of the nation’s premier rose hybridizers was Michael H. Horvath, a prominent Cleveland area landscaper.  For some eleven years he served as Cleveland’s City Forester and was instrumental in developing the Cleveland parks system.  In 1914 he moved to Mentor and purchased the old Munson House on Jackson Street near the corner of Heisley Road.  It was here that he devoted his time to experimenting on his thirteen and a half acre farm.  He won several medals for his results and was a recognized authority on the science and practice of seed propagation.  Among his most notable patents were the climbing rose ‘Thor’ (P.P. 387), ‘Mabelle Stearns’ (P.P. 297), ‘Federation’ (P.P. 287), ‘Media’ (P.P. 518), ‘Mrs. M.H. Horvath’ (P.P. ______), ‘Faust’ (P.P. 288), ‘Pink Profusion’ (P.P. 298), and ‘Polaris’ (P.P. 389).  The 1939 Wayside catalog announced that Horvath had entered into an exclusive Marketing Agreement whereby Wayside Gardens would introduce and distribute all of Horvath’s new roses.  For the next several years six to eight pages of each Spring catalog were devoted to Horvath introductions, and even as the rose growing business shifted to Texas and California, Wayside retained a large market share.

 

The 1939 catalog also included a half-page insert at the beginning entitled “630 Miles of Hardy Plants Grown on Soil Millions of Years Old”.  The article described Wayside’s use of several soil types for producing hundreds of thousands of phlox, poppies, delphiniums, etc. and proclaimed that Wayside was “by far the largest hardy plant nursery in the world”.  At the end it stated in large print “The above article is a reprint from The Florists’ Review, August 18, 1938”.  In fact, “the article” was a full page paid advertisement in The Florists’ Review the year before, undoubtedly written by Grullemans.

 

By 1950 Wayside’s catalogs listed over 3500 items and illustrated an extraordinary number of these in true-to-life color.  Their catalogs frequently ran to 220 pages or more, and had 60 or more pages of four-color prints.  Grullemans and his printer, A. B. Morse of St. Joseph, Missouri, shared the cost of the color separation plates with the understanding that Wayside Gardens would have exclusive use of the prints for a few years and then the printer could add them to its general inventory of illustrations for use by other competing firms.  Since the early years the catalogs have sold for $0.25 to $1.00 per issue, but they have always cost more to produce than their sales price.  In 1950 the catalog price was $0.50 per issue with production costs of about $0.65, and total costs by the time of delivery to the customer of about $1.60.  However, nearly 70% of the catalogs resulted in sales, an incredibly good return for any catalog company.

 

While Wayside was by no means the first nursery to bring rare and unusual plants to American gardeners, it faithfully followed that tradition throughout its existence.  As it enjoyed a national audience from its mail order business format, and because it was one of the few firms with high-circulation catalogs numbering well over a million in many years, its impact on the American landscape was profound.  Many now common perennials and woody landscape plants had their American debut in the pages of the Wayside catalog.  For example, hostas were one of the perennials Wayside Gardens helped popularize during the last third of the century.

 

Yet another marketing tool which had long been used by nurseries was to design small gardens, foundation plantings, etc. and sell them as packages.  The package would provide a scale drawing showing which plant to place where and would include the entire group of plants that were required.  Instead of selling half-a-dozen plants the nurseries hoped to sell packages of 20 or 30 so the homeowner could instantly have a completed landscape area.

 

Grullemans took this process one step further with his “Garden Blox”.  He understood that many homeowners could not landscape their entire property at one time.  He developed landscape plans that were made up of several blocks which he called “Blox”.  He would divide the landscape into small sections of 5’ x 5’ or 10’ x 10’ Blox.  As he explained in the catalog, “by playing with blox, you can make your garden any size or shape and each blox is complete in itself.”  He went on to say that:

“Like magic in your garden.  Garden – Blox show how to obtain the very finest and most efficient results.  They point out your general directions and show the proper course to follow, but are flexible and adaptable enough to enable you to depart on flowery bypaths and carry out your own personal ideas.  Thus you retain the stamp of your own personality on your garden; the Blox actually assist you in carrying out your own desires for your garden, and are made to fit all sections of the country.  These beautiful plans give you information you have long sought about color arrangements, artistic and harmonious designs, where to place plants of certain size and height, showing you flowers that thrive, flourish, and grow even lovelier when planted alongside each other.  Of even more importance is the fact that the Blox may reveal any mistakes you may now be making in your garden.”

 

Introduced in 1939, and highly promoted for several years, the concept apparently had limited success and was last seen in the 1957 catalog.

 

Grullemans was not only an innovator with plants and marketing.  He also kept abreast of the latest developments in technology.  Early on tractors, trucks, and other mechanized equipment began to replace the horse drawn equipment that had been employed since the beginning in 1916.  With the advent of World War II, maintaining an adequate labor force became a serious problem.  An important part of the labor force soon included high school students who worked on weekends and spring and summer vacations, and as in every other U.S. industry, women became a more important part of the labor force.  Because of the labor shortage it was not unusual to work 12 and 16 hour days.  In the latter war years Elmer Schultz, now in his mid-40’s, found himself digging plants from dawn until dusk trying to keep up with Grullemans’ marketing success.  Finally, in 1945 he decided he could no longer handle the long hours of manual labor, and he and Grullemans agreed to part ways.  Shortly thereafter he took over his father’s property on the West side of Heisley Road and started a new nursery, Springbrook Gardens, focusing on what he knew and loved most, the growing of hardy perennials.  Thus began the next chapter of his life, which we will come back to a little later.  He soon became a major supplier to Wayside as well as other nurseries and landscapers throughout the eastern United States.

 

The war marked only the beginning of the labor problems for nurseries.    After the war, U.S. industry boomed and higher paying factory jobs made it impossible to keep hardworking employees at low wages.  More and more labor was supplied by immigrants.  Before the war the labor force included Germans, Poles, Italians, Hungarians and others of European descent.  After the war nurseries looked to Puerto Rico and then Mexico for laborers.  The need for more mechanization became even more apparent.  The May 1960 issue of Popular Mechanics detailed how Wayside was replacing horse-drawn machines and manual labor with the latest in mechanized planters, weeders, and other modern technology.  The next step, container growing, was still in its infancy.

 

After the war land values began to skyrocket, and it became more and more difficult to acquire additional land at a reasonable price.  Further, high prices from selling nursery acreage for residential, commercial, and industrial development soon became irresistible.  As a result many of the nurseries sold off their valuable properties in Mentor and other communities in Lake County’s west end and moved their operations further East to Perry and Madison Township, where land values still remained low but the nurserymen could still enjoy the benefits of similar soils and climate.

 

In 1945 Grullemans purchased a Long Island nursery and leased it to Wayside for distribution of their imported bulbs.  In their 1949 catalog Grullemans took the unusual step of illustrating their Bulb Warehouse in Glen Head, Long Island, New York and some of their production fields.

 

Five years later Grullemans opened a twenty acre display garden on the Long Island property.  He sold his home in Painesville and moved to the East, but still kept a watchful eye on every aspect of the business.  In a 1951 Fortune Magazine article he talked about planning to slow down, but apparently never did. He did, however, begin giving more responsibility to key employees.  Norris Smith, a long time employee, was named Treasurer of the company and charged with administration of a large office.  Grullemans hired Lloyd Weaver of San Francisco to handle bulb purchasing and manage the Brookville, Long Island showplace.  Grullemans’ son, Winslow, spent four years in the Coast Guard, and then became his father’s assistant learning about the idiosyncrasies of plants and the secrets of growing them.  [Talk about Bentley and others].  Nevertheless Grullemans was always the man in charge.

 

“Insert B” re East Coast

 

When J.J. died in 1965, Winslow Grullemans took over according to plan, but he did not show the same aptitude or energy that characterized his father.  Within two years the business was declining and he sold it to a group of local investors led by Robert Jenks, a young architect who was very much involved in urban renewal in the nearby City of Painesville.  Jenks set up a new corporation, T.W.G.C, Inc., (The Wayside Garden Company), on November 6, 1967.  While the business group included several businessmen, none of them had experience in the nursery industry.  Soon the business began to fall apart.  By 1975 the company was forced into receivership, and the remaining assets were auctioned off.  The Park Seed Company of Hodges, South Carolina, one of the country’s premier seed sales houses, purchased the name and catalog rights and moved the entire administration of the business to South Carolina.  From that time on, however, all plants were purchased from contract growers.  Wayside was no longer a nursery, only a sales operation.

 

Although Park Seed Company grew none of its product, it continued to carefully follow many of Grullemans’ policies, including the use of an extensive, colorful catalog, and promoted the constant introduction of new and interesting plants.  The Company soon hired John Elsley, a respected horticulturist with vast experience both in Europe and the United States.  In 1981 he became their Director of Plant Purchasing.  In 1992 he was promoted to Vice-President of Product Development and Merchandising.  Under his guidance Wayside Gardens was the first national company to popularize the finest new introductions of hostas, peonies, and daylilies, including the wildly popular Stella D’Oro,   He developed sources in Great Britain, Holland, Germany, France, Poland, and even South Africa.  During his tenure Wayside sales nearly quadrupled.

 

As the next generation of the Park family took over operation of the company, management began to splinter into factions, and difficulties arose.  John Elsley left the firm in July of 2000 as the company started cutting corners and the quality of its plants suffered.  In 2005 the Park family sold the company to a Florida real estate developer, Donald Hachenberger.  Shortly thereafter he bought the California based Jackson & Perkins Companies, one of the nations major rose growers.  The financial problems continued, however, and Park Seed, including Wayside and Jackson & Perkins, filed for bankruptcy in February of 2010.  In August a Maryland Company purchased the assets from the Trustee in Bankruptcy, with an agreement that the company would continue with its current employees for at least three years.  In a struggling economy, when every nursery is faced with new and tougher challenges, Wayside’s future continues in doubt.