Carson's Nurseries

carsons-gate-jpg.jpgFor more than 30 years
one of the Ozarks' best-known sources for plants and landscaping, Carson's Nurseries nestles on the banks of the James River south of Springfield, Missouri. The official address is 6607 S. Campbell, and to help further, South Campbell is also Highway 160.
     The nursery has a longstanding reputation for growing and selling superb plant stock and for creative landscaping design and careful installation. Now, Carson's has a new owner, J.J. Cybulski, a young man who clearly wants to keep up the nursery's reputation by offering exceptionally engaging plant choices at good prices and by bringing an extra-creative touch to the landscaping.
     But read on....

Nursery by Design

The revamped Carson's Nurseries is something to see. The entrance invites customers into a flowing, curvilinear arrangement of plants leading up to certainly the biggest gazebo we've ever seen, a structure no less than 260 feet in circumference with 5,382 square feet of shade to protect Japanese Maple and other shade-loving plants.

JuLee at Work
julee-at-work.jpg"Should I look like I'm doing something?" asked nursery manager JuLee Courtier when we asked for a photo, then she set to work deadheading this striking 'Royal Purple' Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea buttiana 'Royal Purple'). Bougainvilleas are spectacular on arbors and as container plants. They need bright light and high heat and bloom even more profusely if pinched and if stressed by keeping them on the dry side and slightly rootbound. JuLee, by the way, has moved on to other endeavors. She made a world of friends, though, with her work at Carson's.

Cascading Bougainvillea
bougainvillea-planting-jpg.jpgWe're not sure which Bougainvillea variety this is, but we love the way it cascades from this simple pot. Bougainvillea are thorny, woody vines native to South America and the colorful "flowers" are actually bracts, modified leaves that protect the flower, which is actually small and inconspicuous. The plant's many hybrids come in shades of pink, magenta, purple, red, orange, white, or yellow. the plant grows wonderfully well in the Ozarks, providing color all season long.

A Truly Unique Bougainvillea

This unique Bougainvillea is a hybrid in the famed Bougainvillea x buttiana series, plants known for their smaller, more "shrubby" habit and remarkable colors. This one may be Bougainvillea peruviana x buttiana 'Mary Palmer'. Whatever the hybrid name, its wonderfully subtle coloration makes it a real winner in the garden or in containers.

'It's a lot of work....'

Mike Jones, the yard manager when we first visited Carson's, was highly enthusiastic about the direction the nursery was taking with its plant inventory and landscape design. "It's a lot of work," he said, "but it's worth it."

'Nova Zembia' Rhododendron

The 'Nova Zembla' Rhododendron (Rhododendron catawbiense grandiflorum) is an exceptionally hardy, heat-tolerant plant that bears a remarkable abundance of brilliant red blooms  It grows to 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide and does best in part sun and with protection from north winds. This rhododendron hybrid is extremely popular and the species is native to Appalachia.

Early Spring Beauty

For beautiful color in early spring, the 'Minnetonka' Rhododendron with its deep green, glossy foliage first shows deep purple buds that in early to mid-May open into light purple flowers with a paler center and vivid yellow-green spots. This engaging plant grows to 4-6 feet tall by 4-8 feet wide in sun or part shade.

Knock Outs

Carson's in early May carries an exceptionally good selection of Knock Out series roses, the shrub roses that swept the garden world for their ease of culture, unique beauty, fragrance, disease immunity, and a huge profusion of flowers all season long. 

A New Knock Out

The 'New Pink Knock Out Rose', a sport of the original red-blossoming Knock Out Rose, happily
has all of its parent's virtues, including the great bonus of doing beautifully with as little as four hours of sun per day. 

Good Rocks, Too

Even though we grow bumper crops of rocks in the Ozarks--they're everywhere--it isn't always that easy to find the extra-special kind that truly enliven and enrich our gardens and landscapes. Carson's, though, has some beauties. They also know how to use them.

'Sorbet' Peony

Just beginning to bloom in mid-May, the 'Sorbet' Peony (Paeonia lactiflora 'Sorbet' ) is a recent introduction that bears an abundance of exquisite, double 5-7-inch-wide blooms in soft pink and white. The blossoms have a lovely light fragrance and the rich deep-green foliage turns reddish in fall. The plant is easy to grow and reaches 30 inches tall in full sun or partial shade.

A New Look

As the Ozarks summer grew warmer (read "much, much hotter"), we caught JuLee with a new look better suited to folks who work hard in Ozarks nurseries in July. She said she liked the haircut. So did we. 


Carson's does much more than just sell plants. We love the originality of the water feature at left, especially the way the power of the rocks, water, and river-stone basin play against the more delicate character of the plants.
      Below, a much larger water feature created in 2009 inside one of the nursery's greenhouses shows similarly vivid imagination, but on a much more imposing scale.


Wisteria Design

This unusually lovely design combines the finely cut foliage and delicate flower clusters of wisteria with an aged metal framework. To us it seems this photo might have been taken not in a nursery in the Ozarks, but at some opulent estate in the Italian countryside.

The flower commonly called Summer Snapdragon (Angelonia angustifolia) is another Carson's greenhouse goodie and a plant becoming enormously popular nationwide. Why? Because it's airy and gorgeous in the garden, blooms like crazy all season long, and despite its delicate appearance tolerates heat and drought. It comes in blue, pink, lavender, white, and bicolor blue and white. In full sun with humus-rich, well-drained soil it can grow to 18 inches tall and 14 inches wide. It blooms best in full sun but does well in part shade.

'Camelot' Foxglove
camelot-foxgloves.jpgJust outside one Carson's greenhouse we found these beautiful prennial 'Camelot' Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea hybrids). The series includes 'Camelot Rose' and 'Camelot Lavender'. The plant is the first F1 hybrid foxglove ever. What's an "F1 hybrid"? We're just learned that it's officially "the first generation offspring of two plants of closely related species or strains." (The "F" stands for"filial," which means "brotherly.") F1 hybrids are generally more vigorous than other hybrids. Now, all that said, 'Camelot' Foxgloves have spectacular flushes of bloom, grow to 4 feet tall, and do best in well-drained soil in shady beds and borders.

Ground Orchid
The Ground Orchid (Bletilla striata) is beloved by many gardeners for its light-green lance-like foliage and delicate lavender-purple-pink flowers in April and May. Once rare, the plant is a true terrestrial orchid. It thrives in part shade and moist, rich, well-drained soil, growing to 1-1/2 feet tall and a foot wide. It's good in beds, borders, and containers. Other common names: Chinese Ground Orchid and Hardy Chinese Orchid.

'Songbird Cardinal' Columbine
'Songbird Cardinal' Columbine (Aquilegia 'Songbird' Series) is an exceptionally beautiful columbine that bears very large, upward-facing, burgundy-and-white bicolor flowers. The plant grows 1 1/2-2 feet tall with a 1 foot spread. It likes rich, moist soil and blooms in full sun or part shade in April and May. It's especially striking in borders, cottage gardens, shade gardens, and woodland gardens. This plant won the Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society in 2003. Note: The name Aquilegia comes from the Latin word for eagle, referring to the flower's five spurs, thought by some to resemble the talons of an eagle.

'Brise d'Anjou' Polemonium

'Brise d'Anjou' Polemonium (Polemoniaceae caeruleum 'Brise d'Anjou)--also known as Variegated Jacob's Ladder--is the answer to a gardener's prayer for bringing new life to the shade garden. Native to France, polemoniums thrive in partial to full shade and fertile, moist, well-drained soil. This hybrid grows to 18-24 inches tall and as wide and bears violet-blue flowers in late spring to midsummer. A centerpiece plant, to be sure.

'Evergold' Carex

'Evergold' Carex (Carex oshimensis 'Evergold') is a sedge plant native to Japan that likes wet-to-medium-wet soil and part shade. Its cream-and-green colors are more intense in the shade, but full shade can send the plant into decline. Growing to a foot tall and 1 1/2 feet wide, its compact habit makes it an eyecatching winner at the front of the border. In May, it bears brown flowers.

Some Very Special Grasses

With ornamental grasses soaring in popularity, Carson's has a good selection at what seem unusually good prices. Shown here are Graziella Maiden Grass, Adagio Dwarf Maiden Grass, New Zealand Crown Sedge, Blue Dune Lime Grass, Hamelin Dwarf Fountain Grass, and Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass. To see how some of these and other grasses look when mature, click here.

'Sun Power' Hosta
Considered by hosta aficionados among the most desirable gold hostas, 'Sun Power' tends to sell out early in the season, if you can find it at all. Its yellow, wavy, twisted and pointed leaves hold their color extremely well in sun or shade. It grows to 30 inches tall and 62 inches wide. Its vase-shaped habit and unusual height make it a real eyecatcher in the garden. Note: Morning sun intensifies the gold, but hot afternoon sun can damage the plant.

'Island Charm' Hosta

' Island Charm' is a small, vigorous hosta with nicely formed leaves yellow in the center and margined with green. The leaf centers gradually turn white as it grows quickly and vigorously into a neat clump about a foot tall and 21 inches wide. In midsummer it bears pinkish-lavender flowers that produce pink seedpods. Praised by some experts as the best white-centered hosta to appear in years, it's ideal especially for edging.

'Striptease' Hosta

'Striptease' to some is the most striking hosta yet, and in fact its remarkable color pattern, leaf shape, compact habit, and other qualities earned it the Hosta of the Year award in 2005. A gardener friend tells us the whimsical name comes from the "teasing" strip of color down the center of each leaf. 'Striptease' likes partial sun and shade, grows rather quickly to 2 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide, and, obviously, is a perfect focal point in any shade garden.

Bishop's Weed

A perfect plant for containers, Bishop's Weed (Aegopodium podagraria) can spread wildly in the garden, smothering other plants and becoming nearly impossible to control. Also called Gout Weed for its use in the past in treating gout, the plant grows about 12 inches high in almost any soil and prefers partial shade but will grow in full sun if kept moist. It's an excellent groundcover for steep slopes, around trees, and wherever it can spread without creating problems. This variegated variety, A. podagraria 'Variegata', is much more popular than the solid green plant.  

New Guinea Impatiens

New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens x hawkeri) are sunloving impatiens noted for gorgeous flower and foliage color and a compact habit that makes them perfect for the garden or container, and they're especially effective in hanging baskets. This bicolor variety of the annual plant exemplifies the remarkable colors and color blends hybridizers are producing today. We're not sure, but we think the varietal name of this one is 'Celebration Rose Star'. 

Japanese Fleece Flower

Japanese Fleece Flower (Fallopia japonica 'Variegata') is a perennial with attractive heart-shaped variegated foliage. It grows in shade or partial shade and does best with morning sun. It likes moist, well-drained soil and forms clumps 36-48 inches tall and 24-36 inches wide. New growth is pinkish-coral in color and the stems are pink. In late summer it bears white flowers.

Verbena Basket

The trailing habit of Verbenas makes them superb in hanging baskets. This variety is likely 'Purple Homestead' (Verbena canadensis 'Purple Homestead'). A favorite variety, it features beautiful dark purple flowers all season, prefers full sun, tolerates some drought, grows to 6-12 inches tall and 3 feet wide, and attracts bees, butterflies and birds. It's also perennial in the Ozarks, being hardy to -10 degrees.

Engaging Planter Mixes

You could almost call this mix of plants--coleus, petunias, etc.--an English Cottage Garden in a Box. Since we'd never thought of it ourselves we might call it a result of thinking outside the box. We like this nursery's resourcefulness. 

Pink Mandevilla
Mandevillas are much loved in the Ozarks for their lush tropical colors and character. Thriving in our hot, humid summers, they produce glossy green twining vines 15-20 feet long with gorgeous flowers all season. As shown here, they make superb container plants if staked to allow height. They like full sun to light shade and soil kept moist. This variety appears to be Mandevilla 'Alice du Pont' (Mandevilla x amabilis 'Alice du Pont'), also called Pink Mandevilla, a big favorite for its luscious, soft-pink flower color.

'Endless Summer' Hydrangea
The 'Endless Summer' Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla 'Endless Summer') is the answer to a gardener's prayer--the first hydrangea to bloom from June till frost. It blossoms on both old and new wood and the flower clusters are up to 8 inches across and pink to medium blue depending on soil acidity. The blooms attract bees, butterflies, and birds and are also ideal for cutting and drying. The plant is compact, grows to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide, and does best in full sun to partial shade with moist soil--i.e., don't let it dry out.

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