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March 17, 2010 > History: Nurseries

History: Nurseries

Elias Beard and John Lewelling established nurseries at Mission San Jose in 1853, the first real American nurseries in the East Bay. Beard distributed olive shoots, crafted several kinds of nuts and fruits, and imported and cared for trees from the east coast.

James Shinn and Dr. Joseph Clark formed a partnership and started one of our early nurseries located where Shinn Park now stands. They imported rare plants from around the world, introduced special varieties of peaches and oranges and planted a demonstration Japanese garden. Catalogs and ads in the 1880s featured fruit trees, ornamental plants and a great variety of decorative and useful offerings. Shinn sold his nursery stock in 1888 and concentrated on care of his fruit orchard.

Charles Shinn wrote that when B. D. Clough started his pioneer almond nursery, his enthusiastic talks led to planting of additional almond orchards. Local farmers came to see the Shinn and Clough plantings and requested spare trees. These small local requests led to large modern nurseries and more tree plantings.

John Rock operated his nursery on Milpitas Road in the last part of the 1800's. He formed a partnership with R. D. Fox, bought 600 acres at Niles and incorporated the California Nursery Company. The Roeding family acquired the nursery corporation in 1917. George Roeding, Sr. used the well-known nursery name as an umbrella for his operations.

Irvington was not so famous for its nurseries, but Patrick McKeany had a nursery there while it was still called Washington Corners. He advertised as a florist and landscape gardener with choice trees and flowers of all kinds for sale.

John A. Bunting operated a nursery at his Sycamore Farm on Thornton Avenue. He featured orchard boxes in 1897 and ornamental shrubs and trees in 1907.

The Lewis Nursery had a sales yard on the Centerville-Alvarado Road in 1913. They advertised "a choice stock of clean, young and thrifty trees." The Halstead Nursery was listed as two miles south of Irvington in 1922.

Nurseries suffered during the depression years but rebounded after World War II. They continued to flourish until the 1980s.

Frank Serpa established Edenvale Nursery, Inc. along Mission Boulevard in 1922 on a site eventually expanded to 18 acres. The nursery stocked all the plants needed to make a home more beautiful. Mr. Serpa was supervising a staff of 20 workers and sharing his expert and friendly advice in 1966. The nursery carried a wide variety of general stock, specialty items and garden accessories.

Shigeharu "Shig" Nakamura operated Mission Adobe Garden Center on 10 acres of the original California Nursery property for over 28 years. He shared his expert advice with residents over the years.

Kitayama Brothers Nursery was founded by four brothers in Union City in 1949. The brothers constantly increased and improved facilities until the company became the largest rose and carnation producer in the country. One of the brothers, Tom, was once the popular major of Union City. By 1991 they had to reduce production and consider land sales.

Floyd Dillon and his son Don transferred their Four Winds Nursery from Ventura County to 10 acres on Palm Avenue in Mission San Jose in 1954. They grew up to 100,000 dwarf citrus trees a year on ten acres and eventually expanded to 20 acres. They supply retail nurseries all over California with the 30 varieties of citrus they grow. Some are shipped some overseas. By 1997 the 20 acre site was crowded with plastic pots watered by a drip system and producing up to a quarter million dwarf trees.

The 1958 Fremont Shopping Guide lists these retail nurseries: California Nursery Company, Edenvale Nursery, Flower Basket Nursery, Fremont Nursery, Hammond's African Violets, Four Winds, and Regan Nursery. Other nurseries included Pine on Walnut, Grimshaw, Belvior Springs and Naka in Niles, Freitas on Decoto Road, J. B. Porter, Navlet's and A to Z Tree.

Navlet's, one of a chain owned by radio garden personality Bert Bertalero, once operated in Warm Springs, recently succumbed to developers. With the coming of garden centers in the big box stores, only those highly specialized have survived. Four Winds continues to flourish as does Regan's on Decoto Road, one of the largest producers of roses in the country. In addition, Dale Hardware in the Centerville District of Fremont recently announced plans for a significant expansion of the store and customer services which will include a large garden center.

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