EASTON — Eastern Shore Nurseries celebrates 90 years in business as the last retail nursery in Talbot County, but still blooming old and new plants that do well on the Eastern Shore.
Located at 30104 Dover Road east of Easton, Eastern Shore Nurseries offers a full range of encore azaleas, crepe myrtles, English boxwood, forsythia, English, American, Japanese and hybrid hollies, endless summer hydrangea, blushing bride hydrangea, knock out roses, nandina, kaleidoscope abelia, lilacs and many perennials. Since 1929, the business has been on a mission to help customers select the proper trees and shrubs for shoreline and wetlands mitigation projects in a law abiding and economical way.
“It’s something to be proud of because it shows perseverance,” said Michael Hemming, president of Eastern Shore Nurseries. “The nursery industry has changed in my lifetime from most plants being grown in ground to now grown in containers.”
Eastern Shore Nurseries Inc. started as a strictly English boxwood nursery in January 1929 on 170 acres about one and a half miles east of Easton on Dover Road; Ernest Hemming and his son, E. Sam Hemming were the owners.
Ernest Hemming emigrated from England and was trained at Kew Gardens. He worked at various nurseries in Colorado, Philadelphia and the old Canterbury Nursery in Easton.
Sam Hemming earned his degree in botany from the University of Maryland.
The nursery was forced to diversify into a landscape nursery that did everything by the stock market crash in 1929. Sam Hemming retired in 1975 from full-time nursery, but still took part until his death in 1984.
Michael Hemming, Sam’s son, grew up in the business and started following the workers around at an early age. He started to drive tractors and helping around the nursery at age 12.
Michael spent six years in the submarine service, deciding whether he should take over the family business. He started at the University of Maryland in 1968 and graduated with a degree in ornamental horticulture in 1971.
When he took over the helm of the nursery, he changed it from a landscape nursery to a container-growing nursery. The nursery now boasts more than 30,000 plants, about 70% propagated at the nursery itself. The plants are wintered over in 19 greenhouses and in a propagation house.
Larry Hemming, Michael’s son, is the fourth generation to work at the nursery. He followed in his father’s footsteps and started working in the family business as a teenager.
In 1985, Larry Hemming started at the University of Maryland, and he studied ornamental horticulture. He left the University of Maryland and went to study at the Rhode Island School of Photography in 1987 and graduated in 1989.
Michael Hemming said he would support his son no matter what profession he entered.
“It made me happy but it was not a necessity. My father didn’t push me into this business, and I’m not going to push my son or grandson into it,” Michael Hemming said. “It has to be their decision and their desire. Ye,s it is nice to be fourth or fifth generation business, but it is not a requirement in my mind. I think people should do the work they want to do.”
After a year in photography, he decided to return to the family business. He became a certified professional horticulturist specialist in plant identification in 1995 and a certified professional horticulturist specialist in IPM & Pest Control in 2000.
Larry Hemming is the advisor from the Maryland Nursery and Landscape Association to the Maryland Farm Bureau and has served on the Talbot County Farm Bureau Board and on the task force for the Gateway Zoning in Talbot County. He also has taught landscape at Chesapeake College.
He now is the first vice president of the Maryland Nursery Landscape & Greenhouse Association. He will become president in January 2020.
He will be following the footsteps of his grandfather, E. Sam Hemming, and his great uncle, Robert S. Johnston, who now were presidents of the Maryland Nurseryman Association.
Mike and Larry Hemmingg run the nursery now with the aid of Michael’s wife of 54 years, Florence Birge Hemming.
She runs the office and passed her certified horticulture test in 1995.
The fifth generation has worked during the summers, including Larry’s child, Rosalie, who worked while in college. His son, Robert, is a full-time employee of the nursery.
The nursery is a member of the Maryland Nursery Landscape & Greenhouse Associations. Ernest, and Sam and Michael have been honored by the Maryland Nurserymen’s Association for Professional Achievement.
Sam was elected into the American Nursery and Landscape Association Industry Honor Roll in 1986. The nursery is proud to have served the tri-county area for 90 years.
“I hope it will still be here (in 100 years), and I don’t see any major changes. Machinery will probably make it more efficient, and competition will probably force change,” Michael said. “I’d like (customers) to leave happy with the plants they want and what will do well in this situation that they are going to put them in.”