See How His Garden Grows

Across the street from Bailey Nurseries, John Bailey’s own gardens offer a real-life look at plants in the landscape

Campfire roses, along with hydrangeas, phlox, spireas, and Japanese tree lilac, provide a colorful backdrop for gatherings around a cozy fire pit.
Campfire roses, along with hydrangeas, phlox, spireas, and Japanese tree lilac, provide a colorful backdrop for gatherings around a cozy fire pit. (Tracy Walsh)

When John Bailey was a boy, his first paying job was mowing the grass outside Bailey Nurseries, a company his family has owned and operated in Newport, Minnesota, for five generations. Bailey also did the mowing at the house across the street, a 1960s rambler that belonged to his grandparents. Riding the mower around on hot afternoons, he says he often thought about “how nice it would be to one day have a house and grounds like these.”

In 2008, those daydreams became reality when Bailey, now the nursery’s CFO, bought his grandparents’ house after his grandmother passed away. He likes being able to simply walk across the street to go to work, and customers appreciate his close proximity as well—should they wonder how a certain plant looks in an actual landscape, it’s often possible to stroll through Bailey’s gardens next door to find out. “There are always so many plants I’d like to try,” he says. “Buying this house really gave me a chance to expand on what my grandparents did and bring in a lot of different things.”

A collection of flowers and a honey locust tree.
Representing multiple generations of family members’ efforts, John Bailey’s garden showcases a carefully cultivated blend of traditional and modern varieties. (Tracy Walsh)

Bailey has been transforming his three-acre property with the help of landscape designer Kent Broom, a former Bailey’s salesperson, for the past several summers. Happy to retain some of the many trees and shrubs his grandparents and great-grandparents planted, including honey locusts, ash, magnolias, lilacs, roses, and hydrangeas, he has been working with Broom to add five curving, expansive beds, many edged with good-sized rocks hauled in from the nursery’s fields to create natural-looking retaining walls.

The Crimson Fire loropetalum, a deep burgundy-colored plant, is a unique find in Minnesota gardens and grows throughout the seasons, providing some much-needed color during white winters.
The Crimson Fire loropetalum, a deep burgundy-colored plant, is a unique find in Minnesota gardens and grows throughout the seasons, providing some much-needed color during white winters. (Tracy Walsh)

Broom prefers doing hands-on design rather than drawing up plans, and Bailey likes to use plants primarily from the nursery’s farm. Together the two men have developed a creative approach that usually involves driving a truck to the farm; picking out a variety of trees, shrubs, and a few perennials for the bed they’re currently working on; and then returning home to move everything around until they find a combination they like. “There were lots of different plants I wanted to bring home,” Bailey recalls, “but Kent has a great eye, so I really let his vision for the scope and scale of things drive what we chose.”

Vibrant groupings of Easy Elegance roses stand out amid all the greenery.
Vibrant groupings of Easy Elegance roses stand out amid all the greenery. (Tracy Walsh)

Raised just enough to make the mostly flat landscape more interesting and cohesive, the five garden beds were designed to encircle a small pond that’s just steps from a new fire pit outfitted with bright red Adirondack-style chairs. While they share some plants in common, each bed is different, a mix of sun and shade plants curated to offer up something in bloom throughout the season. Favorite hydrangeas from Bailey’s Endless Summer collection and several varieties of Easy Elegance roses were planted en masse and contrast well with groupings of evergreens, spireas, and dogwoods that provide structure and four-season interest.

Several of Bailey’s favorite picks from his Endless Summer hydrangeas make up delicate floral arrangements perfect for indoor and outdoor entertaining alike.
Several of Bailey’s favorite picks from his Endless Summer hydrangeas make up delicate floral arrangements perfect for indoor and outdoor entertaining alike. (Tracy Walsh)

As a lifelong nurseryman, Bailey knows that not everything he tries in his gardens is going to work for one reason or another. But he’s up for the challenge, and likes that he, as well as his staff and customers, can have the opportunity to see what many of the plants his family has grown and developed look like through the seasons and over time. Says Bailey, “I’ve always enjoyed being outside and gardening, and my grandparents loved to entertain here, so I’m embracing all of that, too, with family, friends, and customers.”


New on the Scene: The Summer Crush Hydrangea

Part of Bailey’s famous Endless Summer hydrangea series, the compact, raspberry-colored Summer Crush hydrangea is bred to bring a splash of color to gardens and patio containers.
Part of Bailey’s famous Endless Summer hydrangea series, the compact, raspberry-colored Summer Crush hydrangea is bred to bring a splash of color to gardens and patio containers. (Tracy Walsh)

Among the most striking plants Bailey has been trying out in his gardens is Summer Crush. A new addition to the Endless Summer hydrangea series, Summer Crush offers six- to eight-inch raspberry-colored blooms, and dark green, glossy leaves. More compact than previous introductions, this hydrangea is hardy enough to survive Minnesota’s Zone 4 winters, and blooms on old and new wood alike.

Like other types of Endless Summer hydrangeas, Summer Crush produces two different bloom colors. No amendments are needed to produce raspberry blooms, but blue flowers require more acidic soil. Plants will be available online and at local garden centers in the spring of 2019.

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