The corner of East Main Street and Scandling Avenue in Grass Valley is a lush green oasis, thanks to Kurt’s Garden, your one-stop shop for garden design, build, maintenance, irrigation, and —more aesthetically—specialty plants and trees.
Owner Kurt Wahi and his business partner John Whalin run Kurt’s Garden, which Wahi initially opened just up the street from his current location 12 years ago; this year marks his second season at the location.
“The nursery started from me being a landscaper so I was out doing landscape projects, working at people’s homes, and then trying to source unusual plants—plants that no one had, things I wanted to use that I was finding in books,” said Wahi. “ I was searching all over northern California, Oregon. Finally I started stockpiling these plants at my house. Clients would come up to my house and pick out the plants they wanted to use for their landscape projects. Then it turned into people just wanting to buy plants. And people started saying, ‘Hey, you have more plants or cooler plants than anybody in town. Why don’t you move to town?’ And that’s when I moved to town.”
Wahi’s profession tracks with his upbringing. As a seasoned landscaper and lover of plants, Wahi spent his childhood growing up in Michigan where he grew up on a ranch and was taught the ways of the flora. His first foray into his plant-based interest was learning from his father, who propagated trees such as crab apples and maples. They’d even tap the maples to reveal the delicious syrup within. Wahi helped along the way, picking up knowledge he didn’t know would serve him one day.
Wahi made the move to Grass Valley 25 years ago.
Kurt’s Garden is, for all intents and purposes, a retail store. Everyone is welcome to not only shop but peruse the various plants Wahi and his staff maintain year round.
“It’s retail and always has been,” Wahi said. “We do design services where people come in with pictures or they have certain areas in their yard they want to design or landscape. The difference between us and probably other nurseries in town is that we actually spend the time to walk you around and find the right plant for your microclimate.
“A lot of nurseries will just say, ‘The plants are out there, let us know if you need help.’ But we’ll actually see you, make contact, try to see what you are looking for. We don’t put pressure on you like you need to buy something, but we don’t want you to walk away with the wrong plant. Because in the end if you succeed, then you come back and you keep shopping, and you keep wanting buy plants.”
Wahi admits that not everyone has a green thumb, and his business is eager to help those people out.
“Plants can be super frustrating. If you are buying a house plant and nothing grows in your house, you’re not going to want to buy more house plants. If I give you a plant and you take it home, and all of a sudden you’re growing this plant, you’re like, well what else can I grow? And you come back.”
Kurt Wahi would like people to know that they shouldn’t underestimate themselves as gardeners, and shouldn’t be too intimidated by the plants he sells.
“I want people to know that over the course of the past 30, 40, 50 years of planting trees in Nevada County that we live in a specific zone, which is Zone 8b. (Different regions of the county may have different designations.) Sky’s the limit, and if you are not willing to try and plant something new we can show you so many different plants that grow here.
“And I think that it is really important because you get stuck in what they call in the nursery industry the Top 50 Plants and a lot of nurseries won’t buy anything but those top 50 plants and that’s what they stock. And here, it’s just everything. We test the limits of plants; we plant them and have been planting them for years in this county. Some grow and some don’t but we can give you our feedback on how they grow so I think our niche is offering something different than other nurseries have—more unusual, more rare plants, specimen trees, things like that.”
In addition to the nursery and its many exotic plants, Kurt’s Garden also offers services to plants, grow, and maintain one’s landscape.
div“We’ve got two install crews that go out every day that go out and build landscapes and patios, and we’re contractors,” he said. “We build koi ponds and swimming pools and all that. We have two maintenance crews that go out and maintain commercial accounts like the Holbrooke and other accounts in town. Then we have an irrigation crew that goes out and fixes irrigation. And then we have the nursery. So it all blends together. We are kind of the one-stop shop for everything landscaping.”
Kurt’s Garden is at 519 East Main Street in Grass Valley. They can be reached at 530-274-8733 or by visiting www.kurtsgardeninc.com.