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So You Want to Start a Nursery

By Tony Avent

If I were truly thinking about starting a nursery, this book would be an indispensable starting point ... it will spare every nursery owner (or dreamer) from the hundreds of headaches they are likely to encounter on the road to success.

American Gardener

When Avent announced that he was quitting his job to build a specialty nursery, his former horticulture professor begged his student to reconsider, telling him he couldn't possibly make a profit "without doing something illegal." More than ten years and 20 nursery catalogs later, Avent owns a thriving national business with nearly 30 employees. He wrote So You Want to Start a Nursery to debunk myths about the ornamental-plants nursery business and what it takes to succeed, whether you're a backyard hobbyist or a wholesale grower. (And he still has a clean arrest record.)

Assuming that the reader has some basic knowledge about how plants are grown, Avent focuses on the business and planning concerns of the nursery owner. While recounting humorous stories of his baptism by fire as a beginning nurseryman, Avent also provides a primer on the nursery industry as a whole, with discussions of the merits and disadvantages of retail, wholesale, mail-order, and liner operations, to name just a few. Readers of this book will obtain the tools they need to make a business plan of their own. This book is a must-read for horticulture students, industry insiders, and advanced gardeners who dream of turning their passion for plants into a job they love.

Media reviews

"If I were truly thinking about starting a nursery, this book would be an indispensable starting point, and if I were already operating one, this book would make me closely re-examine my business practices, reduce costs, and increase profits ... it will spare every nursery owner (or dreamer) from the hundreds of headaches they are likely to encounter on the road to success."

—Ronny Lopat, American Gardener

"A thoughtful, realistic overview."

—Alice Joyce, Booklist

"A must-read for those considering a venture into the nursery/greenhouse business."

—Tom Eckert, Hobby Greenhouse

"We think you will find this to be a thought-provoking information-packed book that fills a huge void in the practical how-to world of running a nursery."

Plant Delights Nursery Sales Catalog

"Visit Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina and you will be so impressed with the smooth-running operation and efficiency evident in all directions, that you might think to yourself, "This guy out to write a book." Well, the good news is that he has; and there isn't any bad news ... this book is an invaluable guide for anyone even remotely considering starting their own nursery."

—Ernie O'Byrne, Rock Garden Quarterly

"This remarkable book by a North Carloina nurserman offers a down to earth approach to the business of operating a nursery."

Bloomin' News

"This is an essential book for all those considering horticulture as a profession."

—John E. Bryan, Gardening Newsletter

"You'll find answers (or pointers to answers) here for questions that you might otherwise never even think about asking–until it's too late! Most importantly, the advice here is from someone who has "been there, done that" (or at least, has "been there, seen that")."

—Greg and Pat Williams, HortIdeas

"If this is a lifestyle that interests you, then this book is a must read."

—Bob Souvestre, Baton Rouge Advocate


Greenhouse Management and Production Green-Mail

"I have always recommended new people learn all they can through study, visiting other nurseries, and building a network of resources over one or more growing seasons before putting a plant in the ground or in a container. Now I will add, and strongly recommend, that they read Tony's book as part of that learning investment."


"From backyard semi-professional gardeners to nursery workers who dream of extending a passion for plants into a professional avocation, aspiring gardeners and horticulturists will consider So You Want To Start a Nursery to be an essential guide."


"When I saw his book "So You Want to Start a Nursery" I half expected to open the cover and find a four-letter word: don't. What I found instead was a comprehensive how-to textbook as well as a sober reality check."

—Ken Druse, New York Times

"So You Want to Start a Nursery is a thorough and well-thought piece of work with three appendices, a great index, useful charts and tables, and a number of black-and-white photos."


"Encourages those who are considering following their dream to write themselves a reality check while they can still cash it."

—Ernest Flippo, Hosta Journal

"Provides readers with the tools to make a business plan of their own."


"What it takes to succeed in the ornamental plant nursery business."

Wildland Weeds

"The best part of this excellent resource for those considering or in the nursery business is it is downright cheap at $24.95 for 340 informative pages."

—Winston Dunwell, Nursery Views

"This is an essential book for all those considering horticulture as a profession. For those already owning or working in a nursery it should be required reading."

—John E. Bryan, Gardening Newsletter

"Now, inquiring beginners can be referred to this very comprehensive book covering all aspects of starting up a nursery."

—Cynthia W. Mueller, Horticulture Update

"I'm sure it will be a primary reference in nursery management classes for years to come, and will hold a place in the library of many future succesful nurserymen."

—Michael E. Chelednik, Trillium

"If you've ever thought about turning your gardening hobby into a nursery business, learn from Tony Avent's experience."

—Mary Beth Breckenridge, Akron Beacon Journal

About the author

Tony Avent

Tony Avent, a well known lecturer and garden writer, founded Plant Delights Nursery to help fund Juniper Level Botanic Gardens, a display and research garden with over 11,000 plants. Tony sold plants as a young child; as an adult, selling plants is a natural extension.

Read more about Tony Avent

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