By the time Christmas rolls into town and Santa sends out his sleigh, Crow’s Nest Greenhouses has already closed up shop for the winter, and it won’t reopen until the spring.
It’s March now, though, and the smell of lupin returns with the sun and warmer weather at Crow’s Nest. Wind chimes hang outside, their songs welcoming spring jubilantly. Around this time of year, owner Jay Smith, a Virginia Tech alumnus and Staunton native, can be found with dirt-covered hands digging in the greenhouses.
Winter is a big prep time for the spring planting hustle, and it’s easy to see by the expansive collection of flowers, mosses and groundcovers that this time isn’t wasted.
“We rest for a few weeks and first do some maintenance things,” said Smith. “The first of February is when we start sowing seeds. We start getting perennial plants in, like plugs. That’s how we start off.”
The season is still early, though, and Smith is still hard at work sowing seeds that will grow later in the spring and summer. March and early April are still big planting times for Crow’s Nest, afterall.
Out front of the wood house that is Smith’s base of operations, sit vibrant terracotta and clay pots stacked on tables and shelves. A little farther out stretches rows of bare trees waiting with hope to be adopted so that they can grow to full size in someone’s yard. Chickens cluck somewhere hidden among them.
“Not everyone grew up in the country,” said Smith. “So they like to come out and experience a little bit of the outdoors. We have chickens running around. There’s four cats that live here.”
Behind the wooden house sit five greenhouses, four of them heated, that can be used throughout the winter. Each of the four heated greenhouses are a whopping 96 feet long and 30 feet wide, and the fifth is also 96 feet long but only 17 feet wide.
“In 2005, this was nothing but a bare field, so we put the shop up, and we put three greenhouses up,” Smith said. “In the field where we used to grow produce, I put another greenhouse two years later. In 2008 we put up another one.”
Crow’s Nest used to grow and sell produce as well but had to stop due to the greenhouses getting too full due to the higher demand for annual and perennial plants. However, since it’s a perennial vegetable, Crow’s Nest still grows asparagus.
Most of the nursery’s big business comes from people living in Blacksburg and the surrounding areas like Roanoke and West Virginia. The clientele are mostly homeowners, which means Virginia Tech students aren’t the biggest demographic. When asked how to get more students interested in gardening, Smith said that educating them is the best way, as gardening can be daunting at first. That will get them going in the right direction, he says.
“We have knowledgeable, friendly staff that likes to help people,” Smith said. “One thing I’m trying to focus more on is houseplants, which is a big draw for students. That’s where we’ll pick up in the fall.”
This is good news for college students and their hectic lives, as taking care of houseplants can help reduce stress in young adults.
Even though spring is an extremely busy time for Crow’s Nest, they still work throughout the fall to bring more life into the holidays through pumpkins, squash, Christmas trees and poinsettias. Fall is also one of the best times to plant bulbs in a garden that will bloom in the spring; gardening doesn’t just have to be a warm-weather affair.
Crow’s Nest is located on 1811 Brooksfield Road and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m Monday through Saturday.