Labor of Love
If ever there were a lineage of horticultural endeavors, the Dowd family would take front and center because the history behind the name is linked to the landscape through the continuation of the family.
"This family has kept the landscape growing," says Faye Minor, manager of Poverty Hill Nursery. Minor studied at Sandhills Community College, is a master gardener and is also a certified plantsman.
"The family I work for is serious at operating a great business, something that has been handed down from grandfather to father, to son," she says.
In the 1950s, Robert Dowd opened Poverty Hill Nursery.
"The story goes," says Minor, "that when Robert bought the property he used all of his cash money. He had six children to feed and little money. So he thought he would be poor -- hence the name, 'Poverty Hill Nursery.'"
Today, the nursery is flourishing with lush green hollies, sweet-smelling magnolias and other varieties of shrub as well as straw sold for the landscape. In 1996, Robert's two sons, Neil and Pete, took over the operation of the nursery. They pride themselves on growing top-notch holly and top-of-the-line Southern magnolias, such as "Little Gem," both for wholesale and retail customers.
The Dowds purchase rooted cuttings from another source. They plant the cuttings in the field, which they own and operate, on a daily basis.
"Once the cuttings are planted, it takes anywhere from five to six years to produce a decent-sized tree," says Minor. "We sell several trees that are five-to-six feet tall or higher."
Poverty offers 25 different types of hollies.
"We offer 'Nelly Stevens,' 'Burfordi,' 'Cardinal,' 'Oakleaf' and 'Fosteri,' to mention a few," says Minor.
Minor says that container hollies are very popular and that the Dowds also sell them. Some of the more noted container hollies are "Soft Touch," "Helleri" and "Hoogandorn."
The staff keeps extremely busy in order to meet the demand for hollies and magnolias. Some of the nursery's customers include Pinehurst Resort, the Town of Wilson, Duke University in Durham, the Botanical Gardens of New York and Disney World in Florida.
"You can see how much time it takes to supply what everyone needs," says Minor. "And those are only a few of our buyers. By the time a 'Nelly Stevens' grows to about eight or nine feet tall, the sale of the tree is approximately $192, and an average nine-to-10 foot magnolia sells for around $180."
So far as caring for the trees, they are fertilized with a slow-release fertilizer during the late winter season. "I prune, fertilize and water them as necessary," says Minor. "We cater to our customers by offering basic landscape design."
Minor is also involved with the horticultural program at Sandhills Community College.
"I love a challenge," she says, "and the customers are great. If someone brings in some unknown plant, I can usually identify it. That's where the fun is."
Minor boasts about the nursery dog, Checkers.
"We have the most wonderful Labrador/Doberman mix anyone can find," she says. "Checkers often greets customers as they enter the nursery."
Minor says that Pete and Neil Dowd are in the field a lot.
"So I'm busy with many chores, including running the Bobcat primarily to load heavy stuff," she says.
Minor also handles the sales yard, both retail and wholesale.
"I just keep things running smoothly," she says. "Pete and Neil work hard in the field, digging trees and getting ready to ship out the merchandise. It's very time-consuming when you prune, fertilize and keep weeds and fire ants out from the trees. It's a never-ending labor of love."
Poverty Nursery is located in Moore County on N.C. 22 in Southern Pines near the airport.
Anita Stone is a Raleigh freelance writer. She may be reached at writer7136@yahoo. com.
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