This Saturday, October 6th, Gill Landscape Nursery invites the community to come celebrate with our staff 40 Bloomin’ Years in business. Enter to win Gill’s gift cards, enjoy a cool drink and snacks, and hear live music in the garden. Kids and kid-like adults can enjoy colorful veggie-themed (temporary) tattoos. Everyone is invited to choose a color and help paint a collaborative celebration mural to be displayed in the garden center to commemorate the 40th anniversary.
The garden center is loaded with a great selection of fall annuals, perennials, shrubs, and shade trees along with great savings on veggies, herbs, flowers, and Gill’s Lawn & Garden Fertilizer. And yes, it’s time to do that fall fertilizing!
Fun Facts and Some History
Back in 1978, Corpus Christi natives Sally and James Gill casually decided to start a business. At 22 and 25 years old, fresh out of college, they both needed jobs and thought, “Why not?” James had a background in landscape architecture, Sally in business, they saw a need in the area, and they figured not much start-up cash was needed for a landscape company. They started small; Sally sold her car and they put their meager savings together to buy a tiller, some tools, and a used pickup truck from the City of Austin. Apparently, in the late 70s, “trenching” (driving a car through an unsuspecting front yard and leaving huge trenches in the grass) was a popular prank among teenagers. James got the bright idea to place large, yet attractive limestone boulders in front yards to discourage such activities. He and Sally would make trips to the Hill Country, push boulders onto Sally’s dad’s trailer by hand, haul them back to Corpus, then go door-to-door in heavily trenched neighborhoods (i.e. South Shores) asking, “How would you like to cause some serious damage to the next car that tries to tear up your yard?” This kind of hard work and ingenuity is what got the business off and running.
While Sally and James describe the decision to start a landscape company as “casual”, it was not an accident. James’ love and respect for plants came from his mother, Ruth Gill, who was an avid gardener and heavily involved in nature conservation efforts. Sally learned her business values and commitment growing up shadowing her father, Roy M. Munroe, who owned a local engineering firm. Sally loves plants too, especially for the ambiance and environments they create. They realized early on that they shared the passion, stamina, and values required to successfully operate a small business. They laugh at how different they are from one another but feel that their combined strengths and the trust they share have allowed them to endure and grow.
The Gill’s also attribute their longevity in business to slow and steady growth. About a year into it, they decided to open the garden center as a showcase for the landscape business. At the time, the only land they could afford was “out in the country”, 2810 Airline Road, which is where the garden center, offices, and landscape department is still based today. Over the years, Corpus Christi has grown up around them as Airline Road has become one of the busiest streets in town. The company has grown too, adding more land, staff, inventory, and services to meet the changing needs of the community. Sally says their level of commitment ratcheted up with the hiring of their first employee. They both felt and still feel great responsibility and commitment to offer every employee a good, safe place to work. Sally and James both strive to maintain the feel of a small company with some of the perks of a larger business. They want each team member to be a part of earning and maintaining the reputation for quality, service, and expertise that Gill’s is known for.
The Gill Landscape Nursery Team
At Gill Landscape Nursery, building lasting relationships with the community and among the team is the key to continued success. Sally and James love hearing feedback from customers about how each member of the Gill team is helpful and knowledgeable. One customer recently said that the garden center staff, “know what I’m talking about even if I don’t know!” The company culture at Gill’s is centered around the people: 39 great people with a combined 467 years of working at Gill’s and even more combined years of plant knowledge.
These days, while there is an abundance of helpful online garden tips and resources, nothing beats in-person knowledge and expertise. Here in the garden center, customers often bring in plants and samples from their landscapes and get a diagnosis and solution on the spot. Gill’s staff take pride in being comfortable enough with gardening to be able to help people in each unique situation. Sometimes plants even find their way back to Gill’s. DeAnna Baumgartner, Nursery Manager with 33 years at Gill’s, describes many instances where customers have gifted their cherished plants back to DeAnna once they are no longer able to care for them, knowing that the plants will enjoy a good home.
Garden center staff, including Buyer, Debbie Pinkerton are always researching and navigating the complex world of garden products to bring customers the best of the best. While always looking for new plants, new ideas, and new solutions to share with the community, Gill professionals take care to ensure that new products will withstand the local climate and meet customer’s long-term needs.
Out in the community, Gill landscape designers and landscape installation crews work incredibly hard to make each client’s vision a living, growing reality. Residential and commercial landscape design and build projects include everything from plants and garden beds to trees and hardscape construction. Landscape Designer Kathy Hubner with 31 years at Gill’s has seen all sorts of projects come to life. One of her specialties is creating beautiful vignettes and different views within a small space. With one long-term client, she has embarked on a garden adventure and continued to modify their residential space to include plants, materials, and design elements inspired by the client’s world travels. For example, Kathy and her crew planted Viburnum to create a green wall reminiscent of the hedgerows in the Hamptons.
Passion for Learning and Sharing
If you spend 20 minutes walking around outside with James Gill, he will teach you the name(s) of every plant you see (scientific and folk names) and which ones are edible, medicinal, poisonous, or otherwise. James describes himself as a plant evangelist and is dedicated to sharing that deep knowledge with as many people as possible. According to James, the main benefits of gardening are “spiritual first, but it’s also great exercise.” Gardening can be compared to learning music or art; anyone at any age and any level of expertise can enjoy it. Gardening will meet you at your level, but you can spend a lifetime learning and growing.
That passion and excitement for learning and sharing knowledge has become one of the core values at Gill’s. Gill’s regularly conducts community outreach activities including their weekly Gill Garden News, Garden Tips, Garden Talks series, interacting on social media, and partnerships with local schools and nonprofits.
As Gill Landscape Nursery celebrates 40 years of serving the Coastal Bend community, Sally and James look forward to the future. Like most business owners, they want Gill’s to stay vibrant and continue to grow. The Gill team, along with Sally and James, want to thank you for the years of friendship, crazy fun, and challenging times we have all had. Thank you for letting us connect you with plants; we truly love the excitement and energy that is shared with garden successes.