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A Perennial Favorite

By Griffin Nelson | Photos By Sara Wise Photography

I have always loved flowers and plants, but it never occurred to me until speaking with Rick Berry, owner of Goodness Grows Nursery, that Georgia really is pretty perfectly situated to accommodate plants from a wide variety of ecosystems. There are mountains, plains and ocean access. It’s warm enough to accommodate tropical plants, and there are enough cold days to allow plants from further north to continue to thrive. And Goodness Grows itself, located in Lexington, is wonderfully situated to provide anything for a thriving garden anywhere in the state (and beyond)!

It has a long and illustrious history starting in 1977, when Berry opened the nursery with business partner Marc Richardson. The two college friends started small, propagating plants native to the state of Georgia that they found along highways or that were recommended or requested by other gardeners and landscapers. It wasn’t long before they had a blooming business with a  specialty in perennials.

Though it may make sense to 21st-century gardeners to fill their yards with plants that come back year after year, it was a novel concept in the 1980’s when there weren’t many species available to purchase at nurseries and many people thought they were too difficult to grow in the South. “Today, the availability of the variety of plants for a gardener is tremendously exponential compared to what it was back in the late 70s,” Berry tells me. As he mentions many of the accomplishments of the nursery over the past four decades, it becomes clear that Goodness Grows has been instrumental in developing the long catalog of herbaceous trees, shrubs, plants, perennials, etc., that are available there and at other nurseries throughout the Southeast. Goodness Grows has developed new plant varieties like Lantana Camara “Miss Huff,” its staff has given talks at places like Callaway Gardens and the Southeastern Flower Show in Atlanta, it has sold plants to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and garden clubs both for landscaping and fundraisers, and so on.

As the decades have passed they’ve seen trends come and go. As big box stores have created garden divisions, Goodness Grows has realized their true potential:  because they have such a wide variety of specialty plants, trees, and shrubs that are then displayed in a garden-style setting (rather than just rows of pots) and have an extremely knowledgeable staff, the nursery is able to help customers understand the the best way to grow and care for each plant. There are plants for bright, sunny areas, wet, soggy areas, plants for dark, shady areas or dappled sun. “Don’t limit yourself because every plant has its worth and every plant have a place,” says Berry. “May/June is a very easy time for finding something in color and in bloom because it is one of the peak times of year for flowers.”

Because the whole nursery is alive with blooms during this time, the nursery holds a beer festival every year on the first Sunday in June. Called Hops, History, and Horticulture, or H3 (H-cubed), the event features about 70 kinds of beer from about 50 breweries located in Georgia and around the country.

Restaurants from Athens and the surrounding area are invited to participate, providing a wide variety of food and many to pair with different beers. There’s live music in the stunning setting of the main garden area of the nursery, tents are erected with tables and chairs, and there is so much food and drink you couldn’t possibly try it all. 

The event started seven years ago as a collaboration between Goodness Grows and Southern Distinction Magazine, with a portion of the proceeds going to benefit historic preservation projects by the City of Lexington. Sponsors including Trumps Catering, restaurants like Chops and Hops, and breweries including Creature Comforts, Monday Night and Red Hare have all participated in H3 in past years.

This year’s event was put on hold because of coronavirus concerns but put it on your calendar for next year! It’s a great opportunity to get out and enjoy great food and great atmosphere and to support a good cause. And it will give you a chance to revitalize your own garden with beautiful and unique varieties of shrubs, trees and, perhaps, some of those famous perennials!