Business of the Week: Native plants, A big trend at Marblehead Gardens

Marblehead Gardens owner Ryan O’Connor, left, and General Manager Zach Phelan-Waters stand among rows of outdoor plants at the garden center. Photo by Spenser Hasak

It’s that time of year when homeowners are working on their gardens for the spring and summer months, and for Marblehead Gardens it’s the busiest time of the year.

Established in 1986, the family-owned business is currently run by owner Ryan O’Connor and general manager Zach Phelan-Waters.

This year, Phelan-Waters explained, there is a bigger demand for native plants, which provide nectar for pollinators like hummingbirds, native bees, butterflies, and moths.

“It’s definitely a big trend right now,” he said. “Even people who aren’t trying to go completely native right now are.”

Among Marbleheaders, one of the most popular native plants is milkweed, which attracts butterflies to home gardens. When it comes to shrubs, Endless Summer hydrangeas are the best-sellers.

For those who gear more towards organic gardens, Marblehead Gardens has organic options for pretty much everything, from oil mulches and onyx oils to plant materials. These products work for all kinds of herbs, vegetables, and even some perennials.

Many consumers prefer to use organic products to prevent the death of insects and birds, water pollution, and soil contamination, all while reducing pesticide use from synthetic fertilizers.

“We also have a focus on reducing the neonicotinoids. So, a lot of our growers no longer use those,” said Phelan-Waters.

Banned in states like Maine and New Jersey, neonicotinoids are pesticides that are known to kill bees. Bees that are exposed to the harmful pesticide can experience reduced taste-sensitivity, difficulties with flight and navigation, and muscle paralysis that may result in death.

Since taking over the business in 2021, Phelan-Waters and O’Connor have made it their goal to keep Marblehead Gardens as clean and organized as possible for customers who use it as their go-to place for relaxation.

“I have a lot of people say this is where they come to relax,” said Phelan-Waters. “It’s like their happy place. That’s probably my favorite thing, that we can create an atmosphere for people to get away from whatever it is that they need to.”

Based on customer requests, Marblehead Gardens will soon have a Facebook page and Instagram account for customers to stay up-to-date on plants and gardening products that reach the shelves.