Don’t underestimate a little garden center located on Route 17 in Suffolk, Virginia. Smithfiled Gardens is a garden center with a store front on this country road, just 30 miles across the North Carolina line. What appears to be off the beaten path is actually a well sited garden center thriving with plants, people, and personality.
Smithfield Gardens began in 1972 with Bill and Linda Pinkham’s (two of the principal owners) vision to create with not just a variety of plants, but with display gardens meandering around the platform stands holding desirable choices.
Surrounding the retail garden center are 11 display gardens where new plants, plant combinations, and trial plants for the area’s Zone 7b/8a climate can be found. To view these display gardens, paths lead the visitor from one garden to the next revealing interest, intrigue and imagination to create something similar at home.
Peering in the garden center from the display gardens, the arrangement of plantings draws one in for a closer look. It doesn’t take long to realize this Route 17 retail store has a wide variety of plants. According to Les, “We try to have as much of the new, unusual, underused and rare plants as possible, plus we carry well known favorites.”
The reason Smithfield Gardens is able to offer the unusual is because of their landscape division, which makes up more than half of the business income. “The fact that we are the main supplier to our landscaping division allows us to keep a wider variety and greater number of plants than other garden centers our size. We like to think of ourselves as the place where the plant geeks shop, but without alienating regular shoppers,” Les says.
Smithfield Gardens’ landscape division, which operates off-site on the “farm” in the town of Smithfield, VA is know for its high-end, custom residential design. Serving clients from the Hampton Roads to the Eastern Shore, Williamsburg and all the towns in between, Smithfield Gardens has built a reputation of quality and desirable work.
Several of the gardens created by Smithfield Gardens have graced the pages of national gardening magazines and have been featured on television. Quite a few have been stops on the prestigious Virginia Historic Garden tour.
After 20 years, the Pinkham’s sold Smithfield Gardens to Tom Conway, Jr., who has been working at the garden center since high school. Who, along with a dedicated staff, have carried on the vision of the original owners, providing plants and creating desirable gardens that are enjoyed by their owners and you as they just may turn up in magazines, tours, and even on TV
Les Park’s blog is worth a read. Enjoy!
A Tidewater Gardener
Gardening With Confidences