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WDAY: The News Leader

Published June 12, 2010, 01:07 PM

ND plant nursery carves niche in landscape design

TAYLOR, N.D. (AP) — Robyn Rebel is on the phone one minute and outside helping load a shipment of trees the next.

By: LAUREN DONOVAN, Associated Press

TAYLOR, N.D. (AP) — Robyn Rebel is on the phone one minute and outside helping load a shipment of trees the next.

In between, she consults with customers seeking helpful advice on the best tree to plant in their front yard. If she could graft herself onto a couple of other bodies, it would be a big help this time of year.

Rebel is the new owner of Taylor Nursery, a green oasis that has made Taylor a destination for western North Dakota and beyond.

It's located on North Dakota's newest scenic byway, "Old Red/Old 10" between Richardton and Dickinson, a hop, skip and a jump off of I-94.

She's got some big pots to fill.

The 50-year-old business has a solid reputation for quality trees and plants and landscaping design to go along with them.

It started back in the '50s, when five Stoxen sisters (the name now associated with the library at Dickinson State University) who wanted to create jobs for young people planted a nursery of Dakota-hardy trees and shrubs at the family homestead just west of Taylor. Twenty years later, the sisters sold it to C.B. "Buck" and Bev Haas, who for 23 years operated the nursery inside what eventually grew into a stunning island of trees on the prairie.

Two years ago, the nursery was moved to a former lumberyard property along the BNSF Railway main line in Taylor.

The old lumberyard building is stocked with fanciful doo-dads for outdoor decorating and has a comfortable seating arrangement for landscaping consultations.

Rebel — who multi-tasks like a four-star chef at dinnertime — sinks into a chair for a few minutes, grateful to get off her feet.

The success of the business is all about cold-hardy stock, she said. The nursery's decades-old reputation for trees, shrubs and perennials that survive and thrive brings her customers from Sidney, Mont., to the west and near Bismarck to the east, with a fair range to the north and south.

The tried and true lesson she learned in the nearly 10 years she worked at the nursery before becoming its owner: "We don't mess with it if it's not hardy in North Dakota," she said.

The good news is that new cold-hardy varieties are constantly being developed.

The business' roots are in landscape design. Recently, Rebel still had 40 appointments on the books with folks who want help either landscaping a new yard, or "remodeling" a tired, old yard.

"It's about balance, color and texture," she said. She's challenged to constantly bring new ideas to the blueprints. "I don't want to do cookie cutter. I want to keep it fresh with new plants and new varieties. New homes are easier to work with because there's a bare slate. If a yard is really mature, it's a little more difficult," she said.

She thinks the interest goes hand-in-hand with a "home and garden" focus on outdoor living. People who invest in gazeboes, fire pits, chef-style grills and pricey outdoor furniture want to expand the experience to include a lovely setting, she said.

They will spend from hundreds up to $15,000 to get the look they want, working off the landscape blueprints that Rebel provides after visiting the site, taking measurements and tossing around ideas with the property owner.

Taylor Nursery is no longer a nursery in the true sense of the word. Instead, the inventory is potted trees, shrubs and perennials shaded by cottonwood trees so old they may date back to when Taylor was founded in 1881. Most of the tree inventory is already sold and more is on order. There's also a small greenhouse of annuals, but those are not the nursery's specialty.

An energetic "planting crew" made up of young local boys from Richardton and Taylor load trees into the nursery's distinctive "hoop wagon" that Haas designed and built specially with enough head room to transport trees upright.

The crew is headed into Dickinson and before dark, 17 tender trees would be safety tucked into the soil in the yards of homeowners, whose job it will be to nurture them along until they're established on their own.

Rebel prefers to wait to send out the planting crew until just about Memorial Day to avoid damaging frost.

On the other end of the planting calendar, she said, "Winter tells us when we can stop planting trees."

But for now, there's still summer ahead, a busy time for this small town success story.

"People think we're kind of desolate out here, but the area that we cover is amazing," Rebel said.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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