You may have driven by Shades of Green and not realized it.
That's unfortunate, because this garden center, tucked away on 7 acres at 7401 Coit Road (just south of Main Street), feels more like you've dropped in on a live-action fairy tale setting than a suburban nursery.
Yes. The plants are amazing, and we'll get to that, but, seriously, this place is beautiful. That's by design. Jarratt Calvert, Operations Manager, says,
We like to call it a park, not a garden center. We like to be an arboretum of native plants. An escape from the concrete jungle.
Reconnect with nature
Jarratt and I are standing beneath 150-year-old cottonwood trees. The property also boasts a creek and pecan trees a short walk away. In the midst of the beauty and tranquility, there's something about this place that makes time slows down, and it seems to affect everyone.
Of course, the vast selection of plants, tools, and gardening supplies look extra appealing in their idyllic displays.
This is, in part, smart merchandising. However, it also reflects the love of and respect for responsible landscaping that is integral to the McCauley family code.
The Family Tree
Jeff McCauley and Rob Weir were childhood friends. They started Shades of Green as a lawn-mowing service while earning horticulture degrees from Texas A&M. Jarratt relates the story as he's heard it,
“They bought their first lawn mower on his (Jeff's) mom's Sears credit card,” there's a pause and a smile. “They had enough money to pay it off by the end of the first month.”
Obviously, they were onto a good thing. After college, Jeff and Rob returned home to Dallas. They worked assorted commercial landscape jobs until they opened their first retail location in McKinney in the early 90's.
Jarratt is part of the second generation in this family business. He mentions his three-year-old son, Cooper. Does Jarratt hope Cooper will follow in his shoes? He shares,
It's not easy. You wear a lot of hats. But, it's so enjoyable to be outside, to work with your family, and, beyond blood, everyone who works here is family. We get to know each other. We get to work together. It's like creating an extended family in the middle of a family business.
I'll take “Kids Likely to Follow in Their Parents' Footsteps” for $1,000. The familial love of this business is pervasive and it started at the beginning.
Also from the start, Shades of Green was committed to promoting the use of and education about native, drought-tolerant landscaping.
See? I promised, and here we are, at the part where we discuss the gorgeous flora. It's everywhere. Everywhere.
Firstly, I admire the gorgeous blooms, leafy plants, and lush shrubs that thrive wherever I look. These are plants that say “curb appeal” and “I have a green thumb,” not, “I am part of an ethical, responsible landscape.”
That these plants look this great, while needing less water and maintenance, approaches too-good-to-be-true territory.
Then, I wonder where they're hiding all these native, drought-resistant options. I suspect these plants are a sad version of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, tucked away in the back. After all, I've heard of xeriscaping, and I'm pretty sure that's what Jarratt is talking about.
It is, he explains, an accurate term. The catch is, it evokes inaccurate perceptions, like the one I had. And so, the term xeriscaping has fallen out of favor.
That got a reputation of being cactus and rocks. So, when they hear xeriscaping, they think ‘no ‘scaping,' which isn't the case. I've got whole tables of perennials that've got all different color blooms–large flowers, small flowers, and they're drought-tolerant plants.
And so, drought-tolerant and native are the terms Jarratt favors when describing Shades of Green's selection. Beautiful and bountiful are my adjectives of choice for these easy-care plants that can make any yard stunning while being kind to the planet.
This matters. A lot.
Drought-tolerant landscapes have implications far beyond homeowner convenience and savings. Water conservation impacts all of us.
As an example, Jarratt mentions the Bois d'Arc Lake, under construction in Fannin County. It's planned to help meet North Texas' water needs through 2040, conditionally. Denise Hickey, Public Education Manager of the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) says,
While Bois d'Arc Lake will help meet the water needs of our North Texas service area through 2040, conservation of our current supplies is also critical.
Twenty-five percent of NTMWD's future water supply will come from conservation of the water we have today. Watering wisely and planting native and adaptive plants are two of the many ways anyone can help to ensure North Texans have the water we need for the future.
Okay. Now I see.
Shades of Green staff are focused on education. Jarrett talks about their mission:
To keep North Texas green and growing. We love to focus on educating gardeners, whether that's current gardeners or the next generation of gardeners. Our philosophy is [offering] native plants, drought-tolerant landscapes, and low-maintenance landscapes.
All that's gonna save time and money for our customers. They're not going to have to water as much and they're not going to have to replace plants as much. And you are going to be doing a lot for the environment just by conserving water.
How do they know their plants have been grown specifically to thrive in this region? You guessed it. They grow them–in this region. Jarratt explains,
By growing in the native climate (heat!) and soil, we are able to provide plants used to the environment. This makes them vastly more likely to thrive. That way, when they get to your yard, they're already used to it. They'll grow really well and be better acclimated. We just want our plants to be hardy. That's what we're proud of.
Past, Present, and Future
Shades of Green is also proud to celebrate 25 years in Frisco and 40 years in business. Jarratt's father-in-law couldn't have predicted the business's success when they opened that first location in McKinney.
When they first moved west to Frisco, they were at Preston and Lebanon. There was Shades of Green, La Hacienda Ranch, and… that's pretty much it. Five years later, they moved to their current location, the former Standerfer Farm.
The Shades of Green vision of a welcoming space that honors the existing landscape was exactly what the Standerfers wanted for their property.
They didn't want to see their homestead, and the property they grew up with and loved, just turned into another development.
So, they struck a deal. Shades of Green had an ideal home. Jarratt chuckles,
They still get a good deal on plants when they (the Standerfers) come by.
In 2000, Shades of Green built their own tree farm in Collinsville because they were struggling to supply native trees. They use 20 of the 40 acres for planting and grow their own native perennials and trees. That's a departure from many commercial growers' practices.
The benefits of growing in the native environment, however, are clear. Everything is outdoors, with the exception of one climate-controlled greenhouse for their “little itty bitties” that are still propagating.
What do the next 25 years hold? It's hard to tell. Jarratt is committed to continued education of the community. He also doesn't rule out a second location to serve their ever-growing customer base.
Room For All of Us
Shades of Green welcomes gardeners of all ages and abilities. Do you want to win Yard of the Month? Do you just want something you can't kill? Either way, the staff are knowledgeable and helpful and will make sure you get exactly what you want.
Whatever your dream yard, Shades of Green can help. Just keep an eye out for their sign next time you're driving on Coit Road. Turn in and take a look around. You'll be glad you did.