Rack 'em up!

Features - Business

Carolina Native Nursery ships entire racks of container or B&B shrubs via FedEx Ground.

These homemade racks allow for quick shipments via FedEx Ground.Carolina Native Nursery in Burnsville, N.C., had a problem. A great client needed the grower’s landscape-size native plants for a high-end residential job. But it was a small order, and it had to get from western North Carolina to upstate New York. Bill Jones, president of Carolina Native, knew that if he could solve this problem, his many clients throughout the Mid-Atlantic region would get on board.

When Jones was delivering plants to local garden centers, he noticed they all had a stockpile of pallets and fabricated walls. He inquired about their fate, and everyone said they would throw them out because they could not ship them back to the original nursery, as indicated on the panels. Jones found that Universal Forest Products creates the components, and Carolina Native now regularly rounds up these materials as it delivers to the local garden centers. Consequently, Carolina Native created a shipping system that allows the nursery to deliver any amount of plants to anywhere on the East Coast within one to two days.

Trash to treasure
The Carolina Native-designed system consists of a pallet with four wooden lattice side walls, each about 6 feet tall. The walls interlock primitively, and then are held in place with a metal clasp, which keeps them locked in transit.  Two shelves can also be placed within the system to stack plants on top of one another without crushing them.

The system is easily broken down and discarded afterward. Jones likes to think of this system as a sustainable way of using someone else’s trash as a found treasure.

Workers at Carolina Native Nursery can easily load about 60 3-gallon plants onto this system and ship it FedEx Ground. Each FedEx freight truck typically has a pallet jack on board and a lift gate, which allows for offloading and ease of movement on site.

Large plants, short turnaround
Jones and his team have also loaded 200 1-gallons, two dozen 3- to 4-foot B&B rosebay rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum), or any combination of B&B and containers that will fit. Weight does not seem to be a problem, because the system can accommodate large plants, such as 4- to 6-foot B&B items and 7- to 10-gallon plants. Additionally, workers may add screws into the wood to secure the system at various points.

Plants are wrapped in plastic wrap (not shrink wrap), and a bill of lading and tracking number is printed from FedEx’s website, and the plants are ready to ship to the jobsite.

“Shipping 60 3-gallon plants to Greensboro from Burnsville, N.C., using this method, is more efficient than driving there and back in a day,” he said. Rather than tie up workers delivering small orders of plants greater than three hours from the nursery, Jones would rather keep his workers on the nursery growing plants.

Jones said his trucks have not left the state this year.

“Unless it’s a half-semi load, why drive all the way to the Northeast,” he said. “Customers these days want the right plants at the exact time they need to plant them.”

Carolina Native shipped the first load of plants for Horticultural Associates in Rochester, N.Y., in fall 2009. The firm’s landscape architects selected Pinxterbloom azaleas (Rhododendron periclymenoides) in advance for Carolina Natives to hold. About a week prior to installation, they called for the plants. The three pallets of plants arrived at the jobsite in Chappaqua, N.Y., on the day they were to be installed and arrived “in perfect shape,” Jones said. “They liked them so much they ordered more the next week.”

Timely shipments
Jones and his team have shipped plants to offices, residential jobsites and direct to homeowners.

“In recent years, the need for residential quality native plants has increased tremendously in Central Virginia,” said Ed Yates at J.W. Townsend Inc., in Charlottesville, Va. Since he formed a relationship with Jones and Carolina Native Nursery, Yates found it’s much easier to provide the specific plants his clients desire and maintain the quality they expect.

“The willingness of Carolina Native to ship small orders in wooden crates via FedEx has proven very useful, and is in most instances quite cost effective,” Yates said.

The service has allowed Carolina Native to complete jobs in a timely manner, and eliminate delays in ordering and receiving, Jones said.

“While the green industry waits for the building sector to repair its engine that drives landscape installations, we might be able to try focusing on a smaller niche of client’s that can only take plants in a very small window of time,” Jones said. “It might be one way to help fill in the hedgerow between these lean times and the prosperous ones we are hoping to return to in a few years.” 

For more: Carolina Native Nursery, www.carolinanativenursery.com.