Shawn Graham knows a lot about growing trees in Eastern Iowa.
As the owner of Next Generation Landscape Nursery, which he opened a couple years ago, he has channeled his extensive plant knowledge into a nursery business meant to provide all the plants and tools needed by local homeowners to get a landscaping project done.
Next Generation offers nursery supplies such as trees, shrubs and perennial flowers as well as bulk landscaping products that include rock, boulders, mulch, dirt and compost.
“We started selling wholesale the first couple of years and then opened to the public,” Graham said.
He also recently added a retail store — Asset Maintenance Group — on-site to offer tools and equipment to provide the proper care and maintenance of nursery stock once installed.
The store is an authorized dealer for Stihl products, Wolverine products and Tuf X wheelbarrows.
“You can stop and buy a chainsaw, a tree and a load of mulch all in one place,” he said.
Graham has been working in the landscaping industry since 2001 and took what he learned over years of working on the installation and maintenance side of landscaping to help improve the offerings for customers.
It’s just Graham, right now, with his wife and a manager for the shop, working the family-owned business.
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“I take care of pretty much everything,” he confirmed. “I am doing mulch and rock deliveries on the weekend. I also pot, fertilize, prune and water all our plants and trees. A lot of work goes into taking care of our stock. It takes a lot of work to make everything look good and maintain it throughout the year.
“Most people don’t realize we are back here,” Graham said of their three and a half acre property right off Highway 13 and Mount Vernon Road in southeast Cedar Rapids. He said customers are also surprised to find out they grow their own trees at Next Generation, something he really sets the nursery apart in the area.
He noted that more than half the stock each season is grown on site.
“The whips and plugs come in and we plant them and train them how we want them to look,” he said. “I was unhappy with the suppliers we were working with so by growing the trees, I can control that our customers get a better plant.
“We have a big tree spade and then we ball and burlap them when they are ready to be sold. We do all that in the spring. Timing is important because we need to grab them when they are still dormant.”
Timing, and the natural elements, are key, Graham said.
“At the end of the year, we secure all the plants and move smaller ones inside for cold storage. We put up tree guards to protect from the deer. We plan out our stock for next season. We maintain equipment.
“Then by February, if the weather is nice, we are putting everything out and getting ready for another season. But it really depends on the weather.”
Of course, the weather can be a huge job perk as well.
“I really like working outside when it is nice out, especially in spring and fall,” Graham said.
He added that, “Some customers know specifically what they want. Others don’t know anything.”
Next Generation also can provide landscape design.
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“A lot of what I carry are plants we know are very hardy. We know their growth habits,” he said.
“I’ve installed these plants, so I know what we are selling to customers. I can help educate our customers on what they are buying. You get a personal touch from a local grower who knows what grows in this area.”
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At a glance
• President: Shawn Graham
• Title: President
• Company: Next Generation Landscape Nursery
• Address: 831 Vernon Valley Dr. SE, Cedar Rapids
• Phone: (319) 366-3718
• Website: nextgenerationnursery.com/nextgen-image