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How does your garden grow?

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PLANTACULAR: Statuary and flora at Teh Good Earth.
  • PLANTACULAR: Statuary and flora at Teh Good Earth.

The most amazing thing about The Good Earth nursery — situated as it is on chi-chi, gotta have it, gazillion-dollars-a-square-millimeter land in far West Little Rock — might just be that it's always been in the same spot. Well, not ALWAYS, but definitely since 1976, back when the city stopped at Shackle-ford Road and Highway 10 was just a good way for Perry County farmers to get their pigs to market.

Though the highway out front is four lanes wide now, choked with soccer moms and Wal-Mart traffic, The Good Earth is pretty much the same as it ever was: a great place to get plants, fertilizer, and solid advice.

Gregg Curtis and his wife, Julie, have owned The Good Earth for the last 11 years. A former salesman, Curtis is no suit-and-tie owner, either. When we spoke, it had just turned July after a temperate June, but Curtis' face and arms were already baked a mellow brown. Decked out in a company T-shirt, sturdy shoes, and a dusty pair of shorts, the lines on his face were the only thing that might separate him from the college kids bucking bags of mulch in the parking lot.

“There's really no office staff at The Good Earth,” he said. “Everybody gets outside and gets dirty.”

There five minutes, I had already learned one of the fundamental truisms of life: Never trust a gardener with clean hands.

In the past 11 years, Curtis said, he and his staff have really worked hard to make The Good Earth a destination, a place where a family can bring the kids and spend hours looking at plants.

“We've got a playground, we've got the ponds, we've got a bird aviary back here so they can look at the parakeets and that kind of stuff,” he said.

To that end, the nursery is also one-stop shopping for gardening-themed gifts, pottery and other outdoor stuff — everything from bronzes to benches to wind chimes.

The Good Earth never forgets its roots, however.  Featuring over 1,000 varieties of plants spread across five acres, the nursery's hothouses produced more than 50,000 potted perennials this spring. In addition, The Good Earth offers yard maintenance, commercial and residential landscaping and custom water features, and they sell rocks, topsoil and mulch in bulk. While truckload quantities are geared more toward the professional landscaper than the weekend gardener, Curtis said they try to keep things easy enough for even a novice. 

“I think plants are the last thing most people want to think about,” he said. “We try to make it as simple as we can. The way we're laid out here at the nursery, everything that's in the sun grows in the sun. Everything underneath the pine trees we've been blessed with grows in the shade.”

In the end, Curtis said that one of the best ways to add value to a house is with landscaping. Not only do you get to enjoy the plants while you're there, but they'll help boost the sale price if you decide to move. 

“A rule of thumb that you learn in architecture school is that if you have 10 percent of the value of your home in landscaping, you will have no problem recouping that,” he said. “We work for some builders who understand that. They'll connect us up with the homeowner from the beginning, before they even break ground. They're like: ‘Let's get The Good Earth to do it. It's what they do.' ”

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