Horticulture was introduced in what is now the state of West Virginia on March 18, 1774 when George Washington leased 125 acres of land in Berkeley County to William Bartlett for the purpose of establishing apple and peach orchards. In 1786, Jacob Nelly planted fifty acres of apple and peach trees in Hancock County. From this start, he soon made the northern panhandle famous for the production of winter apples. During his lifetime, the orchard industry spread south into the Ohio River area as far as the Kentucky border.
W.S. Miller, who started with sixteen acres of orchards in the Eastern Panhandle in 1851, increased his production until the end of the civil War when his trees numbered 6,500.
In 1900 over 10,500,000 acres of West Virginia land was devoted to farming. By the start of World War I the acreage had dropped to a little over 4,300 acres.
During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, concern was growing for the conservation of trees and plants. Homeowners were becoming more interested in home plantings of a permanent nature (not just summer vegetable and flower gardens) and farmers were becoming more specialized. The times were right for the growth of the infant nursery industry.
West Virginia, being largely rural and with a strong tradition of fruit production, was primarily a fruit tree nursery industry in the earliest years, but the popularity of flowering shrubs, many of which were native to the state, caught on early. As the state became more conservation minded and towns and cities grew the market for shade trees and evergreen planting grew. Residents who had formerly cut their own Christmas trees now wanted to purchase trees already cut and shaped.
Around the turn of the century, rail freight costs were so high and motor transport through much of the state was unimaginable so most nurseries had to produce their own bedding plants and liners.
In the late 1930’s as West Virginia was out from the effects of the Depression, virtually every home had at least one or two porch boxes and homeowners wanted foundation plantings for at least the front of their house. To meet this demand, numerous nurseries sprang up around the state. Some of our state nurseries bought farmland and started West Virginia branches.
In the years preceding World War II, the style of architecture influenced the growth of home landscaping. The high foundation type of structure which required large specimens to hide the foundation and visually reduce the height of the home gave way to lower foundations with excavated basements and early ranch type structures. These new lower dwellings called for smaller plants which would not grow as fast or as large. This called for newer varieties of the dwarf type. With the aid of farsighted plantmen and horticulture departments of large universities, many new varieties were developed during this time.
The youthful American Nurserymen’s Association and the even younger Southern Nurserymen’s Association were gaining strength and reputations and many states had already formed their own associations when a group of West Virginia nurserymen with the backing and assistance of WVU, the state Agriculture Department and several experienced state professionals banded together to form a state association for West Virginia’s budding nursery industry.
It was at the time of the early growth and new awareness of landscaping that West Virginia Nurserymen’s Association was formed. On July 1, 1939, twenty-six men contributed two dollars each and formed an organization of nurserymen. The first meeting was held in Elkins, West Virginia.
Today, WVNLA is pleased to offer a wide variety of opportunities to all its members – everything from presenting recognized industry authorities who provide inspiration and information – to the opportunity to receive continuing education credits for state mandated certificates.
We cooperate with and support the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, publish a bi-monthly newsletter containing timely announcements regarding issues important to our members and contribute to the Horticultural Research Institute (see www.anla.org for research goals). We proudly support West Virginia college students studying horticulture and landscape architecture with scholarship opportunities.
In order to promote fellowship, share expertise and support our local communities, we conduct meetings, tours, volunteer projects and an annual meeting featuring amazing, talented speakers.
Regionally, we co-sponsor the annual Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS) along with the Maryland and Virginia. This nationally recognized event showcases and facilitates sales of green industry products. As a co-sponsor, WVNLA receives funds that directly benefit our members.
On a national level, we contribute to the ANLA Lighthouse, ANLA-PAC and other governmental relations programs benefiting the green industry.
Thank you for your interest in WVNLA.