The story of Fort Collins Nursery begins as a humble vegetable farm in 1932 near Fishback and LaPorte Avenues.
Then owner, Glen Kinghorn, maintained his small plot through the depression era as Kinghorn Nursery. In 1940, Kinghorn sold his plot to Clayton Watkins, the first president of the Colorado Nurserymen’s Association. Watkins changed the name to Fort Collins Nursery, and expanded the business during World War II, seeding airfields for the Army.
In 1946, Watkins sold the nursery to Al Ekblad and his brother-in-law, Cecil Martin. In 1955, they moved the operation to East Mulberry Street, nestled on the Poudre River. In 1958, Martin left the business, and employee, Marv Wood, became Ekblad’s partner. Over the years, the nursery offered more trees, shrubs and perennials.
In 1976, nursery employees Gary Eastman and Gary Epstein took over ownership. The two “Garys” expanded the business to include more retail stock, as well as landscaping and maintenance services. The nursery also started growing more of its own plants at a site on North Shields Street in 1987.
Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, with Eastman managing the retail side, and Epstein managing wholesale production, it became evident that the departments could be two separate businesses in their own right. In 2005, the Garys split the company into Fort Collins Nursery, 2121 E. Mulberry St., and Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery, 2224 N. Shields St. To this day, Fort Collins Nursery still buys a great volume of plants from the wholesale business, which offers hard-to-get, well-suited and native plants.
In December of 2010, Gary Eastman sold Fort Collins Nursery to his son, Jesse Eastman. Jesse grew up at the nursery and has been the nursery’s General Manager since 2009. Jesse credits his father and his grandfather (who owned an orchard on Colorado’s Western slope), as well as his mother who worked at the nursery right up until he was born, for keeping the family’s horticultural tradition alive and well.
Fort Collins Nursery continues to offer the finest quality trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, garden gifts, tools, fertilizers and books. The ever-expanding retail offerings span nearly 17,000 sq. ft. of indoor shopping space (including a greenhouse and garden shop), 3 acres of outdoor shopping along the scenic Poudre River, as well as 6 acres of on-site production and growing space. The nursery also boasts friendly Certified Nursery Professionals to answer all your plant and landscaping questions.
Originally published on May 3rd, 2010. Updated on May 3rd, 2019.