History

Watkins Nurseries, Inc. was founded in 1876 by J. B. Watkins as a small fruit tree farm in Powhatan County, Virginia. Over the course of 140 years, and with the involvement of five generations of the Watkins family, it has grown to over 450 acres of land across the central Virginia area that is currently used in the production of field-grown, landscape-size plant material.

historyimage2In the mid-1860s, when J. B. Watkins began the operation, the demand for fruit trees and fresh fruit was strong. He and his brother moved the operation to Chesterfield County and were able to expand it over several years. In 1876 they established the family owned nursery which specialized in providing surrounding farms in central Virginia with fruit trees by mail. In the early 1900s, J. B. began offering trees and plants for Richmond area homes, and Watkins Nurseries became a source for ornamental plants, both native and imported. These ornamentals have since become a staple for the modern landscape industry across the country.

The Great Depression altered the focus of Watkins Nurseries and required new adaptations. The nursery scaled back its growing efforts and began a fully operational dairy and poultry farm providing basic food for employees, families, and neighbors.

In the decades following World War II, residential and commercial development restored a thriving demand for landscape plantings and their installation, and, once again, Watkins Nurseries adapted.

historyimage3The original farm in Midlothian has produced a wide array of hand-dug trees and plants as well as flowering and ornamental trees of a machine harvested size. The Dry Bridge site in Midlothian is the current location of our landscape contracting division as well as our business office and plant center. Also included are extensive holding facilities for re-wholesale landscape materials as well as loading platforms and mobilization areas.

The Appomatox farm in Powhatan is where the greenhouse and propagation facilities are located as well as some field grown resources. Winterham Farm in Amelia County is the primary production area for the nursery at this time. It is located near Amelia Courthouse and consists of 300 acres of land. This farm was acquired in August of 1998, and active field production began immediately. The entire Winterham farm tree operation is irrigated with adequate row spacing for growth and harvest. The water source is a 15 acre, man-made pond with pump and distribution system that exceeds a mile and half of 8” and 6” water mains. The Amelia soil and the irrigation provide a highly efficient environment for trees.

Five generations since our beginning, we remain an important contributor to the nursery industry. This 5th generation strives to honor the tradition of the family by remaining active members of the community, and we are particularly proud of the fact that many nurseries and landscape operations have benefited from having spent time and talent working with Watkins Nurseries over the years.

In recent years we have extended the business to include a wide variety of products and services. Our areas of focus are primarily supply of locally grown trees, landscape design and installation, and a re-wholesale and retail container plant materials operation. However, we also offer bulk materials, pavers, and landscape supply materials.

Since its conception in 1876, Watkins Nurseries has remained an integral part of the community and a consistent contributor to the nursery industry. Adapting with the changing times has allowed Watkins to continuously thrive throughout the 140 years we have been in business.