Translate site:

How We Grow

8 Reasons to Partner with Waverly Farm


How We Grow

Our customers tell us that our plant stock is an island paradise in a sea of sameness. Well, not exactly in those words. But they do ask how we are able to produce exceptional, fully finished landscape plants year after year. In case you were wondering, it’s intentional. We do it by….

sweating the details
indulging our curiosity
exploring new ideas
learning from mistakes
respecting nature and our land

Since 1990, Waverly Farm has been a leader in innovation in the nursery industry. To make good on our promise to deliver landscape plants of lasting value, we are constantly experimenting with advanced production methods and investing in the best equipment and technology available.

Our growing system today is the result of years of rigorous experimentation. Here are some of the key components of our growing system with descriptions of how each benefits the plants, our customers, and their customers.

01 Soil - The Beginning and the Future
of Your Landscape Plants


Rich, living soil is the key to growing consistently robust, beautifully finished plant stock. We use advanced tillage equipment and sustainable practices that protect our soil to ensure it keeps on producing for us.

Our IMANTS Rotary Spading Machine works our farm-produced compost 20” deep into the soil. Outdated tillage systems such as moldboard plows, discs, and rototillers harm the soil by breaking it into fine particles. Healthy, friable soils have a crumbly texture composed of large particle sizes that enhance drainage while holding good moisture and oxygen levels. In the presence of adequate organic matter, support organisms abound in the form of fungi, bacteria, mycorrhizae, protozoea, and nematodes. When soil particle size is reduced, the underground life fails and plants have to go it alone.

Eight years of research at Waverly Farm funded by USDA and implemented by Maryland Extension showed our soil management system to hold 26% more water than the same soil managed traditionally. As a result, our plant material tolerates digging, transportation, and transplanting better and lasts longer in holding yards.

This vibrant, healthy soil comes with every plant we ship.


02 - Farm Produced Compost

To gain full control over the quality and to reduce expense, we process all of the compost used on the farm. We use horse manure as source material. It is the best stock material for woody plant production because:

  • Horses have the broadest number of microbes in their gut of any domestic animal
  • Horse manure produces fungal-dominated compost shown to favor woody plants, in part due to mycorrhizae presence.

Our compost ingredients come from trusted suppliers and are subjected to regular lab analysis to ensure quality and consistency.


03 - The Waverly Farm Rootball - Bursting with Vigor

Traditionally, American nurseries harvest plants with a cone style tree spade. Waverly Farm digs with a Pazzaglia, an Italian-made vibratory blade machine that produces a bowl shaped root ball.

The Pazzaglia machines take a wider root ball than the traditional spade which narrows as it goes down. That wider cut captures more of the fine feeder roots that extend laterally toward the dripline. The resulting root ball contains approximately 14% more soil by weight but captures this additional soil where it matters—near the surface where the fibrous roots are located instead of in the lower portion of a cone shaped rootball where feeder roots rarely exist.

The round root ball makes life easier for landscape contractors because plants can stand up without the aid of chocks and one man can roll a 36” ball into position on firm ground.


04 - Equipment

Better equipment does not automatically result in a better product. Taking the time to understand how to use specialty equipment and practicing with intention—that makes a better product possible. We have searched the world to find the best and most efficient production nursery equipment available.

The equipment we currently employ is sourced from the Netherlands, Italy, Brazil, Germany , Japan as well as the United States. European countries in particular have a different nursery growing strategy as a result of the extremely high cost of labor and land there. That combined with stringent environmental regulation has pushed European growers to become more creative with their use of resources and to develop equipment to meet those demands for high density planting models and high efficiency.


05 - Highest Value Liner Sources & Propagation

We propagate 80-90% of the plants here at the farm each year to ensure we do not introduce insect and disease pathogens (remember the boxwood blight?) from other regions of the country. We also invest in select liners to build out our catalogue. We carefully vet our liner growers and often will pay a premium for liners to get the quality we want. We get to know our liner growers well and visit their production operations to ensure continuing quality is in line with our standards.


06 - Meticulous and Timely Pruning

The only way plants can be successful in the long term is when they are properly maintained in the nursery. Our careful scrutiny of structure, planting depth, leader selection and maintenance play an important role in the long-term success of plant material. Our pruning crew works consistently from late April until mid-December to ensure timely care of our plants.


07 - Consistent, Generous Grading - Caliper and Height

We strive to deliver consistently similar plants graded to the appropriate standards established by the industry over decades of thoughtful analysis. No one wants surprise plants that do not match up with the entire order.


08 -Protecting Your Investment - Proper Loading

Damage claims from shipping are rare because we take steps to ensure every plant is safely loaded and arrives undamaged. The shipping companies sometimes groan about how slow we are at loading trucks, which must be their compared observations to other nurseries that are not dedicated to preserving plant material that can take a decade or longer to produce. Whenever there is risk of abrasion from plant to plant, we insert cardboard dividers between plants. And we use the most effective trunk wraps available to ensure no damage occurs to trees with exposed trunks.


The Waverly Farm Playbook for Growing Outstanding Landscape Stock Year Over Year

Your success as a landscape professional depends on developing long-term partnerships with the most reliable growers as trusted sources for high quality plant stock.

This eBook will help you in your search by identifying key characteristics to look for in a grower capable of producing plants that have year over year consistency in health, size, and fullness.