Horticult: Connecting Atlanta to the earth

The entrance of Garden*Hood, an independent garden center. Photos by Justin Clay | The Signal

Down in historic Grant Park, the flowers and plants within Garden*Hood remain a sea of green for residents to take home and bring to life.

Garden*Hood is a retail nursery that sells plants, soil, pottery and more to give the gardener a certified green thumb.  

Kacey Cloues, the owner and general manager of Garden*Hood, used to be the only employee when it opened in October 2009. Now, Cloues and her partner, Lukas Bradley, are the majority stakeholders.

“We offer high quality, under-utilized, garden-worthy plants in an environment that inspires, welcomes, and nurtures everyone from hobby gardeners to landscape professionals to novices,” Cloues said.

Garden*Hood teaches classes on gardening, as well as events periodically. Several times a year, they host cocktail hours designated as “Flower Hour.”

Additionally, the team of Garden*Hood designs and landscapes installs and provides the maintenance for private residences and commercial properties. The garden design team plots anything from small balconies to full-scale landscapes.

“We tend to personalize our designs and use a range of different plants, some of which are rare or unexpected, but we’re not plant snobs,” Cloues said. “The only wrong plant is one that isn’t suited for the growing conditions or that will become invasive if left to its own devices.”

In the workshops, classes and in-store advice, topics can range from buying supplies to installing plants themselves.

“We offer a range of workshops and walk-and-talks here at the nursery covering topics and questions from pruning, fertilizing, planting basics [How big does the hole really need to be?], watering basics, prepping the garden for winter, gardening with pets and so on,” Cloues said.

Gardening is a year round job, with Garden*Hood open seven days a week and almost 365 days a year. In contrast with times the weather leaves little to be desired, there has been a recent addition of a range of houseplants not sold in big box stores.

When advice is not dished out, the greenery is tended to around the clock.

“We hand-water every single plant in the nursery, no sprinklers or in-pot irrigation system here, which allows us to monitor our inventory extremely closely. We don’t sell a plant unless it’s completely healthy,” Cloues said.

While the plants themselves are not grown in-house, all grows are sourced from independent wholesalers within the Southeast.

“Every one of our growers is within 300 miles of our shop, which means the plants we sell don’t sit for days on an 18-wheeler getting trucked across the country to a (potentially) completely different climate from where they were grown,” Cloues said.

Alternative options for plants in the area remain to be big box stores, such as Home Depot and Wal-Mart, and a couple of national chain nurseries. Garden*Hood’s prices are at a different level, but the quality of the greenery itself justifies any deviation.

“Our customers get bonus karma points because when they shop with us, they’re supporting not just one, but a whole slew of locally owned, independent businesses,” Cloues said. “Shopping with us supports our wholesale growers, the artists who make several lines of our pottery and even the farm that produces the organic treats we feed our chickens.”


Grab Your Bulbs

For the new to the green or interested in starting, Cloues answers some questions on behalf of the garden shop.

Q: What are the most common questions you get about gardening?

Garden*Hood is an independent garden center showcasing flowers, plants, and shrubs located in Historic Grant Park. Photos by Justin Clay | The Signal

Cloues: The most frequent question, or perhaps lament, is ‘Why can’t I get anything to live?’ I usually answer this with a question of my own: ‘Where have you been buying your plants up to this point?’ If someone has been buying plants exclusively from a big box store, the reason things aren’t surviving may not be entirely their fault.  The plants at big box stores are often compromised by their long-distance journeys to the store, and then once there they’re treated like disposable commodities instead of living organisms.  

The rest of the answer to the, “why can’t I get anything to live?,’ question revolves around determining exactly what kind of growing conditions are present in different areas of a garden.  Matching the right plants to the right moisture and light conditions goes a long way towards ensuring gardening success.

Q: What is common advice for a beginner? What should they start doing?

Cloues: Don’t start with tomatoes. Tomatoes are fussy, challenging plants. Start with plants that are adaptable and tolerant of varying conditions, so they won’t become resentful while you’re learning to care for them. Also, start small. It’s easy to get swept away by dreams of gardening while leafing through garden design magazines or perusing the internet, but reality will land like a ton of bricks when it’s 98 degrees without a trace of rain in August, and you find yourself faced with 5,000 new plantings to nurture.  If we think you’re biting off more than you can successfully chew, we’re not afraid to cut you off.  

Q: What are some of your personal favorite flowers and plants?

Cloues: I have at least five new ones every other day. Structural plants such as ornamental grasses, conifers and yuccas are always on my top ten list. This time of year, I’m a total sucker for the soft romantic flowers, the star and tulip magnolias. Ferns always have a special place in my heart. I know I’ve met a kindred gardening soul when I encounter someone else who appreciates the subtle nuances of all the hundreds of ferns out there.

Q: For someone who might be getting into gardening and plants, what is the introductory thing they need to know?

Cloues: Doing research online can be helpful up to a point, but ultimately, the only way to learn about nature is to set aside your fear of messing up and simply dig in.  

No question is too basic. We’ll talk about plants and gardening with anyone willing to listen.


Find your green

Amidst a city with space and grass constraints, Georgia States can find a place to get dirty without having to have a large backyard in their arsenal.

Oakland Cemetery

248 Oakland Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30312

“One of my favorite places to recommend is Oakland Cemetery,” Cloues said. “It’s a gorgeous historic public garden, and they’re always in need of volunteers to help with a range of gardening tasks. It’s a great way for beginners to learn some of the basics of gardening in a friendly, low-stress environment, and it’s a fun chance for more experienced gardeners to pass along their gardening knowledge.”

Edgewood Community Learning Garden

1503 Hardee St NE, Atlanta, GA 30307

Poncey-Highland Community Garden

On the SE Corner of North Avenue and Freedom Parkway

An associate moves plants around before closing. Photo by Justin Clay | The Signal