John and Robin Godfrey moved to San Luis Obispo County in 1997, not for its beaches or wineries, but for its favorable growing conditions.
“We both worked at a nursery and wanted to start our own,” said John. “We chose the area for the climate, but also for the affordable land at the time.”
On 10 acres off Lopez Drive in Arroyo Grande, the former San Diego-area residents opened Ben Joy Nursery (named after John whose full name is John Benjamin Joy Godfrey). The nursery sells to homeowners, landscapers and contractors, and specializes in landscape ornamentals such as trees, shrubs, ground covers, palms and screening plants.
The Godfreys grow more than 90 percent of their own stock on-site. This, along with the somewhat remote locale, helps them offer competitive pricing. It also ensures that their plants will grow well in similar local climates.
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“I gave up a long time ago trying to keep things alive that can’t live here,” said John.
What’s more, the plants aren’t coddled in a greenhouse, but sit right out in the elements.
“If you walk into a store where the plant looks absolutely gorgeous, then you buy it and put it out into the sun and wind, it quickly gets beat up,” said John. “Our plants are sometimes a little weathered, but when you get them home and plant them, they tend to just take off.”
According to the Godfreys, some major retail chains offer perfect-looking plants, but at a price.
“Vendors treat them beforehand with growth regulators which freeze them in place so they won’t get too big,” said John. “That’s why they sometimes don’t perform very well.”
From January through around mid-February, Ben Joy offers a variety of bareroot fruit trees such as apple, pear, apricot, peach, nectarine, fig, persimmon, plum and pomegranate. They offer free delivery on their bare-root trees.
It’s the first time in a few years that bare-root is available. The Godfreys discontinued them because of slow sales during recession years. They have seen an uptick in demand for trees, and also know people are keen on saving money.
“You aren’t buying the pot or the extra labor, so it’s economical,” John explained.
The nursery website, www.benjoynursery.com has a list of many of the plants they carry, including bare-root. If you don’t find what you want online or at the nursery, they take special orders, often bartering with other local nurseries to supplement their own stock.
Ben Joy Nursery is at 2166 Lopez Drive in Arroyo Grande, 481-7488.