By D. Beasley
Most business owners have COVID-19 stories to tell, but they are usually about surviving the pandemic, not launching a new business in the middle of it.
Aaron Ireland and Nellie Simpson-Ireland opened Ireland’s Nursery & Gardening Service in Lake Isabella in October after experiencing their own harrowing COVID-19 experience when Aaron lost his job on an oil rig in Texas as demand dropped during the COVID-19 shutdown.
The couple waited for the oil industry to bounce back and it didn’t, so Aaron went back into the landscaping business in the Kern Valley, where both of their fathers live.
“We had a couple of customers who asked us to go pick up trees for them that they purchased from nurseries in Bakersfield,” Nellie said. “So I told him we should open our own nursery. If you’re going to pick them up and plant them, you might as well sell them too. And that’s what we did.”
Their business offers a wide assortment of plants, trees and grasses.
“We offer a more personalized experience that is tailored to every customer,” Nellie said. “Our plants aren’t shipped in by the truckloads. We go to every single wholesale nursery that we buy from and we would look at the plants and we meet the people there and we talk to them about the plants.”
They try to avoid buying plants that have been grown in greenhouses.
“A plant that has been raised in a greenhouse is probably not going to make it in your yard because it’s been raised in such a controlled environment,” she said. “It looks beautiful at first but once you put it out in the elements, it’s not going to survive.”
They offer plants that are likely to survive in the Kern Valley climate, which can vary greatly depending on the elevation and other factors.
“We try to make sure that we get plants that have a really wide range and that were not raised in a greenhouse,” she said.
The plants may not look as green and lush as those in the big-box stores.
“They may not have as many flowers on them to start with but you can pretty much expect that once you get it home and get it in the ground and give it some water, it’s going to thrive,” Ireland said.