COLUMN: Local beloved nursery location returns

Published 9:59 am Monday, March 7, 2022

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By Elisabeth Altamirano-Smith| Community columnist

Big news is circling around Thorsby. Many old buildings that were once becoming dilapidated are now getting a facelift and coming back to life. Drivers passing through Thorsby on Highway 31, have been getting a delightful surprise in seeing the old Collins Nursery building renovated and cleaned. Many local residents remember what was once a large, charming garden managed by two elderly sisters, which fell to ill-repair when the sisters, Rebecca Martin and Mary Ellen Woodfin, closed their business. Drivers passing by the location have watched for decades as the garden blossoms and rose bushes slowly faded away and disappeared into overgrowth and brush.

Recently, Johnny Stephens drove past the old gardens and saw that it had become overgrown. Stephens, an Alabama-certified horticulturist with a degree in ornamental horticulture, has a lifelong experience of working at local nurseries. Seeing the nursery prompted him to contact the owners and purchase the property.

Stephens said that his initial love for gardening started when he was younger.

“I knew that I hated being inside all of the time and liked being outdoors, so I went into horticulture,” said Stephens. “I began working at Aldridge Gardens in Birmingham in 1972.”

Since Stephens began his renovation, those passing by the secret garden have noticed the grand transformation. All of the outdoor brush has been removed and inside of the building has been cleaned.  Stephens has enclosed the south end of the first entry room, installed heating, a new irrigation system, and installed new lighting and wiring.

The front room of Hometown Nursery is full of ornamental pots and yard art. Double doors open up to the expansive green house full of natural light which hosts a full line collection of cacti, succulents and house plants towered over by wind chimes. The outdoor garden offers a large collection of roses, azaleas, camellias, fruit trees and whirligig art.

“We are up and ready for business beginning March 8,” said Stephens. “We are ready for people to come see us! We have a Florida shipment of tropical plants coming in and already have a large variety of plants and garden items. If we don’t have it, we can get it!”

Hometown Nursery is located at 22424 Hwy 31, Thorsby, Alabama. Nursery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sunday and Monday.