Our Story

Growing up, David Johnson had the desire to pursue a career in marine biology; in 1979 he graduated from Duke University with a degree in zoology. Before embarking on this career, David decided to consider another dream of operating a wholesale nursery on his family farm in Willard, NC. After graduating from Duke, David decided to give his second dream a try and worked for Fairview Nursery in Wilson, NC. After a year and a half of getting his fingers rooted in the nursery life, he attended NC State where he studied Horticultural Science and took a nursery management class with the renowned J.C. Raulston. This was setting fuel to David’s dreams. In 1981, he began Johnson Nursery- David’s heart and passion still to this day.

Johnson Nursery started small, like most new things, and gradually grew. In 1987, Johnson Nursery added a valuable asset: David’s wife, Jill. Although Jill did not work at Johnson Nursery until later, she was a tremendous part of the success, first and foremost being David’s number one supporter. In 1991, the two became parents to their first born, Chason, and five years later their second born, Annie. A team of four now, the Johnson’s stayed busy. David’s heart had more than just the nursery to treasure, but his dreams of continuous expansion never ceased.

Chason Johnson graduated from NC State in May of 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Business Management and double minoring in Horticulture and Economics. In September, after spending the summer operating another family business, Wake Up Water Sports, Chason began at Johnson Nursery and has continued to rise to today where he is a valuable asset to the operation of Johnson Nursery. Chason is the Vice President and focuses on Sales and Marketing. He not only contributes to the flow of the company, but also to his father’s dreams by being a dreamer himself. Although Jill and Annie are not as involved, when the two men told of their newest idea, Gardens Direct, they all knew it had great potential.

The Three-fold Idea:

  • 1

    Independent Garden Centers (IGC)

    Independent Garden Centers (IGC). David and Chason have noted the potential demise of IGC’s and the IGC’s need to compete daily with the ever growing presence and pressure of mass merchants or box stores. IGC’s have been a focus of Johnson Nursery since the beginning, and Johnson Nursery wants to remain loyal to them, especially since their plant knowledge, experience, and passion sets them apart. The IGC’s have always been a huge part of the growth and success of Johnson Nursery.

  • 2

    The Large and Diverse Inventory of Johnson Nursery

    The Large and Diverse Inventory of Johnson Nursery. Johnson Nursery grows over 400 varieties of woody ornamentals, 750 varieties of perennials and annuals, as well as numerous tropicals, and is now venturing into trees. With each group of plants there are several brilliant plant breeders working diligently to improve upon their particular genetics. As a result, each year there are numerous new plant introductions including Roses, Hydrangeas, Petunias, Mums, Pansies- to name just a few. Johnson Nursery finds itself offering hundreds of new introductions each year. In many ways, the horticultural industry is similar to the ever changing and evolving fashion industry.

  • 3


    Technology. The Johnson’s have noticed, like most people, that the world is now focused on devises such as phones, tablets, laptops, etc. Because of this, many people are purchasing online as opposed to in store.

As a result to the three factors, the Johnsons started the company Gardens Direct, an e-commerce company that offers the entire Johnson Nursery inventory to the retail customer. The biggest difference between Gardens Direct and other e-commerce businesses is that Gardens Direct wants to partner with the IGCs. Once you purchase plants from the Gardens Direct site, the first of four options is pick up your order from your local IGC. For an additional fee, the second option is that you may choose to have your plants delivered right to your door. Either way, your local IGC will receive a significant commission from your order. The goal of Gardens Direct is to have your order delivered within one week after you have placed it. Plant shopping has never been easier! The third delivery option is to receive your order at one of the Gardens Direct plant sales located at the partners specified location. These plant sales partner with non-profit organization, such as Habitat for Humanity, Master Gardeners, Boy Scouts of America, and local schools and churches. By choosing this option in the ordering process, the day you pick up your order, the partner will be onsite to help load plants and will receive a significant percentage of the sale. (If you belong to a non-profit organization, please contact Gardens Direct to discuss this partnership in more detail.) The final way to receive your order is at Gardens Direct located in Willard, NC. Initially, Gardens Direct will only be open on Saturday mornings, but this is likely to change as business grows.

One day, the Johnsons envision boxing their product, allowing Gardens Direct access to continental US.

Stay tuned.

The Johnson’s thank you for your interest in Gardens Direct. Their goal is to bring an entirely new world of awesome plants and products right to your doorstep and are excited about all the possibilities. Do not fear; the Johnson’s never stop dreaming.