Nursery Bounces Back in Time for Winter

For decades, Mercer Botanic Gardens served as a sanctuary for all varieties of plants. When Hurricane Harvey struck, floodwaters up to 8 feet high swept through the greenhouses, overturning tables and displacing hundreds of plants.

When news of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction broke, botanic gardens from across the country contacted Mercer to offer help and botanical specimens. Now, Mercer staff and volunteers are determined to rebuild stronger than before.

Missouri Botanical Garden sent horticulturists, laborers, and a truck packed with donated materials, including a new chainsaw and a power washer. The horticulturists worked for three to four days with Mercer’s Greenhouse Manager Jacob Martin to help save plants in Mercer’s living collection, which includes camellias, cycads, conifers, and daylilies. After arriving, they helped scour the area for lost plants that floated out of the nursery. Plants were found deposited throughout the property in trees and in the woods. Work also involved staking fallen trees, digging up mud-covered plants, pressure washing the greenhouses, and helping pull plants out of sink holes. They also rebuilt a stairway to Mercer’s two-story staff building destroyed by a fallen tree.

With all the help and hard work over the past months, Martin said plants are starting to green up and recover.

“The nursery is pretty much back to normal,” said Martin. “We are starting to rebuild the collections. All the greenhouses are back up and running.” Martin has also started making improvements to the existing greenhouses that will fortify them against future floods.

“My goal is to collect cuttings or seeds off all the plants that have any chance of being damaged this winter, so our collections do not take another hit,” he said. “We also need to build higher shelves that will not flood and develop a better anchoring system for some of the hard-to-find collections to ensure there is no way they can float away. “The nurseries are doing well, they are filling up with lots of material for spring planting. The next wave of winter color is going to be planted soon, as well as a large crop of bluebonnets that we are anxious to get in the ground. The cold weather is here so all the greenhouses are full to the brim with tropical and cold tender plants.”