Saturday, August 20, 2016

Iconic Burkard’s Nursery on Orange Grove and Lincoln Blvd. is Closing

Frank Burkard Jr.,(Frankie to his friends)  who has managed the family owned and run Burkards nursery since 1978, is retiring.
Frankie is a true plantsman. His encyclopedic knowledge of plant material is amazing. Not only can he recall the names of thousands of plants that have been offered by the nursery over the years (and just as many that haven’t), he can tell you how to take care of them, when and where to plant them, and other details most people would have to look up.

Frank Burkard Jr. 

Frank pioneered South African bulbs, he was one of the few to offer flowering Florida dogwood that grew (albeit with some fairly rigorous considerations) in the Southern California heat. For a long time he carried over a dozen different varieties of Japanese maple, and he would always have the best selection of English garden type perennials like Veronicas, asters, many different types of Dianthus etc. Ever have a vague craving for a Lauder’s walking stick hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’)? Frankie usually had one in stock.
How do I know so much about this? I worked at Burkard’s from 1985 until 1992 while I was studying Botany at Cal Poly Pomona. Working with Frankie at that nursery was a complete learning experience; I was able to learn more plant material in a year there than I would have learned in four years at a University. Not only that but I became acquainted with the care, feeding and characteristics of the plants.
Entrance to Burkards

So when I received an email that the retail store was closing for Frank’s retirement, I had to go down and pay my respects. As usual Frankie was there showing off his plants with the same enthusiasm that he did when I was working their some 30 years ago, jumping from customer to costumer, shaking hands and showing the same energy I’ve always known him to have. It obviously wasn’t a health issue that was causing him to retire. I talked to Frankie and asked him why he was retiring. He told me that he had worked hard at the nursery, but that he really wanted to spend time with his grand kids on the east coast. He also mentioned that he would be volunteering at Arnold Arboretum, and that he hoped to bring his love of gardening to inner city Boston kids.

Frankie’s always had impeccable timing. He got into perennial gardening just before it got hot in the 80’s, he would always wait for the best exchange rate between the dollar and the guilder before he bought his bulbs from Holland. Now he’s passaging into a retirement of volunteer service and closer family ties at a time when retail nurseries are facing a period of change (because of the drought and less fervent interest in gardening) that at best could be described as extremely challenging and at worst as cataclysmic. He and Burkards will be missed. 
Old Truck at Burkard's

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