THE MARTINSON HORTICULTURAL FAMILY TREE
The Martinson horticultural family tree has many branches. Allen is the son of Billy and Rita Martinson, recognized and respected pillars of both horticulture and politics in central Mississippi. Billy earned a horticulture degree from Mississippi State. After marrying Rita, they opened their first business in 1958, Green Oak Nursery and Florist. Green Oak has been a Jackson landmark ever since. Allen's sister, Karen, and her husband, Maur McKie, bought the business, which still operates at their Old Canton location. Allen worked at Green Oak while growing up, then also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in horticulture from Mississippi State. Adding to his experience, he worked at many nurseries and growing operations across the country. One summer, during college, Allen took an opportunity to work in the tulip industry in Holland. While there, he decided to postpone his trip home, and set out with plans to travel until he was out of money. Being young, thrifty and adventurous, he managed to keep moving for a whole year. He walked through 27 countries, almost completing a circle around the Mediterranean Sea before returning home to finish his degree. While Allen was in college, Billy and Rita purchased ten acres on Hwy 51 in Ridgeland, then built and opened a second garden business called Discount Nursery in 1985.
Allen's globetrotting experience awakened an interest in diverse cultures and landscapes and eventually led him to join the Peace Corps after graduation from Mississippi State. Sent to the island of Grenada, in the West Indies, Allen was assigned a very challenging agricultural pilot project. The purpose of the project was to develop a new variety of papaya suitable for export, which could eventually supplement the economic income of the island. He worked with local Rasta farmers growing, grafting, and literally developing a new papaya fruit. The fruit had to be a particular size, desirable in taste and appearance, and tough enough to withstand the rigors of packing and shipping. By the end of his three year project, they were successfully growing, harvesting and shipping the literal fruits of their labor. And the entire project was done 100% organically!
His passion for growing led him back to Mississippi with a vision. His plan was to grow and sell significantly higher quality, larger bedding plants than the ones available on the market at that time. Billy and Rita's Discount Nursery site was the perfect location to build the growing operation, and in 1991, Rising Sun Growers was born.
The Birth Of Rising Sun Growers
In 1993, Allen married Mimi Robinson, a delta girl from Greenville. She had just graduated from college and was teaching English at MRA when they got married. During the school year, she started helping Allen plant the thousands of seedlings for his spring crop after school and on weekends. Raised in a farming family, Mimi was accustomed to the seasonal ebb and flow of a life rooted in agriculture. They both realized very quickly that working together in the family business was going to be their future. So her first year to teach was also her last year to teach, and Mimi became the next branch on the Martinson horticultural family tree.
During the 1990s, Madison County development grew rapidly. Rising Sun was successfully operating as a wholesaler, supplying local landscapers in addition to nurseries across Mississippi. Discount Nursery was originally positioned on the outskirts of Jackson, to be, as the name suggests, a discount outlet for landscape material. But the Martinson family quickly realized the need to transform the business to fit the growing market, and additions and renovations were underway. Discount Nursery became Martinson's Garden Works overnight...new look, new business, new name. Soon after, Allen and Mimi both shifted their focus from the growing operation to the retail side of the business. They shared a vision of expanding the retail bedding plant sales at Garden Works to the point that Rising Sun could grow exclusively for Garden Works, eliminating all outside wholesale sales. And that is exactly what happened.
Allen & Mimi In The Beginning
Allen and Mimi bought Garden Works, Rising Sun and Garden Works Landscape in 2005. Both are very much involved with the daily operations of the business and enjoy helping their customers. Garden Works is the product of their evolving creative vision, and their commitment to excellence, both in product and in service. As business owners, they have a great work ethic, loads of energy and big dreams, which is evident throughout their business. As gardeners, they have a passion for outstanding plant material which contributes to the depth of plant offerings at Garden Works. They are constantly expanding the landscape palette offered at Garden Works by personally planting and trialing different varieties in their own landscape, at Rising Sun, and on the grounds at Garden Works.
Allen and Max
Their two children, Mia and Max, have been present in their Garden Works history since birth. While infants, they both got an up-close look at all parts of the business from the unique vantage point of peeking over their mother's shoulder from a papoose backpack. Allen and Mimi didn't want to sacrifice time with their children, so they packed the kids up and brought them to work. This very unique “family” aspect of the business is an integral part of what makes the shopping experience at Garden Works pleasurable and meaningful. Mia has now graduated from Ole Miss and is beginning grad school there to earn a Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling. Max has gained some experience at both the growing operation and retail business and has worked two summers on a Garden Works' landscape crew under leadership of Landscape Architect, Randy Graves. Max has been inspired by the work he has contributed over the years to the family business. He is a senior at Madison Central and is making plans to attend Mississippi State, like his father and grandfather, possibly seeking a degree in Landscape Architecture & Contracting. Max might just be the next "Rising Son."