Founded in 1989, Wilson Bros Gardens is an online plant nursery based in McDonough, Georgia. It was founded by nurserymen and twin brothers Brent and Brooks Wilson, who are still active daily in the operations of the company. Wilson Bros safely ships our vast selection of unique and exciting new and old-time favorite outdoor plant varieties to tens of thousands of home gardeners and professionals throughout the continental United States. Aside from offering a vast array of high-quality plants and trees in our online store, we also provide loads of species-specific planting and care advice from our experts for those who might need or find it helpful. You can find this helpful information under the Planting & Care Advice tab on every plant page in the website or by using the Advice Search at the top of any page on the site.
Every Business Has A Story, Ours Starts Here...
Written by By Brent Wilson, Co-Founder Wilson Bros Gardens
My twin brother Brooks and I were born on March 15, 1964 in Terra Haute, Indiana. Brooks is 5 minutes older than me. We had to wear name bracelets for quite some time just so our parents and others wouldn't get us mixed up!
1966 - Miami, FL
Our family lived in Terra Haute until 1965 when our father, Gene Wilson, retired after injuries from a short career in professional football and took a coaching job in Miami, Florida, where he took the South Miami High School football team to 4 state championships in a row. Needless to say, in what was a much smaller city of Miami back then, our father became "Mr. Popular" with everyone in the city, including the ladies. As with so many other charming athletes, he just couldn't resist the temptations. Rightfully so, mom didn't take too kindly to dad's frolicking ways. By the time we were 4 years old mom called it quits and moved Brooks and I and our older brother Scott to Marietta, Georgia to start a new life. Our earliest days of entrepreneurship selling grapefruits we'd picked from trees in our yard to folks in the Miami neighborhood were over, for a while.
In hindsight, our parents divorce was all for the best. Our mother, Beth, remarried to one of the best fathers any kids could ever ask for, Joe Bell, who we called "Dad," and still do to this day. Mom passed in 2004 but dad is still enjoying retired life in The Villages, FL. Brooks and I both maintained contact with our natural father throughout his life. We actually took care of him when his health was failing during his last 5 years on earth.
Fast forward to 1976, when Brooks and I were 12 years old and living with our mom, dad and older brother Scott in a quiet neighborhood in Marietta, Georgia. Though Dad was a mechanic at Delta Airlines and our mom was a school teacher, both shared a special interest in plants and trees and nature in general. Our home's landscape was so beautiful it often won "Yard of the Month” in the neighborhood. One day, our mom and dad decided to take us boys on a day trip to Callaway Gardens, an award-winning, 2,500-acre gardens and resort nestled in the southernmost foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Pine Mountain, Georgia. It was springtime so the azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons and dogwood and redbud trees were in full bloom. To my recollection, that's when Brooks and I first caught the plant bug. One look at all those beautiful flowering plants at Calloway Gardens and we were hooked!
Budding entrepreneurs (pun intended)
Fast forward to 1978. Brooks and I were 14 years old when dad used his life savings to buy 40 acres of raw, wooded land in Jackson, Georgia, a small rural town on the southside of Atlanta. At that time the land sold for only $500 an acre! The same land today would sell for $20,000 per acre, or more. We spent the first couple years in Jackson living in a mobile home trailer while helping dad build what would become the new family home. Dad worked us hard around the farm, which helped greatly to instill the work ethic we'd ultimately need to be successful in business. He taught us that you don't get something for nothing, that "idleness was the devil's workshop," and that if you’re going to take on a project to stay focused and complete it to the best of your ability.
1980 was a year Brooks and I were very anxious to see arrive, as it was the year we'd turn 16 and get our drivers licenses. As the born-entrepreneurs we were, acquiring our drivers licenses meant we could launch the first business we'd been envisioning for several years: Wilson Lawn Care. We knew that going into the lawn care business would teach us more about plants and how to maintain and care for them.
So, with savings we’d accumulated from our weekly allowance and working for other local farmers loading hay and such, we bought an old pickup truck, mower, blower, hedge trimmers and other necessary lawn maintenance equipment. It wasn't long before we had a full schedule of lawn maintenance contracts with the local bank, several churches, and quite a few residences. We took on as much work as we could handle while still having to focus on our schoolwork. Both brooks and I were in the DCT program at our school which allowed us to take only a few necessary classes and leave around noon. This gave us every afternoon to focus on the business. With the revenues earned from the lawn maintenance business, we gained the reputation of being the "richest" kids in our high school. But the money we were making wasn’t nearly as valuable as the knowledge we were gaining about growing and caring for lawns, plants and everything landscaping
The school of hard knocks
Two years later, in 1982, Brooks and I graduated from Jackson High School, another year that we were anxious to see come. The lawn maintenance business was thriving by this point in time so we were anxious in deciding whether to follow our parents advice and go to college, or go with our own strong entrepreneurial desires and continue on in the business.
Not long after graduating high school in 1982, Brooks and I decided to move ourselves, along with our lawn maintenance business, back to Marietta, Georgia, which had become a much more affluent, landscape-conscious area that was growing like mad. We used money in our savings accounts to purchase a nicer truck, all-new lawn maintenance equipment and some advertisement flyers to help gain new customers. Within just a few years our small lawn maintenance company had blossomed into a reputable landscape design-build and maintenance firm with a long list of affluent clients in East Cobb and North Fulton counties on the northside of Atlanta. The learning of all things landscaping had substantially progressed.
Sharing seeds of knowledge
After 7 successful years creating award-winning landscapes for our many clients in the North Atlanta Metro area, we decided to take the knowledge we'd gained and use it to move up in the world of the green industry. We've always been the type who loved sharing knowledge and thought the best way we could help more folks with their landscaping needs was to open a nursery and garden center. So we sold the landscape design-build firm in Marietta to an employee and started looking for a location to open a nursery. There were already several thriving nursery and garden centers on the northside of Atlanta, and commercial properties were so expensive there, so we set our sites back on the southside of Atlanta, where the traffic wasn't so bad and homeowners would appreciate what we had to offer.
One day, after having sold the landscaping company, Brooks saw an article in the Atlanta Journal newspaper titled: "Henry County: The Hidden Gem of the Atlanta Metro Area." So we jumped in the truck and headed south to take a look at Henry County, Georgia. A few weeks later we took the funds we'd sold the landscape company for and used a bulk of it as a down-payment on a piece of commercial property in McDonough, which at that time was a quaint but fast-growing small town in Henry County.
Our parents were a little concerned about this move because the landscaping business in Marietta was doing so well, and we had rather suddenly decided to sell it and open a nursery business in what then was a small rural town. But Brooks and I looked at the demographics of McDonough and knew it was in the process of exploding - over 100 new subdivisions were under construction and the property we purchased for the nursery was right across the street from the proposed Georgia National Golf Course at Lake Dow Country Club.
Within just a couple years Henry County had become the fastest growing county in the state of Georgia, and with the knowledge we’d gained and had to offer of plants and landscaping, our nursery and garden center business was rocking and rolling, steadily growing right along with growth of the county. By the year 2000 Henry County had quadrupled in population...from 50,000 people to well over 200,000, and the nursery had grown to four times its original size as well.
When getting started in business in 1980, we never would've imagined that one day this thing called the Internet would come along. Brooks and I first started paying attention to the Internet sometime in the early 1990's, back during the days of dial-up connections, when it took forever for a picture to download on your screen.
By 2003 it became apparent to us that the paperback Yellow Pages were taking a backseat to the online search engines. Most folks who could afford to buy plants and trees could also afford to have a home computer, and they were using the Internet at ever-increasing rates to find local sources for the plants and products they needed. We knew we had to have an Internet presence.
So, in late 2003, we started obtaining bids from website development companies in the Atlanta area who could build our business website. They all wanted what we thought was a fortune to build out a 5-page website. Why? Because they had the know-how and we didn't. We knew that once we had a website we'd need a lot more than 5 pages in order to share the vast amount of information regarding the many species and varieties of plants we offered, not to mention all the planting and care advice many folks needed to successfully grow them in their landscape. Considering the going rates for website construction at that time, we just didn't feel we could afford to outsource the project. That's when we decided to start studying up on website development.
I ended up teaching myself how to use a website design program called Dreamweaver, and in October of 2004 had developed and launched WilsonBrosOnline.com, a gardening-centric information-based website. While some folks were talking about the "evils of the Internet" Brooks and I thought it was a wondrous and beautiful thing. Now we could take all the plant and landscaping knowledge we'd gained to date and share it with our local customers on a website they could access 24/7, at their convenience. We were in heaven.
The information-based website was a win-win situation for us and our customers. While relaxing in their home, our customers could access all the "How To" information and "Plant Files" on our website. Now when customers came into the nursery and garden center they already knew what plants, trees and other landscape and gardening products they needed. Furthermore, they could use the information on the site as a resource to learn how to properly plant and care for the plants they purchased at our nursery and garden center.
So our first information-based website was a huge success. Our local customers used and loved it. But it wasn't long and gardeners from all over the country and around the world were visiting and using it. This presented us with a problem, or what Brooks and I would call a "new challenge."
Overcoming e-commerce fears
So we had built the information-based website and it was growing like mad, but there was a problem. Gardeners from all over the United States were emailing us with thank you letters for providing all the helpful information, but they were frustrated because they couldn't find a local source for the plants they saw and read about on our website. As plant enthusiasts that sometimes had trouble finding the plants we were looking at on the Internet, we understood their frustration. Basically, after putting a lot of time and effort into studying and planning a new garden, it's really frustrating when you can't find a source for the plants! So, we understood, and immediately went to thinking about offering our plants to gardeners around the United States through an online store.
But there was another BIG problem for us to overcome...or at least what we thought was a problem. We had this nagging fear about being able to safely ship our plants by mail all over the country only to hear back from a customer in a far-away state that the plants were damaged during shipping. We hate when an otherwise beautiful and healthy plant dies needlessly. But, at that time, we just hadn't taken the time to look into how plants were being safely shipped by mail.
So we started looking around on the Internet and found a handful of online plant nurseries who were shipping their plants via USPS, FedEx and UPS. We placed some orders with these online nurseries just to see how they were doing it. A couple weeks later the plants arrived on our doorstep. To our amazement most of the plants we’d ordered and received arrived in good condition. We planted them in our gardens the day they arrived and they thrived. This gave us the confidence we needed to move forward with an online store and to start offering and shipping our plants by mail.
So, in 2009 we decided to build an online store. But building and managing an online store was much different than building an information-based site. Fortunately, a long-time and good friend of ours from Florida, Spencer Young, who had many years experience in managing e-commerce websites, agreed to jump ship from the company he was working for and come on board our ship. A year or so later we launched our first online store: Gardener Direct. In no time we were safely shipping our container-grown plants and trees all over the country. To this day we have very few (1 out of a 1,000) orders with damages, and this is almost always due to carrier mishandling of the package. But that's okay. In the rare event plants are damaged in transit, FedEx or UPS covers the cost of the damages and we get to immediately ship out a replacement order - everyone is happy!
From 2010 to 2015 our online store, Gardener Direct, had grown by over 100% a year, and it was total organic growth by way of word-of-mouth advertising by our customers. To this day, we have never used Google Ads or any other form of paid-for advertising. Though we could grow the business more rapidly with paid-for advertising, we'd rather grow it gradually. Reason being, it helps us to better manage the growth while maintaining superior plant quality and customer service. Too, a large advertising budget would force us to raise the prices on our plants, and we don't want to do that!
So, there's something to say for growing a business the old-fashioned way: by word of mouth. It means your customers are happy with your products and services and are proud to share their experience with their friends, who then become new customers we can aim to please. Taking care of customers has almost become a lost art these days, but we do everything possible to make sure our customers are taken care of. We love pleasing folks and our extremely high Google Verified Customer Rating over many years running is a testament to the fact that we have succeeded in accomplishing this objective. You can see our Google Certified Customer Rating at the bottom right corner of every page on our website. Google publishes this rating on our website and there is absolutely nothing we can do to change rating. This might be the reason we don't see many companies who participate in the Google Verified Customer program?
Just when you thought you've heard enough about us, the story isn't quite done yet. Just a little more to tell.
When you're in business, there's always gonna be problems. But we don't look at them as problems...rather as opportunities to find solutions.
In 2015 we got a call from a very upset "customer' who after receiving some unhealthy plants felt that we had "ripped her off." The first thing we naturally did was apologize, and let the "customer" know that we guarantee our plants to arrive healthy and of retail nursery and garden center quality and size. But as we kept questioning her it became apparent that she had contacted the wrong company. She'd purchased the plants from a different online nursery who had a very similar name to Gardener Direct. It was an honest mistake on her part. She couldn't remember the exact name of the company she'd bought the plants from so simply typed the words "garden" and "direct" in a search engine, and we were the first to show up in the results. This let us know we had a problem that needed fixing.
It wasn't long after that initial call to the wrong company that we were receiving several similar calls every month, all involving the same company with the similar name. It was really frustrating that people were confusing us with this other company. We were worried that the confusion could eventually do some serious damage to the reputation we'd spent decades building and protecting. So we made the executive decision to change the name of our website. We decided to go with WilsonBrosGardens.com, which said more about who we are: a family owned and operated real nursery.
With our new website, WilsonBrosGardens.com, which is the one you are on now, we also decided to change and update it with a new look and some great new features to enhance our customers browsing and shopping experience. Not only is the new site mobile device friendly, we some of the new features to enhance the browsing and shopping experience.
Here's just a few of the new features we added:
More information! Now we have all the specific planting and care instructions, or links to instructions, on every plant page on the website. There's also hundreds of helpful articles in our Advice Blog that you can easily find by using the Advice Search found at the top of every page on the website. For example, if you want to find informative articles regarding azaleas plants, simply type the word “azalea”’ in the Advice search box and a list of relevant articles will appear.
More photos! Instead of only one picture on a plant page, now there are many...and we're always adding more!
The Plant Finder Now we have a tool you can use to find just the right plant for just the right spot in your landscape. On every category page on WilsonBrosGardens.com you will find the Plant Finder in the left column. We offer literally thousands of varieties of ornamental shrubs, trees and herbaceous perennial plants, which needless to say can make it a little difficult to find just the plants that will grow and thrive in a specific landscape or garden bed you intend to plant. However, thanks to technology, we've made finding the perfect plants for the perfect spot much easier for you with the Plant Finder tool. The Plant Finder is very easy to use. Click here for helpful instructions
Questions & Answers This is a new feature on every plant page that allows you to ask any question you want - and the experts on our customer service team will promptly answer your question within 24 hours! Of course you can always contact our customer service team by email at [email protected] with any questions you might have. If you'd like to place an order over the phone or check order status you can contact us by phone at (770) 573-1778 and our phone representatives will be happy to help.
Gift Cards Need to buy a plant-loving gardening friend a gift? Now we are offering e-gift cards you can instantly send to them!
In order to meet the demands of our 10’s of thousands of customers throughout the continental United States, in November of 2018 Brooks and I were faced with making the very difficult decision to close our open-to-the public nursery and garden center in McDonough, GA.
Being the plant enthusiasts Brooks and I are, along with everyone else on staff at Wilson Bros Gardens, closing the open-to-the-public garden center in 2018 allowed us to focus on greatly expanding our plant variety offerings by expanding the plant farms in our plant-growing network. We now have plant farms in Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama and Oregon from which we are growing and shipping our ever-expanding varieties of plants and trees. For example, from our newest farm in North Carolina (USDA Zone 6) we are now able to grow and offer many more cold-hardy coniferous evergreens and other types of plants that our customers in cooler climates can grow in their landscapes. From our new Oregon farm we grow and ship our proprietary line of cold-hardy Eucalyptus trees.
What the future holds…
2024 - Presently (2023), we are working on the development of our new and improved website. If everything goes according to schedule the new site should be launched by spring of 2024. For those of you who've been using the current website, not to fear, we won’t be reinventing the wheel. The new website will look and function the same, with everything in the same place, but there'll be some really great enhancements that should go a long way in improving browsing and shopping experience.
Okay, finally, that brings this story to an end, for now. Since you made it this far in the story of our lives and business, we hope you enjoyed learning more about us. If you have any questions about our company and its plants, products and services, don't hesitate to contact us. We're always at your service!
We announce special offers and introduce new plants we're growing and offering through our email newsletter. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter click here.
Enjoy your day and Plant Long & Prosper!