Thursday, January 1, 2015

Carroll Gardens was once an important part of the history of the business of agriculture in Carroll County

March 1994 Carroll Gardens perennial mail-order catalogue

Carroll Gardens 444 East Main Street, Westminster, Carroll County Maryland 21157

Labels and keywords: plants, horticulture, perennials, mail-order catalogue, Carroll County, Westminster, Maryland, agriculture, history

I recently came across a box of old plant catalogues, invoices and papers from the years I made a living as a nursery stock farmer, 1974 to 1999. I raised perennials, shrubs and trees. To further make ends meet, I also did landscape design and contracting and property management. It kept me very busy for 25 years. I’ve now been retired from farming for over fifteen years and I still miss it.

I worked for Pasquale Donofrio at Carroll Gardens in the late 1960s. I loved working there.

I also enjoyed working with Alan Summers beginning in 1984, when he purchased the business. It was great to take my landscape design customers there to pick out plants. Mr. Summers was a wealth of knowledge and worked tirelessly to make Carroll Gardens weather the changes in the market and the economy.

The plant mail-order business that Carroll Gardens did so well, was a natural outgrowth of the mercantilist economy that made Carroll County Maryland an agricultural and economic powerhouse for over a hundred years after the American Civil War in the early 1860s.

The unfinished goods were brought to Westminster and Carroll County and exchanged for finished goods. This resulted in accumulated capital that was leveraged into public infrastructure, factories plant and equipment, manufacturing, agri-business and a great quality of life for Carroll County citizens.

The mail-order plant business was a great economic model that we see today repeated in the internet – on an even more global scale. Carroll Gardens did it well.

I retired as a nursery stock farmer– perennial grower in 1994. Changes in the business compressed profit margins and the increases in doing business and difficulties in the regulatory climate, especially in Maryland, simply made it too difficult to continue. Or at least, I was certainly not smart enough to adapt.

Carroll Gardens was once an important part of the history of the business of agriculture in Carroll County - that will no doubt fade into history and it makes me sad...

Economy blights a beloved garden center

Debt, poor sales forcing owner to close Carroll Gardens at end of this month

By Susan Reimer Baltimore Sun reporter

June 2, 2009

Carroll Gardens, a quaint and slightly ragged cinder-block garden center at the end of a dirt road in Westminster, is closing at the end of this month after having been a resource for gardeners since the 1930s.

Alan Summers, who has owned Carroll Gardens since 1984 and hosted a garden talk show on WCBM-AM for nearly as long, announced his decision Saturday on the show, stunning customers and disappointing longtime employees who had hoped against hope for a reprieve….

No hyperlink to this story is readily available…


Carroll Gardens to Suspend Business

Effective June 30th, 2009, Carroll Gardens will suspend accepting orders for shipment. Our store in Westminster is also scheduled to close on that date. The Saturday morning call-in radio show, which we have provided for the last 20 years, will continue for the foreseeable future. (The Garden Club; WCBM-680AM; 7-8 a.m. Saturday Morning)

To satisfy our creditors, we must raise cash. Our loss is your gain! All products and plants on and in the store are being sold at 25% off, subject to availability and first come first served. If you have gift certificates or credits, please use them now. Your credit card will not be charged until your order is shipped and there can be no backorders.

If Carroll Gardens can resolve its financial problems, we will resume business. We have the potential of an investor which may allow Carroll Gardens to continue. There is one last thing that we are requesting of you. If Carroll Gardens returns, I would like it to be better than it is now. Please send me a brief email describing what Carroll Gardens means to you and what you will miss without Carroll Gardens. (Please send emails to

Carroll Gardens was founded more than 75 years ago as a mail-order company. Through these years, it has been our pleasure to serve you and we truly regret having to suspend business.

Alan L. Summers

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