Paul Bizon came across the idea of a “consortium nursery,” at which several growers share space and materials, while he was traveling in Germany in 2003.
When he returned to the United States, he partnered with the owners of Oregon Turf and Tree and started Garden World, a highly automated retail nursery that sells growers’ plants through an online management system.
PlantX, the operating system, links the inventory directly to the website so when someone buys a plant, it is taken off the website and the grower of that specific plant is notified.
Bizon also owns Bizon Nursery, a wholesale nursery that is known for its conifers and Japanese maples.
As a grower, he said he saw the potential and need for a system that would link growers and sell their materials together.
Instead of buying grower material upfront, growers bring their products to Garden World and get paid every seven days online for whatever they sell.
“It’s a place for growers to bring material and it’s kind of a balancing act of not letting growers build the nursery up, not selling too much and giving enough material to keep the inventory fresh,” Bizon said.
Located on the side of Interstate 5 just outside Woodburn, Ore., Garden World is the easiest nursery to see and the hardest nursery to find, Zach Peyton, the manager, said.
Because of its location — it’s not on an exit for the interstate — Peyton said the nursery is reliant on its online system to sell product.
When plants come in from individual growers, they are tagged with the grower’s information, which is immediately uploaded to the website. All of the employees and growers have access to the website on their phones so they can see how inventory is moving.
“A lot of people are saying the website made it so easy and that’s why they’re here,” said Peyton.
Bizon said the Willamette Valley is the perfect place for a nursery like Garden World because the growers are all so close they can easily monitor and control their sales.
Wayne Carstensen, a contractor, developed PlantX after Bizon came to him with the idea.
“No software system is out there that is more sophisticated or easy to use,” Bizon said. “There’s nothing like it in the nation.”
In addition to the website, Garden World’s operations are mostly automated. There are five employees at the 10-acre nursery and Peyton said most of the operations can run off of the app.
Before the housing market crash of 2008, Garden World had 15 employees. Peyton said the crash cut Garden World sales nearly in half. To cope, the nursery reduced its staff and stopped selling small plants and vegetables that required a lot of hand labor.
Peyton said landscapers, designers and homeowners drive the market at Garden World. The nursery delivers locally so a lot of sales come from nearby Portland, where people shop online and have their plants delivered to their house.
Carstenson started selling PlantX to growers across the United States as an online operating and management system after he developed it for Garden World.
“The success of the system has really fascinated me,” Bizon said. “Out of this little Garden World company grew this software company that is being used by people throughout the nation.”