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Taylor's Garden Center, Forest Drive: 1990s   7 comments

Posted at 12:18 am in historic,stores

I wrote recently how Peaches often crossed my mind at Christmas, but there was another place in town which had an even stronger holiday association for me. Probably because my mother was a gardner, I spent my share of time at Taylor's Garden Center growing up.

The buildings and yard space have been torn down, but Taylor's Garden Center occupied the pace now held by Forest Lake Fabrics, next to Frans and Forest Lake Park. Like Gaul, the place was divided into three parts. In the front, on the right, was the salesroom. This room was filled with all the paraphernalia of gardening: hoses, nozzles, sprayers, stakes, gloves, clippers, chemicals, you name it. I liked it because it was almost like a hardware store, and all the chemicals gave it a unique smell. I believe that if you had taken me in blindfolded, I still would have been able to identify where I was.

Also in front, but on the left was sort of an auxiliary, room. I think this was more seasonal, and most of the year I recall it having lawn statues, paving stones, fountains and the like.

Behind this room, and also on the left side was the greenhouse. This was where all the actual plants were, and had its own distinctive, loamy smell. You could go out there, and with the warmth, the smell, the sound of the fans running, the sounds of the plastic sheeting walls bowing in and out in the breeze and the rows of green plants, it was like stepping into some other world. Perhaps the "plant ship" from the film Silent Running. We kids liked to wander around out there while our mother was picking things out in the front room.

But here's the best thing about the place. The auxiliary room that I called seasonal? Well winter is a season, and one where a garden center isn't going to have a lot of business -- So each winter they set up a Festival of Christmas Trees there. Now they may have sold live trees, I don't recall (we always got ours at the Optimist lot), but the festival was all artificial trees, and very fancy ones. I can particularly recall trees which had a little pump system which recycled poppy-seed sized grains of "snow" from a catchment basin at the base of the tree to a nozzle at the top, providing a constant "snowfall" over the tree. And of course there were trees with all manner of fancy lights, trees that turned round and round, and even trees that made their own music.

I suppose they did sell some of them each year, but really it was more like an area attraction, to come to the Garden Center and see the trees.

I'm a little fuzzy on why the Garden Center closed. It wasn't part of any chain, so it might just have been a matter of the proprietors wanting to retire, or it could have been the rise of Wal-Mart (though the Forest Drive store was till in the future) or the superstores like Home Depot & Lowes. I think I was already living out of town when it happened. I recall reading an appreciation piece in The State, then the place closed and the building was torn down. I guess you could say they took over from the nursery that was on Trenholm Road behind the Gulf station, and now Forest Lake Gardens has kind of taken over from them. But it doesn't smell the same.

UPDATE 27 Mar 09: Finally fixed the title of this post, changing to to Taylor's Garden Center from the (incorrect) Forest Lake Garden Center.

UPDATE 1 October 2009: Finished changing all the Forest Lake Garden Center references to Taylor's Garden Center. Don't know why I didn't catch them earlier.

Written by ted on December 19th, 2008

7 Responses to 'Taylor's Garden Center, Forest Drive: 1990s'

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  1. Taylor Gardens Center was something I loved as a kid in the mid 70s. I have one of those silver-ball-shaped chirping bird mechanisms (it plugs in) from there and it still chirps!

    Midnight Rambler

    19 Dec 08 at 3:48 pm

  2. Wow, this really brings back memories. Probably some of the oldest ones I have.

    Nicole

    30 Sep 09 at 12:53 am

  3. If you remember that area, be sure to check this and this.

    ted

    30 Sep 09 at 12:59 am

  4. It's great to see a story about my uncle's old garden center in a great blog, however you have the wrong building in the above photograph. The garden center was where the Carolina First bank is now, which is next door to the fabric shop. Back in the early '80s when I worked for my uncle for a few months one holiday season into the rose season (December-April), the fabric shop was a furniture store, though for the life of me I don't remember the name. Not sure when it changed from a furniture store to a fabric shop.

    I saw my uncle a month or so ago and coincidentally was asking him his memories of the garden center. At 91 years of age his mind is not what it used to be, but he's still pretty sharp and nimble. He was filling me in on some of the little details like how the original Taylor's Garden Center building (the auxiliary rooms, as you call them, were added later) was specifically designed by a "California architect" to be a garden center and that the reason he closed the store was simply because he had been in business for so long and didn't want to start all over by having to compete with Wal*Mart and all the other big box stores that he anticipated to be major competitors. Few people probably remember this, but before the garden center was on Forest Drive it was on Beltline Blvd. approximately across the street from the present day site of Quinine Park near the intersection of Forest and Beltline. My uncle wasn't bitter at all as so many small business owners are with the big box stores, he was just tired of running a store. He's always loved gardening and until just very recently he was still planting a vegetable garden every Summer.

    Michael Taylor

    1 Oct 09 at 2:30 am

  5. Thanks to you and your uncle for the information! I'll change the picture when I get a new one taken.

    ted

    1 Oct 09 at 2:46 am

  6. I started collecting rocking horse ornaments from there in 1985. They had one tree completely decorated with rocking horses and I thought it was the most beautiful thing, so I decided I would have one too. Every year, I would go out and buy ornaments from there. I now have about 100 rocking horse ornaments, and many of them came from there.

    Deborah Aldridge

    24 Nov 09 at 12:03 am

  7. Deborah - that's cool to hear about the rocking horse collection, especially the part my uncle's garden center played in it. I wish I could see a photo of your collection in place on the tree somehow. From my experience, Christmas is definitely the season most people think of when they think back on Taylor's Garden Center, though the Christmas stuff happened long after the garden center had done well. Of course when you think about it, what better way to take advantage of the off-season in gardening than to really do up the Christmas thing.

    Don't get me wrong, my uncle was not some cynical scheming business man above the holiday spirit, he thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas season at the store once it had been going for several years and had become a neighborhood institution. His merchandise was not the cheapest in town, but he didn't have the heart to sell junk to make it more accessible. He always carried the best he could find that wouldn't absolutely break the bank. Most of the people I know who bought Christmas decorations from my uncle still use them to this day. Glad you remember the garden center so fondly.

    Going back to my previous post here, I'm pretty sure the furniture store I was talking about where the fabric shop is now was the "original" Lazy-Boy store before it moved down the street. I asked my uncle but he doesn't remember. I'm about 99.999% sure it was the Lazy-Boy before it was the fabric shop.

    Michael Taylor

    24 Nov 09 at 2:01 am

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