John Greenlee '87, Ornamental Horticulture
Garden Consultant & Meadow Specialist
|Cal Poly Pomona alumnus John Greenlee owns nurseries in Pomona that specialize in grasses.
John Greenlee's business card lists him as a "garden consultant"
and "meadow specialist," and while those titles describe his trade talents, this ornamental grass expert has global aspirations.
"I am such a proponent of partnering with the planet instead of just decorating it," says Greenlee, owner of Greenlee Nursery in Pomona and a 1987 Cal Poly Pomona ornamental horticulture alumnus. "My quest is to have Americans trade in their standard lawns for native, low-maintenance specimens."
Greenlee's passion for native grasses as a viable landscape alternative began when he and his business partner were hired in 1984 to design a garden in a native California oak setting. He wanted the landscaping to reflect what it might have looked like 300 years ago.
At the time, one of the only grass nurseries available was in Baltimore. When Greenlee had the grasses shipped in for the project, a different seed was planted in his head. He decided to grow native grasses right here in California.
"My life basically changed from that moment on. I wanted to do more with these kinds of grasses," Greenlee says.
Greenlee's nursery now has the largest selection of native grasses on the West Coast, with more than 300 varieties represented from nearly every continent. Besides their unique aesthetic appeal, these grasses require less water, less mowing and have a very low chemical dependency for control of weeds.
Native grasses are indigenous to a certain region and bring unlimited color, height and texture combinations to gardens. Soft, upright, swaying stalks ranging in hues from green to burgundy can accent most perennial beds. Other bushy varieties do well in hanging baskets. Shorter, non-invasive mounded specimens are an alternative to groundcover.
In business for nearly 20 years, Greenlee Nursery is situated on four acres in a residential Pomona neighborhood on Franklin Street. It is open to the public by appointment only, with purchases offered at wholesale prices.
"It's a perfect location," Greenlee says. "I'm sure some of my neighbors are slightly amused by our nursery full of 'weeds.' A lot of people don't perceive the value of grasses."
A Pomona native, Greenlee has authored the only book on native grasses, The Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses. He also has "The John Greenlee Collection" of grasses that he introduced and helped promote in the nursery trade, licensed to EuroAmerican Propogators.