Along with the occasional squawk from Duke, a lime green parrot, shoppers at Green Parrot Nursery (201 Nashville Ave., 894-1100; www.greenparrotnursery.com) will hear the sound of water cascading from a large fountain dedicated to Roberta Sklar, a beloved employee, and Mary Louise Richards, the owner's mother.
"My mother was an avid gardener," says owner and Uptown native Nicholas Richards. "My mother and I had always talked about starting this (store) when we drove around. There just wasn't a quality garden in Uptown that was easy to get to."
A bastion of horticultural wisdom, Richards started his vocation early in life. "When I was little, I was real mischievous and got in trouble with a kid named Leon Sarpy, who had an extensive topiary garden behind his residence," he says. "As punishment for my mischievousness, I helped him in his garden trimming, digging and pruning. He taught me a lot. "
Richards used those skills by tending his mother's Shasta daisy garden bed, along with his entrepreneurial spirit. "My dad got me a lawn mower — the old-fashioned kind, a red McLane reel mower. I'd garden and cut grass in the neighborhood with my Radio Flyer wagon, head shears and grass shears."
Richards opened Green Parrot Nursery in 2001 on Tchoupitoulas Street and relocated in 2008 to its current site near the Port of New Orleans. "Our lease had expired and we moved here and developed," Richards says. "This used to be an underpass. It was overnight parking for trucks."
Specializing in plants, gardening products, sup- plies and accessories, the store aids people with a green thumb, as well those who love flowers but wish to sidestep the dirty work.
"We provide consultations, potting services and limited grounds keeping," says Richards, whose company has redeveloped and maintains the herb and vegetable garden for French Quarter restaurants Stella! and Stanley. "We're the only (gardening store) in the city with a wide variety of organics. We carry (organic fertilizers) Espoma and Happy Frog, and we're getting Doctor Earth."
Prices for organic fertilizer and pesticides range from $5.99 to $15.99. "We're on average 40 to 60 cents per plant cheaper than our average competitor," Richards says. "And we are cheaper for the quality than big-box stores."
As business continues to blossom, the shop focuses on improving its layout inside and out and bringing on talented garden specialists. "We just hired an individual who's worked at different arboretums around the country and knows about butterfly gardens," Richards says. "The garden center's always evolving."