Northern Dutchess Botanical Gardens in Rhinebeck takes pride in offering its fan base of "plant nuts and garden meisters" a vast selection of familiar and obscure annuals, perennials, heirloom and hybrid varieties, a niche that founder Doug Santini says has evolved over more than three decades from a New York City-based mail order snake plant business.
"We were doing well; we had over 100 varieties of snake plants that we shipped all over the world," he recalls. "We moved up here, the fuel crisis hit, and we couldn't afford to run greenhouses at 75 degrees year round so we needed a niche and found it in seasonal plants. "Part of our draw is that we grow everything ourselves, and people come from all over to fill car trunks with things they can't find elsewhere. Nowadays, there are a lot of asexually propagated varieties that you have to buy from hybridizers and pay a royalty. The bean counters have found a way into agriculture and found a way to make a way to make a living without actually growing anything—but the products are excellent. The plant patenting and royalty system motivates a lot of creativity, and we take it and run with it."