By Holly Burnett
Visiting Greenstreet Gardens during this time of year is a family outing not to be missed. Gorgeous wreaths, holiday greenery mixed with holly, rows of freshly cut Christmas trees and 150 varieties of endless poinsettias greet you. It’s not only the sheer drama of it all, imagining you have just been plopped into a holiday fairyland, but it’s the smells – the pine, the pine, the pine! It is without question, the most beautiful holiday offering in town, courtesy of owner and grower Ray Greenstreet, and his wife, Stacy.
Many Alexandria residents may remember this location as the former Apple House, but those hackneyed days are long gone. The Greenstreets are the region’s preeminent growers and are also owners of the formidable Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian, Maryland. Their expansion into Alexandria two years ago seemed a natural progression, with a complete renovation that includes an indoor gift gallery, which is currently brimming with holiday collectibles from ornaments to tree toppers (and garden antiques, outdoor furniture and Weber grills in the warmer months) making Greenstreet the one-stop shop for your holiday decorating and gift-giving needs.
Greenstreet began his career as a yard boy with a wholesale grower in Maryland on weekends. He learned the business from the ground up, and could fix anything. After college where he earned a degree in horticulture, his career moved him to Long Island where the land sits out into the ocean and has more light in the winter. It was a great climate for growing. There he honed his trade as a sales executive for the Ball Seed Company, parent company of Burpee Seeds, and then came back to Maryland where in 2000, he and Stacy bought a 65-acre nursery in Lothian, now called Greenstreet Gardens. Concentrating on being an enormous rooting station at first, they have expanded that facility to now include a 75,000 square foot gardening hub which houses hundreds of thousands of seasonal plants and flowers they grow and ship all over the globe. The “home base” in Lothian allows the Greenstreets to pass along lower pricing because there are no middlemen. They grow it, they sell it.
Meeting Ray is a great experience. He immediately exudes a fatherly, nurturing quality, with a ruddy complexion, strong hands and a round expression akin to a particular portly man clad in a red suit, although Ray has no beard nor shock of white hair. And he and Stacy have created an atmosphere of integrity that resonates at all levels of the organization: “Success Grows Here.” It is a mantra for employees as well as their goal to achieve when interacting with customers.
I recall one chilly evening last year when I stopped in at Greenstreet Gardens at the corner of West Braddock Road and Quaker Lane to pick up a small Christmas wreath for the grill of my car. I went to the inside counter to pay for it and asked if they had some floral wire to attach it. The nursery was packed with early evening holiday customers, yet my request for floral wire summoned assistance from multiple employees. Yes, they had it, and one extremely nice guy offered to attach the wreath for me. Not an easy task, especially in cold weather. But he accomplished this crazy lady’s wishes in about 10 minutes, and I drove off with my car decked out for the holidays. If it were not for him, I would never have been able to do it myself. In most companies today, customer service on this scale no longer exists.
In selecting Alexandria for their second location, The Greenstreets noted that there are more people here with less gardening space, and customers need to be successful. So employees are trained to help clients based on “everything your grandmother taught you,” providing assistance and information as if giving a 3 &1/2- x 5-inch recipe card on how to bake a cake. “We believe in it,” Greenstreet insists.
And their mission statement for success is also true throughout the holiday season. Greenstreet’s offers a huge selection of Christmas trees of every size and shape from multiple growers in the Carolinas, Pennsylvania and the West Coast, all cut fresh the entire season. If you want a fresh tree for your office desk or dining room table or if you need a 15-footer for your Old Town drawing room, they have it. Once a tree is selected from their Christmas tree lot, it is recut, and a hole is drilled in the trunk to affix the stand and allow for fresh water to penetrate the entire tree. (You may also use your own stand and bring it with you or attach it at home.) Trees last a long time if they remain in water. If you need a tree delivered to you and set up in your home or office, that is a service also available.
It is fortuitous and amazingly appropriate that Ray and Stacy’s last name is Greenstreet, as if destiny were following them since birth, for together they have created hundreds, if not thousands, of green streets in this region, helping gardeners of all levels plant a seed and nurture its growth. Success does indeed grow here – in Greenstreet and in your garden – born out of love and dedication to its clientele and their needs. So go green this season and every one thereafter. Let Ray, Stacy and their exceptional staff lead you on a road of exploration that will begin with a single blooming bud and go on to create a cascade of daily beauty, nurtured by Greenstreet.