Fort Greene Garden Center: A Local Niche of Nature

FG Garden Center 1
Mark Innis and Rodwell Fraser, the two owners of the new Fort Greene Garden Center, hope the center will be a go-to place for locals who want to buy plants, need landscaping services, or simply want to enjoy nature. (Photo by Amanda Woods)

What was formerly a weed–choked lot on Fulton Street surrounded by a fence plastered with a “For Rent” sign is now blooming with flowers and greenery.

The Fort Greene Garden Center, which opened at the beginning of the month at 1010 Fulton Street, is the newest neighborhood spot for locals who want to buy flowers and plants, or those in search of landscaping services and planter box installations.

Mark Innis, one of the owners and the founder of the center who lives nearby on Hart Street, said he thinks the center will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

“I know there is nothing like this here, so we tried to put something in to build the neighborhood up, and we made sure it looks exclusive so it could attract everyone in the neighborhood,” Innis said. “You could come in here, sit down in the garden and listen to the water and watch the plants, and I know the birds are going to come soon, so you can do all of that here. Some people just come by just to look and be amazed.”

The garden is home to about 50 different kinds of plants, everything from Japanese maple to potato vines and pineapple plants. Some are shipped in from Long Island, upstate New York, New Jersey, Boston, Florida and other areas. Others, such as yellow bulb flowers and sundial portulaca, were grown locally in soil from the Brooklyn Terminal Market. The garden is also a green facility, completely powered by solar panels, according to Innis.

Innis said that he was inspired to be a gardener at an early age. He enjoyed growing plants and, since he was nine years old, he wanted to have his own garden. He has his own personal garden on Farmers Boulevard in Queens — but he wanted to use his gardening and landscaping skills in his home borough.

It took Innis, and the garden’s co-owner, Rodwell Fraser, about two years to plan out the idea, find a suitable location and then rent the property. But once they found the space, it took only a month to do the necessary groundwork — grading the lot, removing all the weeds and brush and completing carpentry work. Innis and Fraser designed the entire garden on their own. They created the landscaping, built the deck at the back of the garden, and they laid down the base of the fish pond, made of mixtures of stones, including marble.

Although the center has only been open for three weeks, local customers are already buying flower pots and asking for fish ponds to be built in front of their homes, Innis said. The garden has also caught the attention of the Classon Avenue Block Association, which requested that the center’s staff plant flowers around trees in the area, he added.

Fraser said that he hopes the garden center will eliminate what he calls the “supermarket effect.” At supermarkets, he said, people often buy plants and have no idea how to care for them. At the center, though, Fraser, Innis and their employees explain to customers the specific needs of the plants they’re interested in buying.

Mike Lee, 38, a local resident, was spending a recent Sunday outdoors when he decided to stop at the Fort Greene Garden Center.

“I was just walking past — it’s a nice day,” Lee said. “It brings a tranquil place to get away from the hustle of the city.”

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