By Sibella Kraus, Founder and President, SAGE
Inside a greenhouse the size of a football field, the brilliant sea of cyclamen plants — swaths of magenta, scarlet, lilac, salmon, pale pink and white — present a joyous sight. Cyclamen are one of the specialties of the Coyote Valley Nursery, an acclaimed wholesale nursery that grows over 100 products for sale to discriminating landscape contractors and retail nurseries throughout the Bay Area. The family-owned nursery is located on 14.3 acres — about a third of the acreage in greenhouses — in Coyote Valley just south of San Jose.
“We get special seed and get the plants started about three months before the peak holiday season,” explains Coyote Valley Nursery owner, Mario Silva, striding past piles of peat moss, fir bark and sand, some of the key inputs for nursery plants. Already being germinated in other greenhouses and hardening off in colorful bands on the extensive nursery grounds, dozens of other flowering plants — primroses, Iceland poppies, delphiniums, foxgloves, too many to name — are getting ready for late winter and early spring. “I love the freedom of working out here,” says Mario, who focuses on production, while his son focuses more on the financial side of the business.
The beauty of the place is indeed alluring, with the nursery grounds surrounded by the expanse of the valley and framed by the now-greening foothills of the Coyote Ridge to the east and Santa Teresa Hills to the west.
Mario bought Coyote Valley Nursery in 2007 from Satake Nursery, whose long-time owners wanted to retire from the business. Having started at the nursery 26 years previously, as an 18 year-round recently arrived from Michoacán, Mexico, by the time Mario became owner he knew the business from bottom to top. “I felt so proud of the Satake quality; my first jobs were watering and preparing the soil.” When he took over, he hired former Satake employees from both the Coyote Valley and Mountain View locations, (the latter closed when the Satake’s retired) and today has around 20 full time employees.
“Landscaping has changed,” Mario explains. “There is more emphasis on low maintenance and drought tolerant plants and less demand for flowering seasonal plants.” The nursery grows a few natives such as grasses and some relatively drought tolerant perennials, such as rosemary and salvia, but flowering seasonal plants continue to be their specialty. For long-time customers such as Ragno Ross and Associates, a Peninsula-based landscaping firm, ‘seasonal color’ is just what they want. “We order hundreds of flats of plants twice a year from the Coyote Valley Nursery, with colors specified by the landscape architect,” says Tom Nye, Ragno’s landscaping supervisor for Stanford Hospital, just one of Ragno’s many landscaping sites. “The quality is always outstanding, they deliver and they are fabulous to deal with.”
Fortunately, individuals can also buy high quality plants from the Coyote Valley Nursery at retail outlets including various SummerWind Nurseries and at Regan’s Nursery in Fremont. The nursery business, including plants and cut flowers, has been a leading agricultural product in the Santa Clara Valley for many decades and continues to represent an astounding 89 percent of the total value of agricultural production in the Coyote Valley.
Despite some concern about changing landscaping patterns and land use uncertainty about Coyote Valley, Mario remains positive, “People will always come back to flowers.”
To join us in preserving agriculture and stopping the spread of industrial sprawl, go to Protect Coyote Valley.
About Protect Coyote Valley
The Protect Coyote Valley campaign is led by the Committee for Green Foothills and supported by Greenbelt Alliance, Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, and SAGE — Sustainable Agriculture Education. It aims to preserve Coyote Valley, San Jose as open space that offers flood-buffering wetlands, an essential wildlife habitat and migratory area, and active farmlands.
Visit our blog to read more on how we’re protecting Coyote Valley!