Les Shipley came to Tucson, AZ, with his wife Doris and his three sons to be the Project Horticulturist for a project in which the City mandated that all utilities had to be cut by 50% compared to the City as a whole.

This project was one of the first in North America and was located on 288 acres. Civano Nursery Garden Center opened its doors in 1999 at 5301 South Houghton Road, Tucson, Arizona, as a part of a new sustainable development project financed by Fannie Mae. Les’ son Christopher Shipley is currently responsible for managing the retail garden center located on 3.3 acres of land.

Civano nursery shipley family nick les alex and chrislow
The Shipley family is the proud owner of Civano Nursery. Pictured from left to right: Nick Shipley, Mr. Les Shipley, Alex Shipley and Christopher Shipley.

In 2002, Les purchased 70 acres of land near Sahuarita, AZ, to start the wholesale nursery. The nursery, managed by his sons Nick and Alex, consists of 250,000 ft2 of heated greenhouses, 69,000 ft2 of heated retractable roof greenhouses, and a large outdoor area dedicated to outdoor plant production. More than 800 different species of desert plants (adapted water-tolerant plants) are grown at this location.

Civano Nursery holds many patents for trees and shrubs, and there are currently more in the works. Nick is the farm manager and oversees all the growing parameters to produce the best quality plants, plant propagation, and the introduction of new varieties of trees and shrubs. Their product is primarily sold through their wholesale division, followed by retail sales through their garden center (where approximately 70% of the plants that are sold are grown by them). In 2012, Civano Nursery became CCOF-certified to grow vegetable transplants for retail sales.

Civano nursery garden center pictures
Civano Nursery's retail garden center.

Alex is the sales manager for the wholesale nursery, and his mantra is: “We will provide landscapers with the most courteous and the best service that we can deliver”. He believes his success comes from providing landscapers with a full pallet of plants. If the customer is looking for a specific plant, and Civano Nursery does not grow it, he fulfills the order by getting plants from other nurseries in Arizona or even from California.

Civano nursery wholesale location
Civano Nursery's wholesale nursery site.

Les Shipley is a firm believer in leaf tissue testing and over the years, he has been sending leaves from six different plants, every two weeks during the season to adjust the fertilization program. Almost all plants grown at this location are fertigated using spray stakes or Netafim drip tape. The nursery is located over a large aquifer. Even though the quality of the well water is extremely good, he likes to add sulfuric acid to neutralize some of the calcium bicarbonate and drop the pH of the water from 8.1 to 6.5.

Civano Nursery has a third location dedicated 100% to producing mulch for native shrubs and trees. At this facility, green waste is processed and composted to produce growing media with highly consistent physical and chemical characteristics. Nowadays, it is very difficult to find mulch that is consistent throughout the year, but Civano Nursery has found that the key component to producing a high-quality and reliable growing medium is peat moss from Premier Tech Horticulture.

When we were purchasing our mulch from vendors, Nick, our production manager, had to adjust his growing practices based on the quality of the mulch. For him, the most important aspects of the growing medium for native shrubs are low electrical conductivity and good porosity. Those two parameters are important because he can use different fertilizers and the watering can be controlled more efficiently.

Civano nursery mulch production site
Civano Nursery's mulch that is used to make their own growing medium.

Mechanization is a part of their philosophy as it increases labor efficiency. Nevertheless, Civano Nursery as a whole employs 65 people. Lately, he purchased a potting machine capable of filling over 1.5 million pots per year and conveyors to move plants throughout the nursery. The new 24,000 ft2 loading dock is close to completion and can accommodate up to 16 trucks to efficiently load and ship product. Currently, he is investing in software that is going to help with inventory management, growing practices and shipping; this project is expected to be completed by late fall.

In December 2013, Civano Nursery hired a prominent architectural firm to redesign their existing garden center on Houghton Road to reflect the changing needs of their customers. This new facility will include a petting zoo with goats, rabbits, chickens and a pond with fish. In addition, there is a playground for children.

Civano nursery children's petting zoo
Civano Nursery's petting zoo for young upcoming shoppers.

Why does Les Shipley use our professional peat moss PRO-MOSS TBK? "We changed to Premier Tech Horticulture because of the professional service that they offered. We were dealing with your competitors, and sometimes, we had to wait up to 18 weeks to get peat moss and that was unacceptable; with Premier Tech Horticulture, we wait two weeks or less". Another important aspect that prompted them to change to Premier Tech Horticulture was that the product line fits their needs and the PRO-MOSS TBK was a high-quality, consistent product. He likes the fact that the PRO-MOSS TBK is user-friendly, in that it is available in multiple sizes from 3.8 ft3 bales to the 135 ft2 Mega-Bales. The product is easy to store and to use and the technical information and support are in depth and readily available.

What does Les Shipley think of the Premier Tech Horticulture team? "Unsurpassed, we have a tenacious sales representative in Mercedes Medina, who keeps us current with new products and she is happy and able to answer any question. We have been very fortunate to have Jose Chen Lopez, from the Grower Services Department, making his home in Tucson, AZ, who over the past year has improved and redeveloped our mulch and growing medium to a degree of near perfection. Without Dr. Chen Lopez, we would still be in the dark regarding the physical and chemical properties of our mulch."

Final thoughts from Les Shipley: "Premier Tech Horticulture has a national team of technical experts managed by Ed Bloodnick. Premier Tech Horticulture has an extensive group of researchers and collaborators who work in the laboratory and are capable of doing sophisticated substrate analyses. In addition, the Premier Tech Horticulture team has the generosity of providing tech support locally and from the head office that surpasses my expectations."

Civano Nursery has a website loaded with information about trees, shrubs and perennials, watering care, gardening tips, tree planting services, events and much more. Their website is www.civanonursery.com.

Premier Tech Horticulture would like to thank the Shipley family for their faithful use of PRO-MIX. We look forward to supplying their growing medium needs for many years to come.