For the love of plants: Driggers’ gardening, honey business continues to grow

Don and Ruth Driggers, owners of Vincent Gardens and Southern Roots and Blooms, walk through rows of plants at their Columbiana location. The couple opened their first garden shop in Vincent nearly seven years ago. (Reporter Photo/Emily Sparacino)

Don and Ruth Driggers, owners of Vincent Gardens and Southern Roots and Blooms, walk through rows of plants at their Columbiana location. The couple opened their first garden shop in Vincent nearly seven years ago. (Reporter Photo/Emily Sparacino)

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

Seven years ago, Don and Ruth Driggers opened Vincent Gardens as a part-time business to dabble in as they entered retirement.

The husband and wife already tended numerous plants and a greenhouse at home, but they thought with a bit more sunlight and water, their hobby could grow in the rich soils of local commerce.

“We wanted to make a business of it,” Ruth said during a break from watering plants at the couple’s second location, Southern Roots and Blooms in Columbiana, on a humid morning in May. “What started as a part-time business turned into full-time. A lot of it’s just been trial and error and learn-as-you-go.”

Vincent Gardens, the flagship store, carries shrubs, trees, plants and gardening supplies, in addition to pecans and honey from the couple’s Bee Creek Farm in Vincent.

Gardening and beekeeping supplies, along with honey from the couple's own bee hives and pecans, are available at Vincent Gardens and Southern Roots and Blooms. (Reporter Photo/Emily Sparacino)

Gardening and beekeeping supplies, along with honey from the couple’s own bee hives and pecans, are available at Vincent Gardens and Southern Roots and Blooms. (Reporter Photo/Emily Sparacino)

Southern Roots and Blooms offers much of the same, but gifts – clothing, jewelry, home decor and more – are also available.

Each aspect of the business requires specific knowledge and skills. Don and Ruth admit they bring different, complementary talents to the table.

Both completed Master Gardener training.

Don’s expertise lies in the fertilization process for plants, and he studies hydroponics, the process of growing plants without soil. Ruth, an avid reader of plant books, can identify many varieties of plants.

“We each have our strengths in the business,” she said. “One of the things we pride ourselves in (is) we like to help people select the right plants for the right locations.”

Don has been a beekeeper for about five years and tends the honeybee hives the couple has at their Vincent location and at home. The stings he sometimes sustains from his wee workers are tempered by the sweet substance they produce for the business going on four years now.

“It’s kind of a passion now,” he said. “Our food system depends on bees.”

One of Ruth’s hobbies she has brought into the business is creating fairy gardens and leading workshops for others interested.

In her fairy gardens, Ruth combines fairy fixtures – or gnomes – with plants or flowers in a container or garden area.

“It’s a great team,” Don added. “I truly enjoy working with Ruth. We stay together 24-7. It’s fun to work with her, and that’s very important to me.”

The couple started selling pecans about three years ago. Regular pecans and flavored pecans (praline, cinnamon, spice, honey glaze, sweet and salty, key lime, roasted, white chocolate, chocolate and butter crunch) are available in halves, pieces, cracked and in shell.

Patrons will find other candies and treats, too.

In addition to native and exotic plants, gardening supplies, from mulch and fertilizer to clay and ceramic pots, are available.

With more than 15,000 plants at home and at their shops, Don and Ruth would have plenty of excuses to limit their time to their own work. But they don’t.

They are involved in HOPE (Herbs Offering Personal Enrichment), a program that originated at Vincent Middle High School in which students with special needs learn how to grow herbs at the nursery and then sell them to Taziki’s owner Keith Richards for dishes in his restaurant.

“We’ve enjoyed our relationship with those kids over the years,” Ruth said. “We just like to contribute to community in whatever ways we can.”

They are also among local business owners, school employees and municipal leaders and involved with the Shelby County Schools Community Transition Team, a new group designed to help equip students with special needs transition into the community.

Another way they give back is by serving as a channel for plant sale fundraisers for local schools like Elvin Hill Elementary.

“It’s a cooperative process,” Don said. “Everybody has to work together with it.”

The couple said they are constantly looking at ways they can expand their reach and explore new ventures in the gardening world.

“We both like it or we wouldn’t do it,” Don said. “It’s a lot of fun.”