Twenty-five years after Phil and Diane Bucking opened the Sag Harbor Garden Center on Spring Street opposite the municipal parking lot, change is afoot.
The Buckings have decided to lease the old Long Island Rail Road freight depot, which served as a centerpiece to the property, and move their checkout counter to a smaller barn on the property that opens directly onto the grounds, which are quickly being filled with flats of hardy flowers, early spring vegetables and herbs, flowering bulbs like daffodils and hyacinths, and flowering shrubs like rhododendrons and forsythia for the coming season.
Mountains of potting soil, mulch, and fertilizers, much of it organic to meet a growing trend among home gardeners toward more natural products, occupy one side of the yard, while bird baths, decorative pottery, and all manner of gardening supplies, from tomato cages to plant stakes, fill another section of the property.
Another change is “we’ve cut back on our chemical products,” Mr. Bucking said, while adding that organic pest control products sometimes require a second application but have proven to be as effective as chemical products with none of the harmful side effects.
Another addition in the post-COVID-19 world are berry bushes and fruit trees because “edible gardens are becoming much more popular,” according to Mr. Bucking.
The shop also carries Bumper Crop soil builder and Gardener’s Gold potting soil, two organic products from Master Nursery, a Maine cooperative, that the Buckings say provide excellent results.
Deer-resistant plants, including andromeda and ornamental grasses, remain popular, although many gardeners can’t resist the urge to plant things that deer find irresistible, including most rhododendrons and hydrangeas.
One thing that hasn’t changed in the past quarter century is the friendly, hands-on service provided by the owners, who are at the garden center every day.
Mr. Bucking said he and his wife are still looking for the right tenant for the depot building. In the meantime, the train photos and other memorabilia that Mr. Bucking’s father, the late Phil Bucking, collected and displayed on the shop’s walls will be sorted through, with some of it being moved to the barn and other mementos brought home.
Mr. Bucking added that it was 25 years ago Tuesday that the garden center had its first petting zoo after the annual Easter parade on Main Street. The last petting zoo took place in 2018 — it was rained out in 2019 and COVID-19 forced its cancellation the last two years. Whether it will return next year is up in the air. He said he hopes to see Sag Harbor Elementary School students who used to visit the shop on a field trip to plant flowering bulbs return next year, provided the pandemic eases.
Over the years, the couple’s three children, Sara, who now works at Disney World, Katie, who will graduate in May from the University of Notre Dame, and Heidi, a freshman at the University of New Hampshire, have all worked at the shop at one time or another. “They have learned how a small business is run,” said Ms. Bucking.
From the time it opens each year in mid-March until it closes in December when the last Christmas tree is sold, the shop is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays and holidays.