Schultz's nursery

Three generations of Schultzes, from left to right, Larry, with his father, Sully, and his son Todd pose near the entrance to the Tilton business.

Sully Schultz, 88, founder of Sully Schultz Nursery in Tilton, has passed down far more than a green thumb to his son and grandson.

“Since 1950 when it started, the hallmarks of our nursery business have been trust and quality products,” Sully said. “That’s what I’m most proud of after all these years, and will continue to be proud of in years to come.”

Sully officially retired from the nursery business in June, and stowed away his gardening tools for one last time. His son, Larry, also retired from the business at the same time.

So that leaves the Sully Schultz Nursery in the capable hands of third-generation Todd Schultz, who is Larry’s son.

“Todd will do a fine job with the business,” Larry said. “He’s worked with us here since he was in high school and knows every aspect of the job.”

“Even with the downturn in the economy, this year was one of the best on record,” Todd said, “and I’m very optimistic about us being here for many years to come.”

A surprise retirement party that included many of their longtime customers was held in June for the father and son retirees — Sully and Larry.

“I can’t believe they put it over on both of us,” Sully said. “They told me the party was for Larry and they told Larry the party was being held for me.”

How it began

The family’s nursery saga started 59 years ago, when Sully left the family apple orchard (on the property where the nursery is today) and opened Schultz’s Little Nursery on 13th Street in Tilton.

Sully had already been spraying trees for customers when he ran the orchard. He took some landscaping and horticulture courses at the universities of Illinois and Missouri, and knew immediately that he wanted to do this kind of work.

Mary Ellen Schultz, who’s been married to Sully for 69 years, said she was pretty “green” at gardening when they opened the nursery. “The first time I saw the name ‘rhododendron,’ I decided I’d better learn to spell it if I was supposed to sell these plants,” she said, laughing.

The Schultz couple started selling trees and evergreens and doing service work for people. They hired two additional landscapers, and the business grew like the proverbial weed.

“There were two other landscapers in the area at the time we got started,” Sully said, “but there was apparently a need for a third one, because we were busy right from the start.”

The nursery was moved to its present 10-acre location on 14th Street when Interstate-74 came right through its original site. “The apple trees at the orchard were 50 years old and no longer producing,” Sully said, “so we cut them down and built our greenhouses.

“I appreciate all the loyal customers who continue to use our services,” Sully said. “We wouldn’t have been here all these years without their business.”

Green Day

Beginning last May, the nursery “went green” to benefit the environment. “The first week of May we hosted our first Green Day, where we featured many aspects of going green,” Todd said.

The nursery grew ground cover on the roof of its shed to demonstrate a “green roof” project, which is not only attractive, but also helps to insulate a structure. They introduced eco-friendly fertilizers and weed killers to the public, and hosted several vendors who carry environment-friendly products.

“We plan to have a bigger and better Green Day next spring,” Todd said.

Todd said that Schultz’s would like to be known as a destination nursery — a place that people travel to from many miles around, even if it’s just to browse and enjoy the plants and flowers. The Schultz Nursery already serves customers from a 60-mile radius.

“We will continue to specialize in topiaries and grafted evergreens,” Todd said. The nursery grows all its own perennials and carries 125 different varieties of hostas. Today, it has 20 employees, including a spray crew and three landscape crews.

Sully Schultz Nursery has been known through the years for its landscape design at many familiar Danville landmarks, including the downtown mall, Hyster, General Motors, Quaker Oats, Central States, the original Liberty Village building, and Bowman Estates.

The business also is generous in giving back to the community through in-kind donations to charitable organizations. In addition, Schultz’s offers free landscape design plans to any customer who consults with them.

Vacation plans

When the nursery closes its doors for the season in October, the entire Schultz family, except for Todd, will vacation in Florida.

Now that he is retired, Sully will have more time to work on his pen-and-ink drawings and cartoons, and just take it easy. When he’s in Florida he plans to enjoy his favorite pastime — fishing.

Larry and Wilma, his wife of less than two years, plan to do a lot of traveling, and they have gone square dancing for many years. Larry also enjoys fishing when he’s in Florida.

When Todd is not at work, he likes to collect antiques. He also has a weekly WITY radio show on gardening that is sponsored by the business, and he is an emergency medical technician for Tilton.

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