April 28, 2021

Kale’s Nursery & Landscape Service, Inc. Marks 65 Years As A Princeton Favorite

TABLEAU OF TREES: “We sell a lot of high quality specimen trees — all kinds: native, exotic, evergreen, shade, flowering, and all sizes. We also install large trees — 25 feet. In addition, we ship trees all over the east coast. Customers know they can count on our high quality specimen material.” Douglas W. Kale (left) owner and president of Kale’s Nursery & Landscape Service, Inc., is shown with his son Scott as they prepare trees for delivery to new owners.

By Jean Stratton

Magnolia, cherry, pear, dogwood, azalea, forsythia, lilac! Do you have a favorite?

Whatever it is, Kale’s Nursery & Landscape Service, Inc. is sure to have it. Along with all the hydrangeas, rhododendrons, roses, pansies, tulips, geraniums, daffodils, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, basil, thyme, and rosemary — everything that makes your garden an ongoing pleasure!

This longtime favorite independent family garden and landscape center is celebrating its 65th anniversary. At a time when family businesses are far less prevalent than in the past, this is a proud and welcome achievement.

Founded in 1956 by Herbert Kale, it still remains at its original location, 133 Carter Road. It began as a landscape contracting and design business, explains Douglas W. Kale, current owner and president, and son of Herbert Kale.

Hometown Boy

A hometown boy, born in Princeton Hospital, Douglas Kale knew he always wanted to continue the family business, offering quality products and helpful, knowledgeable service. As a boy, he worked in the nursery on weekends and in the summer, learning about the operation. After graduating from Rutgers University with a degree in horticulture, he joined the company full-time.

“When Dad retired, I expanded the business into retail in 1977,” he recalls. “Many of our customers had been asking to buy plants and trees. Landscaping is still a big part of the business and in order to give customers the best quality, we grow many of our trees, shrubs, and plants. We grow most of our ornamental trees, and some evergreens.”

In addition, the garden center is filled with fine quality potted perennials, all kinds of annuals, ornamental shrubs, and container plants. And everything to help make your garden grow! Planters of every size, type, and design; also mulch, topsoil, potting soil, and fertilizer. Also, enhancements such as water fountains, wind chimes and intriguing gourd bird houses.

Kale’s customers have always taken pleasure in their gardens, and this has only increased with the advent of COVID, notes Kale. “People have been spending more time at home, and they want to have beautiful gardens and landscapes.

“Our customers run the full gamut of gardeners — from enthusiastic hands-on do-it-yourselfers, doing the preparation, planting and maintenance to those who simply enjoy relaxing and admiring their beautiful setting. Gardening is also a known stress-relief activity — important these days!

Helping customers with landscaping is a big part of the business he adds. This includes advising homeowners regarding plant placement for sun and shade, and guidance about color combinations and blooming throughout the different seasons.

Hedges and Screens

“We have landscape architects, and we design and install. We also have material to be used as hedges and screens in the yard for privacy, such as holly, boxwood, and evergreen. This is becoming more popular for privacy, as people spend more time enjoying their yard. We help with the right kind of plant material.”

Another important part of Kale’s business is solving drainage problems, adds kale. “We have drainage specialists to deal with water run-off issues, and we can also help put in a rain garden. We find solutions.”

The majority of company’s work is residential, but Kale’s has also provided help for commercial properties, including Grounds for Sculpture. “We have done a lot of installation work for them for a long time,” reports Kale.

“We also have many longtime residential customers from Princeton and the area,” he adds. “Customers now include children, even grandchildren, of our original customers.”

“We also have a great staff, and many have been with us a very long time. Two, who have just retired, were here 42 and 45 years. When our crew comes to your property, you can be sure the planting will be done correctly by a very capable staff and overseen by a supervisor with years of experience.”

Many factors influence a business like Kale’s, including the weather and environmental changes. “It’s a constant challenge, and there are constant changes,” explains Kale. “Climate change is a factor, affecting the growing season with warmer weather.”

New Varieties

The business has changed over the years, and some of the changes are positive, he points out. “There has been great improvement, with new hybrids and varieties coming along, which offer better flowers, color, and durability with stronger branch construction. For example, there are beautiful new elms coming along.

“We have to keep up-to-date with constant education, an awareness of the improvements and advancements. Also, customers are more knowledgeable because of the internet and computers. Business always has to adapt to change, and there are also new government requirements.

“Kale’s has always been a place for high quality, a great selection, and good advice,” he continues. “Our standards are very high, and we are fortunate to be in an area where people appreciate quality.”

He points out that the staff travels to growers all over the country to find the best materials. “We go to North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and the west coast, including Oregon. We have had 60 years experience with some growers. it takes time and effort to find special plant material, and we have very interesting and unusual plant material. We also ship to customers all over, including to plant brokers.

“Of course, the nice thing is that customers can come here and see our selection, and enjoy spending time to see the great variety.”

A beautiful garden and landscape becomes a personal oasis, shaped with care for your continuing enjoyment, he adds. In addition, it enhances the possible future sale of the property, and realtors sometimes approach homeowners about landscaping improvements.

Raised Beds

As time goes on, he points out, “Your landscape can mature right along with you. If you move and downsize into a smaller home, for example, you may want to enhance and adapt the new landscape.”

Customers represent a wide age range, he adds, as gardening appeals to all ages. “We can also offer appropriate opportunities, as people get older, including raised beds, which can be easier on the knees!”

As gardeners in Princeton are well aware, deer are a perpetual presence. They continually nibble on their favorite hosta and tulips — and much more — driving many gardeners to distraction.

“The deer population has exploded,” observes Kale, “and they are destroying the landscape. It is the biggest change over the years, and the major challenge we face. Fencing (at least eight feet high) is the best solution, but there are also a variety deer repellent products.”

Among the available fencing is that made by Walpole Outdoors, a company known for its high quality outdoor products, ranging from gates, railings, arbors, trellises, and pergolas to benches, chairs, patio furniture, bird houses, window boxes, and more.

The products are made of AZEK solid cellular PVC, which is environmentally friendly, synthetic material that offers the look and feel of wood, and is very durable. Kale’s has been a distributor of Walpole Outdoors products for several years, and a separate room has been set aside to display the items.

Point of Pride

Douglas Kale is proud of his family’s long tradition and exemplary reputation. The company has been awarded many honors over the years, and that his son Scott has now become the third generation to take part in the business is another point of pride.

“It’s a real affirmation to have a 65th anniversary. Especially in these times, when you don’t see as many family businesses as in the past. I am proud that my son Scott is now part of the Kale’s operation. He is taking charge of the larger residential landscaping work, the wholesale business, and is also managing the nursery.

“We always strive to bring costumers something unique and of very high quality,” he continues. “We introduce new ideas, new design, and new products to go with the design. We will go to a customer’s home to consult and help with suggestions. I enjoy discussing choices with people and working with them to implement their choices. We can always show clients how to be more efficient with their garden.

“I especially enjoy the feeling at the end of a job and the satisfaction of seeing the result of hard work, and observing the customer’s appreciation. It is wonderful to help people enhance their property.”

The springtime splendor on display at Kale’s can create magical moments, but Kale’s is a year-round treasure, and everyone looks forward to a December visit when its Christmas Shop is filled with a holiday mystique, and visits with Santa are a must!

Kale’s is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday 10 to 4. (609) 921-9248. Website: www.kalesnursery.com.