By Kathleen Mest
As I walk onto the nursery, I am greeted with a gracious welcome. Ricardo loves what he does and you can see it in his warm smile. He is the owner, a grower, and a teacher at Ricardo’s Nursery.
“This is my Passion”
When Ricardo was younger, before he moved to the United States from Mexico, he had dreams of attending University of Guerrero to become an Agronomist - one who studies plants and uses science to develop new techniques for agriculture production to benefit society. Unfortunately, that dream was sidelined. But when he relocated to California, he found himself working as a driver for a nursery. His old passion was rekindled, and soon he was working on the grounds and taking care of the plants.
The seeds of his dreams that had been long dormant were ready to sprout. He became a sales representative and wanted to learn as much as he could. He studied and learned, and studied some more. He needed to know everything about the plants he was selling - the name (common and scientific), annual or perennial, shade or sun, on and on.
Due to the Big Freeze of 2007, the nursery where Ricardo worked was dying. The owner was ready to retire, telling him, “I’m too old to start over.” Ricardo, at the age of 35, proclaimed, “I want to start now!” He bought the nursery, and Ricardo’s Nursery was born!
Full of Wonder
“I drive around looking at the trees. Sometimes when I see a big, beautiful one, I’ll stop and talk to the homeowner about their tree. And maybe ask for a clipping,“ Ricardo says with a grin.
As he leads me around his large, nearly 9-acre nursery, he often stops - to pick some guavas, to help a caterpillar find its way, and to check on the many seedlings that he is growing in his greenhouse. Ricardo shares, “Plants are like babies. We raise them and take care of them.” And he is one proud papa!
Ricardo puts his hand in his pocket and pulls out a seed. He laughs, “I keep all the seeds I find. Seeds are gold. I’ll give my family and friends mangoes from our trees but I ask them to give me back the seeds so I can plant them.”
His goal is to grow all the fruit trees in his nursery from seed rather than buying them from a distributor. Last year, he grew 15 varieties of guava trees!
Ricardo thrives on research and continuous process improvement. He’s always reading and experimenting. He practices air layering and grafting on his fruit trees. When he learned to graft, it took time to get it right. “I killed a lot of plants. But I tried it again, again, and again. If it doesn’t work, keep trying, don’t give up.”
For anyone interested in learning about plants, pick-up the “Sunset Western Garden Book” - Ricardo’s first reference book that he carried with him everywhere!
Get your hands dirty! Ricardo loves to share his knowledge and provides workshops on grafting, composting, and plant arrangement, just to name a few. “I want everyone to learn!” He believes, “If you’re successful, I’m successful!”
“I ask my returning customers, “How’s your tree?” He says proudly, “People come to us and bring us fruit from their trees. They tell me, “Ricardo! I grew this from MY tree!”
“Long Beach has been very supportive of my nursery,” Ricardo says. His nursery is recommended by the Long Beach Water Department “Lawn-to-Garden” program, and the city purchases plants from his nursery for city beautification projects.
“And I want to give back to our community.” Ricardo has been involved with several community events, most recently hosting a food bank and “Dia de los Muertos: A Magical-Drive-Thru Experience” with the Puente Latino Association. Also, he often donates plants and Christmas trees to community programs.
“There’s no other place I’d rather be,” Ricardo says with a big smile. He sends me off with freshly picked guavas and a cherimoya seedling.
And in a year from now, I will bring my baby tree to his grafting workshop.
And the year after that, I hope to bring Ricardo fruit from MY tree.
Interested in learning more about horticulture?
• Join a workshop at Ricardo’s Nursery!
• Avocado and Cherimoya Grafting Workshop: March 19th (SAT) at 12pm. Call (562) 428-7252 to sign-up.
• Visit the website to view additional upcoming events: https://www.ricardosnursery.com
• Long Beach City College offers an Associate Degree for their Horticulture program. Check out the website for more details: https://www.lbcc.edu/horticulture