St. Lawrence Nurseries
St. Lawrence Nurseries sprouted up in 1923, and was first the endeavor of Fred L. Ashworth, of Heuvelton, NY. He was a farmer with an interest in growing and propagating fruits and nuts for northern climates. The nursery spent many years as more of a hobby and experiment station than a business for Fred. He supported his family through farm labor and working for the county on the road crew, but also grafted and sold fruit trees in a small business he called St. Lawrence Nurseries.
Bill MacKentley met Fred in 1971, and within a few years they developed a relationship that became almost like family. Fred was self-taught, but extremely knowledgeable and well-read. During his lifetime he had tried many fruits and nuts in this northern climate, learning what survives and what winter kills here, and had recorded his observations in single-space typed or laboriously hand-written pages. Fred traded information, scionwood, and cuttings with other plant-breeders in a forum of letters called a “round-robin” through organizations like NAFEX (North American Fruit Explorers) and NNGA (Northern Nut Growers Assn.) leading to innumerable experiments and dozens of new edible plant varieties.
When Fred died in 1977, Diana and Bill purchased the land where he had done much of his grafting and breeding in Potsdam, NY. In 1981, they produced the first official St. Lawrence Nurseries catalog. For 34 years, the MacKentleys cultivated a truly unique and wonderful business, carrying the legacy of Fred Ashworth's passion. In September of 2015, the nursery was passed on to Connor Hardiman. Connor worked for the MacKenleys for 5 years prior to taking over the nursery (with the invaluable help of several core employees). The MacKentleys continue to be involved in an advisory capacity; distributing their decades of knowledge and ensuring a successful future for St. Lawrence Nurseries.
St. Lawrence Nurseries is located south of the village of Potsdam on Route 56. We are about 20 miles from the Canadian border in the northernmost part of New York State. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map at left designates our area as Zone 3 (-30°F to -40°F average annual minimum temp.) In the past, our region has experienced a number of “test winters" where readings have reached -50°F (actual temperature, no wind chill). At these temperatures, only truly hardy plants survive; more tender varieties are weeded out. There are almost no other fruit and nut tree nurseries growing their stock in a Zone 3 location. Most grow their stock in Zones 5, 6 or 7, where plants are never exposed to -40°F or -30°F. If you live in Zone 3 or 4, where these temperatures are a fact of life, a plant that is only hardy to -20°F will sustain winter damage in spite of wraps or other heroic efforts. In contrast, our nursery stock will survive the toughest of climates. If we can’t grow it here, we don’t sell it.
We produce our catalog on recycled paper, and send it to customers on our mailing list once a year in December for Spring shipment of plants. The easiest way to get on the mailing list is to email firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address.
We do not sell or give away names from our mailing list.
Off Season & Business Hours
The St. Lawrence Nurseries office is run by two people: Connor and Allyssa. We do not live on the nursery premises like the MacKentleys once did. We're usually around the nursery during the day to receive visitors, but are outdoors much of the time from May through December. If you plan to stop by, please email first at email@example.com, or call me at (315) 261-1925. You can leave a message, and we will return your call as soon as possible. We're often outdoors and not answering the phone, but check the voicemails and emails regularly. For local customers, we (generally) do not fill orders on the spot. All orders, even those for pickup, must be received by our deadline. Although pre-received plant orders can be picked up at the nursery only during April and May, you're welcome to come for a visit any time of year. Come see the various trees and edible shrubs that we grow, ask questions, and give us your ideas!