Still Growing After All These Years

Fifty years in and we’re still growing, improving our plant selection. Shown is an astilbe daylily ligularia.

Fifty years ago, immediately following my freshman year of college, I accidentally started Sollecito Landscaping Nursery.

You might recall in 1973 there was a recession happening and jobs were very hard to get. I was running the landscape crews for a company that suddenly closed up shop.

Since I was putting myself through Cornell University as an ornamental horticulture student, unemployment was not really an option. At the very moment I was told my job was eliminated, I brazenly asked the owner of The Plant Man what he wanted for all of his tools. He said to make him an offer. I did. He accepted. Less than three minutes from being told I was no longer needed, I started my own business. And ever since then, this is where I have been needed and where I needed to be.

I knew the customer base. They trusted me. And since I had trained the crews myself, I just hired them right then and there, on the spot, to work for me. If I had not been so decisive, that opportunity would have quickly disappeared and who knows what I might have done otherwise. Some events just cause us to grow up fast.

Isn’t life like that?

Highly motivated, functionally caffeinated, and just loving the kind of work I was fortunate to do each and every day, rain or shine. But I never forgot my roots, or my first 1966 three-quarter-ton Chevy truck. It was a rusty vehicle; we called it a 60-footer, because it looked OK from about 60 feet away. And so began my lifelong investment of constantly upgrading vehicles, tools and techniques. Staff came and went, but my very first landscape supervisor is still with me. After all of these years, can you imagine that? Horticulture can be a very satisfying career as well as summer job.

I never wanted to plow snow in the winter. Driving night time roads in the worst weather was just not appealing. Instead, I have used the off seasons for education, traveling to places where I can learn how things are done differently. Going off script, interesting adventures on land and sea are along the way. I am not so concerned with the length of my life as I am with the depth and width. Traveling 39 countries, I’ve brought back nuggets from each that made me a better business or better person. And I am not done yet.

When I first started in business, I was young and poor. But after five decades of hard work and dedication, I can truthfully report I am no longer young. If you aren’t making mistakes, then you aren’t living life. The trick is to learn from them. Education is an ongoing process. Our future: learning, growing, progressing.

You may wonder how much is all that experience worth? The correct answer is, of course, a lot. So, this spring when you want to enhance or improve your landscape, give us a call and see what the possibilities might be. After all, starting our 50th year in our family business, it’s still about having the best plants and positioning them correctly in exactly the right places. And that, my friends, is priceless.

Jim Sollecito is the first lifetime senior certified landscape professional in New York State. He operates Sollecito Landscaping Nursery in Syracuse. Contact him at 315-468-1142 or