When Jerry Fritz was little, his grandmother would admonish, “Make your bed or else you’ll be out there turning the compost.” It wasn’t much of a threat; he liked turning the compost.
Thankfully for gardeners, the use of gardening chores as discipline did not dissuade Fritz from pursuing his love of horticulture. Nor did it diminish his love for his grandmother, who, he says, was the biggest influence on his becoming a plantsman, one of the best in the country, as it turns out.
Fritz, of Linden Hill Gardens in Bucks County, Penn., travels the world in search of plant rarities for his clients and nursery, collecting stock from breeders and conducting trials. He offers unusual, exceptional new plants for sale a year or two before they hit the tables of most nurseries, he says.
He will give a talk Feb. 21 to the Connecticut Horticultural Society in West Hartford on up-and-coming plants for New England gardens. The talk is open to the public and begins at 7:30 p.m. at Emanuel Synagogue, 160 Mohegan Dr.
His list includes cultivars of hardy geraniums and red hot pokers that come in alluring new colors and offer longer bloom periods.
Fritz grew up mainly on Long Beach Island, N.J. His first job, at age 12, was at a nursery center in Ship Bottom. He earned a bachelor’s degree in ornamental horticulture from Delaware Valley College of Science and Agriculture in Doylestown, Pa., and then began work with Gale Nurseries near Philadelphia.
In 1989 he founded Jerry Fritz Garden Design Inc. and has focused on providing clients with original and innovative concepts and plants. He and his wife Amy founded Linden Hill Gardens in Ottsville about 10 years ago to show clients possibilities for their landscapes, learn from the plant trials he conducts and offer plants for sale. The farmstead encompasses more than 20 acres and has greenhouses, barns, display gardens and a pond.
Five years ago at Linden Hill, he started a Friday afternoon farmer’s market that features produce and products from local farms and food artisans. There are seafood, poultry and meat vendors, and Fritz’s staff will grill up purchases, which people can savor while listening to live music. The market has become “the social hangout of upper Buck’s County” and was voted the best farmer’s market in the region, he says.
Fritz belongs to several organizations, including the Perennial Plant Association, the Hardy Plant Society, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, The New York Botanical Garden, the Royal Horticultural Society and the American Nursery and Landscape Association. He has been a guest on the “Martha Stewart Living” show.