5 Minutes With … Nancy DuBrule-Clemente

April 2024
5 Minutes With … Nancy DuBrule-Clemente By Teresa McPherson

Nancy DuBrule-Clemente is the founder of destination garden center Natureworks in Connecticut.

Nancy DuBrule-Clemente is the founder of destination garden center Natureworks in Connecticut, which marked 40 years in business in 2023.

What made you choose horticulture as a career?

I never had a garden until I was in my 20s. I went to the University of Connecticut for liberal arts, dropped out after a couple of years and lived off campus next to an amazing man with a huge garden. When I met a bunch of students in the Ag school, I gradually realized that was what I wanted to do. My parents couldn’t believe it! I grew up in the city of Hartford, Connecticut, and no one gardened in our home. But my grandparents took my brother, my sister and me every Sunday on country rides to parks, gardens, zoos — all over the place. My grandfather loved to take pictures of flowers. All the pictures from my childhood, with my grandparents, had flower gardens in them.

What do you love about your job?

I love to teach and I love to write and I love to do marketing. I am also just so super psyched by plants, even after 41 years! I enjoy many of my customers; I basically find people interesting, but sometimes they get to me. I also love my time alone, in my office, being creative. I take a ton of pictures of plants and gardens, I teach a ton of classes, I write a lot — two books and the weekly email for Natureworks. I just keep learning every single day.

What keeps you up at night?

I sold my business to a group of my employees a couple of years ago, and I work for them part time. I mentor them and worry a lot about their problems. I didn’t have a mentor, and I know how very hard it is to get used to owning a business, dealing with employees and customers and laws and taxes and everything that goes with it. I also worry about the health of the planet. I have been a dedicated organic gardener for almost 50 years. I worry about climate change, the extremes that we are now experiencing, and the next generations and how they will have to deal with it.

What is your biggest goal for this year?

I want to reduce the amount of plastic we throw away at Natureworks. It’s terrible. I also want to continue renovating our demonstration gardens for climate resilience and then teach about the process. I want to help the new owners be the best business people ever. It took me 25 years to learn what I am trying to teach them now.

What’s something few people know about you?

When I was a kid, my brother and sister and I used to walk around the block in Hartford, Connecticut, on stilts, which were made by my grandfather who was a cabinet maker at an organ factory. He also loved roller skating rinks and taught us to dance on roller skates (the ones with the four wheels).

Favorite plant to grow? Why?

An impossible question! I have recently started growing dahlias. I live in a house from 1837 and have a real root cellar, so they overwinter very well. I love daffodils of every size, color and form. I grow a ton of food — I especially love my raspberries, blueberries and filet pole bean ‘Emerite’. I grow zinnias from seed now that I have more time. I have collections of perennials, very hardy mums, species roses and upright deciduous azaleas. I love fragrant plants. I love really tall, dramatic plants. Plant geeks can’t choose!

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Teresa McPherson

Teresa McPherson is the managing editor of Lawn & Garden Retailer. Contact her at [email protected].