For 12 years, Mustard Seed Nursery has providing service with a smile for any customers who are looking for fresh flowers or plants.
Located at 324 County Road 222, the nursery is directly between the busy intersections of AL-69 and I-65. The nursery is open year-round, with the exception of a few weeks after Christmas and into the beginning of January, and offers plant selections for every season along with yard decorations and other items for anyone interested in sprucing up the outside of their home.
Mustard Seed Nursery has been open since 2009, but owner Sandy Walker has been in the nursery business for more than 20 years. She and her husband Rodney leased the Big Cedars Nursery for 10 years before opening up their own place, and before that, she worked on a farm, did landscaping and had greenhouses at their home.
“Pretty much my whole life’s been outside,” she said.
Walker said it wasn’t a particular love of flowers or plants that led her into the nursery business, but her love of the outdoors and not being cooped up inside every day.
She said working in a nursery also provides some variety in her day-to-day job, as no two days are ever the same when it comes to growing and taking care of the different plants that Mustard Seed offers.
“I could have never worked at a plant where you just go in for eight hours and do the same thing,” she said. “I like the variety.”
Moving from the established nursery that she leased to a brand new business that she owned was a risk, but Walker said she wanted to get away from paying rent and build up a new business that she could run her way.
“I leased and I thought I was just throwing money away, so why not find somewhere that we could call our own and do it the way I wanted it done,” she said.
Walker said she worried that customers would not follow her to Mustard Seed when she was first making that move, but she was happy to see that there has been a reliable group of regulars who continue to come back year after year.
“I love my repeat customers, and every year we get to catch up,” she said.
The property on which the nursery is located previously held an old house that was Mustard Seed’s original home. In 2015, Brad and Amanda Quattlebaum leased part of the building to open up the Sunflour Bakery, which quickly expanded from just a bakery to a full-fledged eatery.
Eventually the bakery grew so much that it took over the entire building, and the nursery was relocated to a smaller building in the back. When the Sunflour Bakery was destroyed in a fire in May of 2019, the Walkers decided to build a bigger location on the same site that would be able to hold both the bakery and the nursery.
Both businesses opened back up last summer, and being back on the roadside instead of behind the bakery has helped business, as several people have stopped by and said they thought the nursery had closed or moved when the bakery took over the first building, Walker said.
“Last summer was a good summer,” she said.
The new setup has also offered the opportunity for a bigger selection of plants — particularly houseplants — which grew in popularity last year as people were forced to stay at home more because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
Walker said the beginning of the pandemic and the resulting shutdown was originally a source of concern, as the shutdown happened in the spring when the greenhouses were full of blooming flowers and she worried they may all go to waste.
The opposite happened. More and more people were staying at home and deciding to plant new flowers or a garden, so the nursery saw a lot of new customers at a time when many other businesses were seeing fewer, she said.
“We’re one of the few places that probably did not suffer,” she said. “And I hate for those that did.”
Walker said many people who do stop by are surprised to see how big the nursery actually is. Apart from the main building, there is a large area in the back with many more plants and greenhouses that aren’t visible from the road.
Along with seeing the surprising size of the nursery, Walker said customers can also be assured that they will see a friendly face when they come through the door, and she and the rest of the nursery’s workers are happy to help someone who is looking to plant a garden or plant flowers at the front of their house or anywhere else.
“To me the most important thing is to be kind and friendly and help,” she said. “That’s what we’ve always strived to provide.”
While the Walkers purchase the trees and shrubs that they offer for sale, they take particular pride in the flowers that they grow in their on-site greenhouses.
“That’s another thing that brings people back is they know that we grow them,” she said. “They’re our babies and we take care of them.”
Not everyone is able to take care of a big flowerbed and may just want to purchase something like a small geranium, but they still get joy from coming to the nursery to walk through the greenhouse to see all of the flowers in bloom.
Whether they’re looking to make a big purchase or just want to walk among some of the colorful flowers and plants, visitors always welcome to stop in and say hello, Walker said.
“Just come by,” she said.
This story first appeared in the Summer 2021 edition of Cullman Magazine.