March 21, 2022

But throughout his time in corporate America, Johnson’s heart remained rooted in gardening. “I had a yearning to own my own retail garden center, so I started doing that on the side,” he said. “During the week, I was a senior project engineer. On the weekends, I designed whole landscapes for people and installed them with my friends.”

Eventually, Johnson hung up his corporate suit and tie to pursue his passion. Blooming Colors Nursery & Landscaping opened in 1994, and he has been “blessed ever since.” In 2016, he funneled some of the byproducts of his success into an endowment for the Sally Young Johnson Herb Garden in the Leach Teaching Gardens at Texas A&M, permanently honoring his mother’s love for gardening. Texas herbs are the plot’s backbone, with the garden displaying a wide array of herbs with culinary, medicinal and other applications. “My mom enjoyed gardening so much that my dad built her a greenhouse. I cleaned it and kept it up for her; in return, she let me find my passion there. This is my way of honoring her for letting me into her space and trusting me,” Johnson explained.

After almost 30 years operating Blooming Colors, Johnson has more than green thumbs up his sleeves. Below, he shares some tips and tricks for spring gardening for amateurs and agricultural aces alike. 

  • Est. 1994

    Barry Johnson opened Blooming Colors in 1994, and business has been booming since.

  • Building Better

    Barry Johnson had a hand in designing his Grapevine, Texas, nursery.

  • A Grapevine Original

    Inspired by nurseries in Louisiana and California, Barry Johnson put a Texas twist on a proven recipe for success.

  • Sun and Shade

    Pay attention to which plants want to soak up the sun and which plants prefer full shade.

  • Anyone Can Garden

    Green thumbs are not a requirement for a backyard jungle.

  1. Learn how much is too mulch: “At Blooming Colors, we recommend at least 3 to 4 inches of mulch once or twice annually, and we like double shredded hardwood.” A thick layer of mulch keeps weeds out and moisture in, and it provides an excellent insulating blanket in temperature extremes.
  2. Follow planting zones: The United States Department of Agriculture publishes a map that uses average annual winter temperature to guide which plants grow best in every area. Many people ignore the advice, but planting zones are among the most important considerations when choosing vegetation for your garden. “I see the planting zone mistake over and over, especially with big chain stores. People buy plants that aren’t right for their zone and then come to me to fix it.” You can look up your zone here.
  3. Plant your early spring bloomers: In early spring, you can plant potatoes, onions, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and most of your leafy greens. “The best time to plant vegetables like those in Texas is from the October cooldown through springtime because plants go in the ground dormant. They grow roots all winter long, and then they’re ready for the summer heat.”
  4. Wet your plants: Once you’ve picked your springtime plants and populated your yard, maintenance is a must. How to water is a boring question, but it’s the one Johnson gets asked the most. “Put your finger knuckle deep down into the soil. If it’s dry, you should water slow and down to the roots.” Don’t water every day; you don’t want your roots to rot.
  5. Prepare for standard springtime shortcomings: Most Texans need to prepare their garden beds with nutrient-rich soil or fertilizer. “Very few areas in Texas have good soil. East Texas has great sand, but that’s an exception.” Be mindful of your placement for plants that need sun and plants that need shade and plan out your garden before you start digging. “Plants tend to look best in clusters of threes, fives and sevens.”

Is there someone who helped your passions take root? You can memorialize them through a gift to The Gardens of $25 or more at the button below or create an endowment to support long-term plans for Phase II by contacting Allyson Tjoelker ’02 at the bottom of this page. 

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