Perennial Favorites Nursery and Agra Tech are two family-owned and operated companies with long histories and impressive track records for excellence and quality. So, it’s surely no surprise that they have been working well together for more than two decades as ATI provides greenhouses and customer support for Perennial Favorites.
by Ed Attanasaio
Since 1992, Perennial Favorites in Layton, UT, has established itself as a leading local wholesale grower of high elevation, acclimated perennials, native perennials, annuals, grasses, and edibles. Their wide selection of top-quality nursery stock is grown to flourish in the intermountain area, including high elevation communities. At Perennial Favorites, their mission is to grow plants that are well-suited to survive regardless of where they’re planted within the intermountain communities.
CEO/Owner Preston Cox at Perennial Favorites values his long-term business relationship with ATI in Pittsburg, CA, a 46-year-old commercial greenhouse manufacturer. Today, Perennial Favorites uses nearly 20 ATI greenhouses, totaling more than 83,000 sq. ft. to grow perennials year-round. The company employs 30 full-time people and 20 seasonal workers and grows its plants half in greenhouses with the other half raised in pots outside.
Cox entered the nursery industry as a teenager when he worked for his uncle’s company Mountain States Plants, a 35-year old grower in Layton, UT. Today, Preston’s two sons work for Perennial Favorites, with Cort (38) and Ken, (32) that handle IT duties, growing plants, and marketing, respectively.
Preston with sons Cort and Ken
Back in 1994, Cox, age 63, purchased three ATI Cold Frame greenhouses (20 ft. x 105 ft.) and constructed them himself with a small team. “I took a hiatus from the nursery business for seven years and became a building contractor,” he said. “So, we’ve constructed every one of our ATI greenhouses without any outside help. If you don’t encounter bad weather, assembling these greenhouses isn’t problematic. But, for people who don’t have any construction experience, it’s not really a do-it-yourself project.”
Growing at an elevation over 4,000 feet in Layton, Utah, gives plants grown at Perennial Favorites an advantage when being sold and planted in the intermountain area. It reduces climate shock to the plants allowing them to perform faster and better compared to plants grown at lower elevations.
At 4,000 ft in Utah, weather is often a challenge and the greenhouses have to be sturdy
After encountering success with his first ATI greenhouses, Cox has periodically acquired more and more structures to accommodate gradual growth. “We now have four ATI Insulator greenhouses that are all gutter-connected to fit our application. In addition, we also have several ATI North Slope greenhouses that are 24 ft. wide and 105 ft. long. We use them to get our plants started in four-inch and one-gallon containers.”
The business model at Perennial Favorites means that they won’t ever grow plants simply because they are trendy or popular. No, they choose to grow the varieties they love and what they think is going to be beneficial to the environment. This gives them a unique selection of plants and products to choose from and offers a wide range of options for its distributors.
As a strictly wholesale operation, Perennial Favorites sells to a wide variety of customers, including garden centers and nurseries. It’s a strategic approach because it enables the company to focus on growing world-class products instead of worrying about sales and merchandising, Cox said.
Inside the greenhouses the plants flourish
Over the years, Perennial Favorites has expanded its list of products to include complete lines of premium annuals, perennial and annual grasses, and a unique selection of edibles specializing in herbs, peppers, and tomatoes.
Cox has been working closely with ATI’s James Roberts for more than two decades and has nothing but positive things to say about him and his company’s customer service. “We have never met James, but we feel like we know him well because he has always been our single point of contact. ATI’s structures are made exceptionally well, but there are going to be various issues on occasion, and Roberts comes through every time.”
According to the company’s website, one area of growth they are particularly proud of at Perennial Favorites is its Native and Waterwise line. They have been pioneers in this field, introducing many unique and hard to find items. Working directly with specialists and universities has helped create a truly one of a kind selection of Native Perennials to grow in the Intermountain area. With water always in short supply, this area has a lot of potential for future sustainability.
The Agra Tech greenhouses have held up extremely well over the decades
Cox has perennials in his blood and loves what he does. He served as President in the Utah Nursery and Landscape Association and on the Political Action and Public Policies Committee. He also served his community by acting as a past Layton City Planning Commissioner Chairman for 9 years and is currently on the Envision Layton Committee.
Cox has no plans for retiring because he has always loved growing plants and working with his family, which is why he started his business. And by acquiring greenhouses from ATI and adding new products all the time, Perennial Favorites will continue to thrive and grow.