PIECES OF THE PAST: ‘Largest Citrus Nurseries in the World’

Tacy Calliesnurseries, Pieces of the Past

By Brenda Eubanks Burnette

Glen Saint Mary Nurseries Co. catalog (left) and Citrus Industry magazine advertisement (right)

I recently came across an old 1925–26 catalog for the Glen Saint Mary Nurseries Co., which was founded in 1882 and located in Winter Haven, Florida. The catalog claimed to have the “Largest Citrus Nurseries in the World,” and the company was a longtime advertiser in Citrus Industry magazine.

Glen Saint Mary’s president was H. Harold Hume, who wrote “Citrus Fruits and Their Culture” as well as the book which supplanted it in 1926, “The Culture of Citrus Fruits.” Both books were used extensively in their day, and the latter became the standard reference on citrus for many years. In the catalog, there was an announcement on the opening page which gave the following background on the company:

“In 1880 and 1882, the two greatest nurseries in Florida were founded, the Buckeye Nurseries by the late Myron E. Gillett, of Tampa, Fla., and the Glen Saint Mary Nurseries Company by G.L. Taber, now living in Jacksonville, Fla. The Buckeye Nurseries were for many years operated under the firm name of M.E. Gillett & Son and were incorporated in 1922. After the death of Myron E. Gillett in 1922, D.C. Gillett became president of the company.

“The Buckeye Nurseries, headed by the two Gilletts, became a tremendous factor in the citrus business of Florida. They not only grew to be the largest exclusively citrus nursery in the business, but were active and prominent in many other lines.

“The Glen Saint Mary Nurseries Company was, during the same period, growing an enormous output of citrus trees and of other lines of nursery stock as well. Over a long period of years these two nurseries competed in friendly rivalry, both operating on the principles of the founders — absolute honesty and integrity, the best trees for planters that could be grown at a fair price. When, in 1924, the Buckeye Nurseries, owing to pressure of other enterprises, decided to discontinue the nursery business, it was only natural for them to look to this company to consolidate both interests.

“This, then, is to announce that the Glen Saint Mary Nurseries Company has acquired the entire nursery stock holdings of the Buckeye Nurseries. Their output, together with our own, places us in an unequaled position to take care of the tree needs of the planters in citrus areas. We shall continue to supply the friends and customers of both companies with the highest quality trees that can be produced.”

Further in the catalog, Hume continues, “Glen Trees Grow: ‘Penny wise and pound foolish,’ indeed, is he who seeks to save a few cents per tree in the purchase of nursery stock. Considering the cost of the land, its preparation for the tree, the subsequent expense of care and attention, the original cost of trees is a small matter. But the tree is the most important factor of all. With everything else favorable, if the trees are not right, failure, or at best, mediocre success is inevitable.”

Along with the Duncan, Marsh and Foster grapefruit, the company also marketed a grapefruit known as the McCarty grapefruit, an Indian River variety named after C.T. McCarty, which I had never heard of before. However, Hume noted that after several years of observation he regarded it “as one of the finest Grapefruits grown in Florida today.” Hume described it as producing its fruit singly, rather than in clusters, which created uniform size and shape while being blemish-free, “and the flesh is melting, free from fiber and rag when properly grown.”

I would love to hear more about this from any of you that might remember the variety or Mr. C.T. McCarty!

Brenda Eubanks Burnette is executive director of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Pieces of the Past is presented in partnership with Florida Southern College’s McKay Archives Center in Lakeland.