The Hicks family started farming on Long Island as early as the late 1600s, but it was in 1853 that the business currently called Hicks Nurseries, Inc., had its beginnings. That was when Isaac Hicks began selling trees to his neighbors. He named his new company Isaac Hicks and Son. Since the first sale, Hicks Nurseries has maintained its reputation for providing carefully selected, first quality plant material. Each succeeding generation of the business has left its stamp on the nursery responding to the horticultural needs of the Long Island community at the time.
At the turn of the century, Isaac’s son Edward, who taught at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, invented and patented the equipment for moving big trees desired by Long Island’s new estate owners. Full grown trees - sometimes in full leaf - were carefully extracted from the earth and taken primarily to the Gold Coast mansions, where many still flourish today.
Edward’s son Henry was a premier botanist, the first college trained horticulturist in the family business. After receiving his degree from the New York State College of Agriculture at Cornell, Henry returned to Westbury where he specialized in studying the suitability of new plants from Europe and Asia for the Long Island environment. He kept up a wide correspondence with the leading horticulturists of the day. One such correspondent was the chief plant explorer for the US Department of Agriculture, Frank Meyer, who roamed the earth looking for new plants. Whenever he came upon a new plant, he sent three back to the US. One went to the USDA in Beltsville, Maryland; one went to the Arnold Arboretum in Boston; and one went to Henry Hicks in Westbury. Cross breeding plants from different parts of the world was Henry’s forte, the best known of which is the Hicks Yew (Taxus media hicksii). William and Edwin Hicks (Henry’s sons) together with Edwin Costich, a horticulturist and nursery manager, kept the business on an even keel during the Depression years. In an innovative move, around 1930, William made pre-dug plants available for customers. This marked the beginning of the walk-in, cash and carry customer business that developed into what is now called a retail garden center.
In the 1960s, with Long Island’s growth from a rural to a suburban community complete, Edwin’s son Alfred (Fred) saw the need to re-focus the business to keep pace with the new Long Islanders. At that time there were still 245 acres of nursery production. He kept the best of what was already established and over the next ten years converted the nursery to a thriving family-oriented retailing and growing operation that serves hundreds of thousands of people each year.
Two of Fred’s children, Karen and Stephen, are now actively involved in the management of the Company. They represent the sixth generation in the family business.
Continually updating and modernizing the operation has always been a part of the success of Hicks Nurseries.
The first retail greenhouses were built in 1972 to supplement the Barn, which is the old, original sales building. The greenhouses covered 4,000 square feet. In 1976 a 6,000 square foot greenhouse addition was put up adjacent to the 1972 construction. In 1981, the Westhouse was constructed to the west of the Barn, adding 11,000 square feet of selling space.
In 1986, the building housing the Main Office, Lunch Room and what is now the Decoratives Department Receiving Area, was built. This made life more comfortable for the growing number of staff members and made room for the increasing number of shipments of product that were being received.
During the summer of 1996 the retail facility underwent a major renovation that replaced the greenhouses built in 1972 and 1976 and part of the Westhouse, greatly expanded the covered outdoor selling areas, and improved customer parking. The new greenhouses were the first in the US built by Thermoflor b.v., a Dutch company, using their innovative design.
Today, along with a wide variety of high quality trees, annuals, perennials, and houseplants, the Nursery carries tools, seeds, fertilizers, decorative and gift items, casual furniture, silk flowers and arrangements, books, and other garden ornaments.
The year at Hicks Nurseries is punctuated by special events that are especially anticipated by our customers. For example, the annual ten-day Spring Flower and Garden Show that runs over two weekends in March draws tens of thousands to our display gardens and lectures by outstanding specialists. There are two seasonal animated shows for children that are eagerly anticipated, particularly the Halloween show featuring ‘Otto the Ghost’.
The nursery and the Hicks family are committed to the progress of Long Island and to helping gardeners and landscape professionals alike to be more successful.