Blake Nursery's mission is to best serve our customers by providing quality, hardy plants and professional, creative landscape services. Our educated and caring staff will assist customers with their landscape choices, and encourage the use of Montana natives where appropriate. Our landscape division will provide quality design and installation.
Blake Nursery opened its doors in Montana in 1977, but its beginnings are found years before and several thousand miles away in England. In 1967 Sandi and Francis Blake moved to London (then Gloucestershire) from the east coast. Francis earned a degree in agriculture and worked on a diverse crop and livestock farm. Sandi meanwhile discovered and nurtured her love of horticulture and growing plants. She worked in a floral shop in London and later a retail nursery.
Looking to establish roots in the U.S. where they could raise a family and further pursue agriculture, Sandi and Francis moved to Big Timber, MT in 1973. They bought a ranch and started raising Angus cattle. For Sandi, horticulture and caring for plants took a back seat to nursing baby calves and raising three sons, but horticulture was never far from her mind. With Francis’ encouragement she opened Blake Nursery in 1977. The emphasis was on hardy, quality plants.
For the first several years Sandi and staff propagated plants, experimented with new plant varieties, and expanded the inventory. They also gained professional expertise and honed their skills with shovel and spud bar—Blake Nursery didn’t own its first skid steer until the mid-1980s.
In 1983 Sandi wrote the nursery’s first catalog that included plant availability and insights regarding Montana gardening. Soon after, a greenhouse was built and a growing area came on line. Meanwhile Blake Nursery responded to the need for landscape design and installation.
From the get-go Francis was involved. If he wasn’t tagging calves or irrigating he was repairing the nursery irrigation system or experimenting with new plant varieties. Today he is the nursery’s native grass seed specialist and fabric-bag plant grower.
Alex and Amory, Sandi and Francis’ youngest sons, are part of the team as well. Amory shares management responsibilities with Sandi, and Alex helps out with solar installations, other sustainable practices, and lends a hand whenever needed.
Sandi and Francis’ oldest son, Peter, lives in Denver with his wife Molly and their two daughters, Helen and Leah. Meanwhile, everyone is involved in the ranch with Francis and Alex taking leading roles.
Photos by Lynn Donaldson