Trees, Ornamental & Bedding Plants: People behind the plants - Jim Zampini, Lake County New Plants

Features - Supplement

The founder of Lake County Nursery has introduced a cache of superior trees, shrubs and woody ornamentals. And he’s not done yet.

December 14, 2010
Kelli Rodda

Jim Zampini grew up in Lake County, Ohio, which was once the nursery capitol of the world. He saw nursery fields in every direction from his front door. By age 17 he was selecting Rosa multiflora, an important rose understock at the time on his father’s nursery. It didn’t take long to get hooked.

Founder of Lake County Nursery in Perry, Zampini has introduced a cache of trees, shrubs and woody ornamentals. And after more than 60 years in the green industry, Jim and his wife Marge sold the nursery to their son Joe, son-in-law Bob Pettorini and long-time employee Jeff Hyrne.

But Jim’s not retiring. He’s partnered with daughter Maria to form Lake County New Plants.

The pair will continue to market the patented and trademarked ‘ZAM’ plants, which have been Jim’s life-long work and which are synonymous with his name, Maria said.

“I’ve always wanted to finish out my career by doing what I love the most and am most passionate about – selecting and developing new plant cultivars,” Jim said.

Jim doesn’t use high-tech hybridization methods. He uses a combination of Mother Nature and keen observation.He takes the best of a species – crabapples for instance – and plants them in rows next to each other. He lets the bees do their thing with open pollination. He collects the seeds and plants those out in seed-bed rows. He waits and walks the beds once the plants have made their third set of fully matured leaves.

The late Don Egolf, breeder at the U.S. National Arboretum, liked Jim’s method of selection above his own because Jim’s plants had already passed the most difficult test – that of Mother Nature, Jim said.

Jim’s looking forward to introducing plants that will benefit the modern consumer’s primary need of low-maintenance varieties and smaller, more compact selections.

“With today’s fast-paced society, the consumer doesn’t have time for extensive yard maintenance, yet they still want that perfect outdoor living area,” Jim said. “This is where the new selections, good customer service and good education of consumers can play an integral part in getting consumers to continue gardening and landscaping. The happier the consumer is, the more likely it is they will return to buy more plants.”

Jim also sees a tremendous opportunity for the industry to appeal to the “green” side of consumers.

“Now is the time for us to change the perception that plants are a luxury and a discretionary expenditure and help the consumer understand plants are a necessity and the easiest, most natural way to help themselves and the environment at the same time,” Jim said.