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Greenhouse provides window to rare plants

Brewer's Nursery and Landscape Services in East County created a greenhouse for plant collectors.

Brewer's Nursery and Landscape Services is located on State Road 64 near Lorraine Road.
Brewer's Nursery and Landscape Services is located on State Road 64 near Lorraine Road.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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Cinnamon and cat whiskers sound like ingredients in a witch’s brew, but Ryan Chapman uses them to garden. 

Chapman is not just a guy who likes plants. The 39-year-old Bradenton resident is a collector, who turned a hobby into a career. Chapman is a horticulturist at Brewer’s Nursery and Landscape Services on State Road 64 near the intersection at Lorraine Road.

He saves cat whiskers (only when they fall out on their own) to transfer pollen from plant to plant. He uses cinnamon when cutting roots for its antifungal and antibacterial properties. 

Chapman’s grandmother, Lelo Watts, was a plant collector, too. When freezing temperatures were predicted, her home in Bradenton was cluttered. Watts had over 1,500 orchids, and she’d bring every one inside. 

“It got crazy,” Chapman said. “I used to do that when we’d get into the 40s. Most of my collection would come inside – took over a guest bedroom and the litter boxes had to come out.” 

Chapman collects “fat plants” and has about a third of the collection his grandmother had. It’s still an impressive display of desert roses and pachypodiums, especially when in bloom. The plants are called fat because of the thick trunks and roots that grow above the ground. 

Ryan Chapman puts his hobby to work at Brewer's Nursery and Landscape Services on State Road 64.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

While Chapman treasures all five acres of the nursery and can identify each plant and offer some kind of origin story or interesting tidbit, there’s one greenhouse he’s partial to, along with the nursery’s owner Taylor Grismore. 

Grismore bought the nursery with her husband Scott in 2020. The 200-square-foot greenhouse didn’t exist prior to the Grismores’ ownership. 

“It started with the plants I wanted for myself,” Grismore said. “I’ve had to learn that even the plants I’m not interested in, I still need to buy because some people are interested, so it’s become a broader range.”

So the new greenhouse was built. For the collector, the greenhouse is home to plants like the monstera Thai constellation that costs $1,500 because of its size, rarity and variegated leaves. 

The variegation on the leaves distinguish the monstera Thai constellation.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

Brewer's Nursery also stocks Venus flytraps, which most nurseries don’t because the carnivorous plants are labor intensive. 

“That greenhouse is my baby,” Grismore said. “I wanted to get a name by having cool stuff that you can’t find anywhere else.” 

Everyone loves a deal, including Grismore. She gets “giddy” when she can find a specialty plant to offer customers at a reasonable price. Customers have told her in the past that she could charge more, but part of the fun is sharing her insider discount with fellow plant lovers. 

The Grismores moved to the area from Michigan. Shortly before the COVID pandemic started, the couple sold everything they owned, loaded five children and a dog into a 40-foot camper and hit the road. 

“My husband worked in corporate. I was a stay-at-home mom, homeschooling our five young children, “Grismore said. “We decided we were done living like that. We knew we were going to buy a business somewhere, but weren’t sure where.” 

Several agave varieties line the outside of the greenhouse.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

The Grismores were making their way through Florida when the pandemic shut down everything including campgrounds. They were parked at Encore Winter Quarters Manatee, near Tom Bennett Park, when their reservations down in the Everglades and the Keys started canceling.

The Grismores ended up spending a month in Bradenton. The family continued on with their travels as campgrounds opened up again, but they’d already decided to settle down on the west coast of Florida.

When Brewer’s Nursery went on the market, Grismore said everything fell into place. That’s also when her affinity for plants expanded beyond the wild.

“We had about 30 acres in Michigan, and we would harvest plants for salads and teas,” Grismore said. “If my kids had a bee sting, they knew what plants to go and pick for a bee sting.” 

It took the Grismores about a year to find their home in Sarasota after buying the nursery. So much time spent in a camper with no garden or land to cultivate turned her focus toward house plants. 

She built such a large collection of potted plants around their campsite that people would stop by to ask, “Why so many?” Her response: “We just bought a nursery.” 



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.