In the late 1970s, Dan Watson, a chemistry teacher from Tacoma’s Lincoln High School, planted a seed. He took his passion for gardening and his greener-than-average thumb and he created a place for his collection to grow. Four decades later, he and his family are still harvesting the fruits of that labor.

What started in 1974 with a 12-by-12-foot hothouse and a hobby U-pick vegetable operation out of the family garage quickly grew. Dan, his wife Fran, and daughter Maidee grew a few houseplants for the greenhouse, too, and when it became too crowded, Dan built another. And then another.

Dan Watson
Dan Watson, a teacher at Tacoma’s Lincoln High School, started selling house plants and veggies out of his garage in 1974 alongside his wife, Fran (left) and daughter Maidee. Photo courtesy: Watson’s Nursery

Watson’s Greenhouse and Nursery opened in February of 1984 with 10,000 square feet of wood-structure greenhouses that the family used for growing and sales. “My wife and I had no business experience,” Dan Watson recalls, “but we had a passion for growing plants and that evolved into a retail store.” He retired from his 30-year career as a teacher in 1990, and that’s when Dan’s hobby really began to blossom into something beautiful.

He joined what was by now a growing family business full-time, continuing to work with Fran and Maidee. In 1993, Terri Elliott, another daughter, joined the team. From 1986 to 1998, the retail and growing spaces increased steadily, and many of the existing greenhouses were torn down and replaced with a beautiful glass and steel greenhouse from Belgium that stands today.

Present-day Watson’s is home to an abundant selection of plants, garden accessories and tools, home décor and patio furniture. In the 32,000-square-foot structure, the family has more than enough room for all their plants and decor. Recognizing that outdoor places are meant to be lived in and enjoyed just like any other part of the home, the team introduced patio and home decor to the mix as well. With the inclusion of gift items and a full-scale garden center, Watson’s has become a veritable one-stop shop for casual plant lovers and master gardeners alike.

Watson's Nursery
Leo, a family pet who calls the nursery home more time than not, helps to showcase some of his favorite seasonal decor. Photo courtesy: Watson’s Nursery

Watson’s daughters, Maidee and Terri, took the helm from Dan and Fran in 2004, and they operate the nursery alongside two of his grandsons today. “It’s been wonderful to see how the business has evolved over the generations,” Dan says.

Today, this foliage-loving founding family is backed by a dedicated team that’s just as passionate about gardening as Dan Watson himself. Team members who specialize in everything from green gift arrangements to in-home gardening coaching bring their certifications, decades of expertise and love of planting to the greenhouse floor. Between the extended family of the owner and their garden-savvy crew, the inclusion of gardening courses was an organic addition to the nursery.

Classes and Events at Watson’s

All classes at Watson’s are free and open to the public. These are held regularly and can be explored online through the nursery’s events page. There are also more complex workshops and seminars available, which cater to gardeners of all experience levels and aim to demystify plant care or teach gardening skills for high-maintenance additions to garden spaces. The cost of these workshops vary, but typically include a small fee and the purchase of an item (usually one that pertains to the class).

Watson's Nursery
Watson’s Nursery and Greenhouse was named Best Garden Shop & Nursery in South Sound by South Sound Magazine as well as an Independent Garden Center Top 100 for several years running. Photo courtesy: Watson’s Nursery

Addison Gregory, Maidee’s son and Dan’s grandson, explains that the vitality of the nursery is directly related to how confident customers are when it comes to caring for new plants. “This was my grandfather’s passion. He wanted to build a resource for the community with high quality products, and provide a service that they can’t get somewhere else, and now it’s become a tradition that we’ve carried on. Customers are purchasing living things that need care, and it is important to us that they find success with those products when they get home.”

With deep ties to the community and such a strong emphasis on family, it’s no surprise that Watson’s also likes to host events that attract gardeners of all ages. During the holidays, the greenhouse is decked out in festive style and brings in a few reindeer for ambience and photos. Springtime at Watson’s is an equally enchanting time to visit – the shop hosts a Home & Garden Fair in April every year to kick off the Spring season that draws many visitors.

“Spring is a great time to introduce new people to Watson’s,” says Addison. “It’s a great chance to not only experience Watson’s, but also people and products that are grown close to home. We sell a lot of things that you can’t find anywhere else, not just for the garden but also for your home.”

Watson's Home Decor
Carefully curated pieces, thoughtfully organized, add an inspirational touch to the wares on display at Watson’s nursery. Photo courtesy: Watson’s Nursery

Dan Watson’s nursery has come a long way from the surplus of veggies and house plants he sold out of his garage in the 70s. Looking back, he feels good knowing that he has created more than just a place to buy plants. Instead, with the help of his family, he’s helped to build a resource for his community and a thriving local business. “There are not a lot of places like us in this area, ones that can offer the plants, gifts and patio furniture in a similar setting to what we have here. Our staff is very knowledgeable, which goes a long way when helping customers with gardening questions. It’s a joyful place to be with helpful staff, unique gift items and a bright atmosphere.”

Watson’s is located at 6211 Pioneer Way East in Puyallup. To learn more about Watson’s services, such as planting, landscape design and installation, houseplant transplanting, customer arrangements or gift wrapping, visit the Watson’s Greenhouse and Nursery website. Event info can be found on their website as well as on Facebook and Instagram.