St. Lawrence Nurseries
St. Lawrence Nurseries was begun in the 1920's, and was originally the endeavor of Fred L. Ashworth, of Heuvelton, NY, a farmer with an interest in growing and propagating fruits and nuts for northern climates. Bill MacKentley met Fred in 1971, and within a few years they developed a relationship that became almost as strong as family ties. Fred was self-taught, but extremely knowledgeable and well-read. During his lifetime he had tried many fruits and nuts in this northern climate, learning what survives and what winter kills here, and had recorded his observations in single-space typed or laboriously hand-written pages. Fred traded information, scionwood and cuttings with other plant-breeders in a forum of letters called a “round-robin” through organizations like NAFEX (North American Fruit Explorers) and NNGA (Northern Nut Growers Assn.) In addition to supporting his family through farm labor and working for the County on the road crew, Fred grafted and sold fruit trees in a small business he called St Lawrence Nurseries. When Fred died in 1977, Diana and Bill purchased the land where he had done much of his grafting and breeding in Potsdam, NY. In 1981, they produced the first St Lawrence Nurseries catalog. For 34 years, the MacKentleys cultivated a truly unique and wonderful business, carrying the legacy of Fred Ashworth's passion. In September of 2015, the nursery was passed on to Connor Hardiman. Connor worked for the MacKenleys for 5 years prior to taking over the nursery with the invaluable help of several core employees. The MacKentleys continue to be involved in an advisory capacity, continuing to distribute their decades of knowledge about the nursery to ensure a successful turnover.
St. Lawrence Nurseries is located north of the village of Potsdam on Route 345. We are about 20 miles from the Canadian border in the northernmost part of New York State. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map at left designates our area as Zone 3 (-40°F to -30°F. average annual minimum temp.) In the past, our region has experienced a number of “test” winters where readings have reached -50°F. (actual temperature, no wind chill.) At these temperatures, only truly hardy plants survive; more tender varieties are weeded out. There are almost no other fruit and nut tree nurseries growing their stock in a Zone 3 location. Most grow their stock in Zones 5, 6 or 7, where plants are never exposed to -50°F, -40°F or even -30°F. If you live in Zone 3 or 4, where these temperatures are a fact of life, a plant that is “hardy” to only -20°F. will sustain winter damage in spite of wraps or other heroic efforts. In contrast, our nursery stock will survive the toughest of climates. If we can’t grow it here, we don’t sell it.
We produce our catalog on recycled paper, and send it to customers on our mailing list once a year, this year being sent out in September for spring shipment of plants. We do NOT sell or give away names from our mailing list. Remember when ordering to provide us with your winter mailing address for catalogs if it is different from the address on the order blank.
Off Season & Business Hours
The St. Lawrence Nurseries office is run by one person: me, Connor Hardiman! I do not live on the nursery premises like the MacKentleys. I am usually around the nursery during the day to receive visitors, but I am outdoors much of the time from May through October. If you plan to stop by, call me at (315) 261-1925. You can leave a message on the machine, and we will return your call as soon as possible! For local customers, we do not fill orders on the spot. All orders, even those for pickup, must be received by our deadline of April 10. Although pre-received plant orders can be picked up at the nursery only during April, you are welcome to come any time of year to visit, see the various trees and edible shrubs that we grow, ask questions and give us your ideas!