Zenobia’s primary job is chasing rabbits out of the nursery and providing emotional support to the employees. Her favorite thing is FOOD!
David Parks – Owner
David Parks owns Camellia Forest Nursery and grew up in a Camellia forest, 5 acres of Camellias planted by his father. When he is not busy with the nursery he spends time breeding Camellias. Objectives of his breeding programs are cold hardiness, disease resistance and easy to grow plants. He has traveled to China searching for wild Camellias as possible breeding stock as well as visiting Chinese nurseries to see what is available at the source of Camellias.
Pat McCracken – Nursery and Propagation Manager
Pat’s passion for plants started at a very young age. He still remembers all of the plants in the garden he moved from when he was five years old. He followed his love of plants by getting a BS and MS in Ornamental Horticulture and Landscape Design at the University of Tennessee and has worked in the nursery industry for over thirty years. He has an extensive background in research, plant propagation and production. Pat has an insatiable desire for collecting plants and has been collecting plants most of his life. The collections have changed over the years but have included huge numbers of African Violets, bromeliads, arid plants, tropical plants, Japanese maples, magnolias and Camellias. His current collections of many thousands of rare and unusual plants is planted on about five acres on his farm is Zebulon, North Carolina. Pat has travelled to nineteen countries in pursuit of new plants for his collections. Additionally he has found many new mutations and unusual seedlings that he has propagated and evaluated for landscape worthiness and has a special fondness for variegated or golden plants. He also has an active breeding program for Hibiscus, Southern magnolias, and Camellias. In his spare time he loves to cook, paint, and create pottery.
Jennifer McSwain – Assistant Nursery Manager (and Chief Ditch Digger!)
Jennifer has been working in the landscape/ nursery business for over 25 years. Formerly a hairdresser, she decided that being outside with plants was her desire. She began working in the landscape field in 1996 while living on the Outer Banks where she ran her own landscape crew for over 8 years. Her experience also includes maintaining the grounds at a timeshare resort in Duck, N.C. as well as doing private landscape design and maintenance for several homeowners on the Outer Banks. In 2010 she moved to Raleigh and began working for Tony Avent at Plant Delights Nursery where she supervised the stocking and inventory for about 7 years.
Her other interests are running her small business (Little River Naturals, LLC) where she makes and sells natural bath and body products which includes cold process soaps, made from scratch lotions, and face wash as well as several other products. (Littlerivernaturalsnc.com)
She also has a great love for her 10 hens and 1 rooster and I’d say they were a bit spoiled. And last but not least tending to her flower beds and vegetable garden.
Leigh Fowler – Production
Leigh is a neighbor who lives on one of the last working cattle ranches in the area. Gardening has been a life-long love; learning to grow and nurture camellias, hydrangeas and native plants from her father. Retired from the corporate world, Leigh is a mentor, tutor and part time musician. In her spare time she enjoys bird watching and farm walking with her family.
Mike Lowe – Production
Mike has been working for 27 years at NCSU vet school as a surgery tech. He is an avid fisherman and participates in competitive kayak fishing tournaments regularly. Mike has been an avid gardener from a very young age and is particularly fond of tropical plants and carnivorous plants. He maintains a large collection of carnivorous plants in Raleigh NC where he has been growing them ever since he was bitten by the carnivorous plant collecting bug 25 years ago. He also has won numerous blue ribbons for his plants and garden displays at the NC State Fair.
Cheryl Kerns – Advertising
Cheryl Kearns is a life-long gardener, having begun as a child on her parent’s farm in Vermont’s Zone 3. In her home in England some years later, she vastly expanded her choice of plants to suit the milder climate, thus enriching her love of diversity in plants’ forms, leaf shapes and flowers. Since moving to North Carolina in 1992, she has turned a 3-acre lot from pines and sweetgums into a series of gardens, many of them in shade. By adding the shade gardens, she achieved her goal of having flowers blossoming in her garden 365 days a year. Her work in nurseries and extensive international travel have helped inform her plant choices and designs which she has enjoyed sharing with classes at Wake Tech, the JC Raulston Arboretum, and various garden clubs.