Jim Brady recently celebrated two significant anniversaries: his wedding anniversary on June 25 and the anniversary of moving Sunbeam Gardens on June 26. Brady has owned Sunbeam for 39 years now, with his wife at his side from day one.
In 1983, the newlyweds moved Sunbeam to an old tomato range outside of Cleveland, where they still operate it as a 16-acre wholesale nursery. Brady had worked his way up from the bottom at Sunbeam’s previous location, starting as an intern there while earning his degree from Ohio State.
Brady’s son grew up at Sunbeam and now has his own role in the operation. Tom manages outdoor crops, maintenance, tractors, and equipment. With Mrs. Brady handling all of the paperwork, it truly is a family corporation.
Nearly 40 years have brought change within the industry and the company. “We’d raise a lot of annuals, cut flowers—we grew all kinds of stuff to make money” in the early days, Brady said. “Today, we grow perennials. That’s it.” Specialization has allowed Sunbeam to hone its process, always learning and growing.
Sometimes that means learning from failure, as Brady did with his previous fertilizer: “It wasn’t fulfilling what we were looking for. And even the slow-release in the mix, we tried to up it a couple times, and we burnt plants.”
Unsatisfactory fertilizer and struggling plants led Brady to try Foliar-Pak. “I was having issues with a lot of different plants that would defoliate on me—whether it was heat, water, temperature,” he said. That’s when Sam Weil, Brady’s sales rep, introduced him to Gold Standard 45 and Colonise Bio LTO.
The combination of nitrogen, amino acids, and bacteria has made the two an irreplaceable duo for Brady. “This works so much faster. And I think it’s more convenient,” he said. “They both work together great as a tandem.”
“With perennials, they go dormant, which is nice, and I can work around that time. But we also want to plant a lot of stuff in the fall, so we need to have a lot of growth. So the fertilizer works out very well for us,” Brady said.
Gold Standard 45 and Colonise Bio LTO have proven their mettle time and again.
Creeping phlox is a significant crop for Sunbeam and one that Foliar-Pak products have helped preserve through trying winters. “We got a couple times where the frost came, and it completely almost defoliated our entire crop,” Brady said. “It fried them. And we tried to put the covers on, but the frost was that cold. It was enough that it went through—the cloth wasn’t enough protection. It burnt them.”
“When we used this stuff, within two to three weeks, we were back in full bloom and salable plants, which saved us,” Brady said. The savings were quantifiable: “That crop was worth to us $35,000.”
The combination of Gold Standard 45 and Colonise Bio LTO has also translated to cost savings in seasonal nursery operations.
Brady described the role that Foliar-Pak plays in raising plants all the way from plugs. “We have to grow the plant from a plug to a finished product to be sold in bloom. Well, the fertilizer is what enhanced our growth. That’s my belief,” he said. “I mean, I’ve tried it with, without, and the fertilizer works for many, many things.”
“They develop roots better without having to use the mycs that you have to buy, and it costs you an arm and a leg. So the cost savings is huge compared to other varieties,” Brady said.
From saving money to saving stressed plants, Gold Standard 45 and Colonise Bio LTO have found a home at Sunbeam Gardens. “This stuff is the best that I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Brady said.