Daniel Cunningham and Clint Wolfe launched Rooted In nursery in 2020 in Pilot Point. Courtesy of Facebook.
Nov. 8, 2023
Whether you’re looking to replenish your landscaping after a grueling hot summer or you're a newbie ready to start your first fall garden, take a drive out to Rooted In, a plant nursery in Pilot Point. The Denton County garden center located at 12804 Pelzel Road is worth the trek and comes with its own team of sustainable gardening experts.
Rooted In cofounders Daniel Cunningham and Clint Wolfe are living their dream. Courtesy of Facebook.
Rooted In Nursery was launched in 2020 by Clint Wolfe and Daniel Cunningham, a pair of Texas sustainability experts who have spent their careers spreading the native species and water conservation gospel around the area. The business had been a mutual dream since Wolfe was Cunningham’s boss at Texas A&M AgriLife about 12 years ago.
Cunningham and Wolfe have combined their over 40 decades of horticultural experience to make Rooted In a plant-lovers dream.
Cunningham shares the Rooted In mantra:
“As former environmental researchers and educators, we only sell plants that are heat tolerant, drought tolerant, cold tolerant and tolerant of our soil,” Cunningham said.
TV PLANT GUYS
Many of you will recognize Cunningham as a regular TV contributor on NBC’s Channel 5 as well as our local FOX, ABC and CBS affiliates. Wolfe is a water conservation expert, who has conducted multiple conservation projects across North Texas and beyond.
Though Cunningham spent most of his growing up in DFW, it was the summers on family land near Corsicana that hooked him on plants. Wolfe likewise was influenced by his father, David, an avid gardener. Cunningham received much of his formal training at Texas Tech and Wolfe from A&M. They get along pretty well most of the time, except when their respective alma maters are on opposing sides of a football field.
Antiques and holiday decor add to the rustic rural vibe. Photo by Andrea Ridout.
Cunningham and his wife, Eva Parks, an investigative journalist for a local news station, recently bought a home not far from the nursery. Park takes credit for their shared business’ creative tag — “Rooted In Plants, Education and Community.”
Clint and his wife, Jana, a human resources exec in the medical field, live in nearby Prosper and spend much of their free time exploring antique stores and flea markets, collecting the rustic furniture and outdoor displays that give the boutique nursery and garden center its homespun appeal.
Integral to the Rooted In team is accomplished horticulturist and landscape designer Patrick Dickinson, who can not only help folks choose the proper plants but he’ll even create a gardenscape for your home or office. Dickinson is especially passionate about irrigation design including drip systems.
Dickinson often shares his wide range of knowledge by conducting continuing education classes for landscape architects, licensed irrigators, nursery staff and rainwater harvesting specialists. He is also a regular contributor on local ABC, CBS and FOX affiliates as a notable plant expert.
Photo op settings abound. Photo by Andrea Ridout.
On a lovely fall day at Rooted In, the place is bustling as the holidays approach. Pumpkins are piled in every nook and cranny against the facility’s numerous buildings and around the spacious five-acre property. An open-air barn is “Autumn Central’ with charming antique benches, rustic bicycles and handmade wagons strewn about in random mayhem. It’s the perfect spot for a festive selfie or two.
In the spacious visitor’s center, I was greeted by local Master Gardener Angie Lindsey, Master Gardener intern Clara Pelaez and Sarah Stahurski, who shares her passion for the earth in addition to interior design. These gardening aficionados have loaded the space with houseplants, specialty gifts, pots, seeds, art, baskets, plus home decor and furnishings.
Salvia is a woody perennial listed in Rooted In's Top 100 Plants for North Texas. Photo by Andrea Ridout.
As Texas horticultural experts, the Rooted In team understands that the best landscaping choices are varieties that are going to not only survive but actually thrive in this region without wasting our precious water resources.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, residential outdoor water use across the United States accounts for nearly 8 billion gallons of water each day, mainly for landscape irrigation. The average U.S. household uses more water outdoors than for showering and washing clothes combined.
As the Metroplex stretches up to meet Oklahoma, that practice has got to stop or we will all pay the price for it.
Customer favorites include a generous assortment of flowers, many of which are Texas born and bred. These plants are critical to our local ecosystems because they attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. Best-sellers include lantana, sage, salvia, yuccas and sundrops. Most of these will require water only when they are young plants. Once they are established, they should be able to survive on what nature provides.
Bluestem features a golden hue in the fall. Photo by Andrea Ridout.
The company is also quite proud of its stock of native grasses. A popular choice is little bluestem, which has moved out of the pasture and into suburban landscapes.
This tough native can take the extremes of Texas weather and still bounce back every year. Not only is its blue tinge quite striking all summer but the deep roots help to conserve topsoil.
In the fall, it turns a shimmering bronze as its dried stems provide nesting material for birds.It’s also a larval host for skipper butterflies. So many benefits and that’s just from one plant.
MORE TREES, PLEASE
Trees are also an important part of the Rooted In plant selection. Some of their top picks include shade trees like chinquapin and Monterey oaks, or smaller ornamental trees like desert willow and an extensive selection of redbud cultivars. Like native grasses, trees can help to preserve topsoil and they provide shade to both homes and people, something we sure need more of here in the south.
A few “adapted” plants are in the mix well — selected because that don’t cause harm to our native environment. Cunningham points out the unusual lemon fizz santolina, which looks like a mossy man’s beard.
Lemon fizz santolina. Photo by Andrea Ridout.
He notes that even though it’s a European native, it has many practical uses here. Its dried leaves are used in sachets and potpourris. Its foliage is historically used as a natural insecticide. It can also be used medicinally on insect bites as pain relief.
Rooted In offers a variety of classes year-round. Photo by Andrea Ridout.
Education is a key element of Rooted In’s vision, with the company’s program coordinator, Tamaron Hunt, running a varied schedule all year long. A restored historic home on the property serves as a classroom, which is often bustling with folks who come from as far away as Fort Worth, Waxahachie and Tyler.
On this day, dozens of plants are lined up on long tables, ready for an upcoming terrarium workshop. Many classes are either free or quite inexpensive, with both online and in-person options available. The company has partnered with several local municipalities to offer lessons on native landscapes, water-wise plantings and Master Gardener training.
With the holiday season underway, the Rooted In team is decking the halls. They’ll soon be stocking the store with nature-themed ornaments, living Christmas trees as well as fresh-cut trees, plus real pine and fir garland and wreaths. Be sure to check out their Christmas trees made from pallets that we featured in a previous edition of Green Source DFW.
Future plans for the facility include a 30,000 gallon rain cistern for watering the nursery and two large open-air greenhouses that will provide shade for flora, fauna and visitors on hot summer days.
So head up to Rooted In and see what all the buzz is about. You’ll enjoy spending the day at the nearby bergs of Pilot Point and Celina, both infused with small-town history and charm. You might just put down some roots of your own.
ROOTED IN GARDEN TIPS
1. Fall is the best time to plant. Not only is it the time of year when we typically see cooler temperatures and more reliable rainfall (when compared to summer), but it's also the biggest stretch between us and 100+ degree temperatures. See Rooted In's Top 100 Plants for North Texas.
2. Pick the right plants for the right spot. Tailor plant material for the size of your landscape, the sunlight available, as well as your property’s soil type.
3. Incorporate and/or topdress with compost. Whatever type of soil you have, compost is a great soil conditioner, adding organic matter, which works like a sponge to infiltrate more water (when we do get rain) and holding onto that moisture during the drier times. It also helps add both micro and macro nutrients, as it breaks down over time.
4. Plant properly to ensure long-term success. Dig a rough hole that is 2-3 times the diameter of the container the plant or tree was grown in. Especially for those with the heavy clay soils that dominate the region, make sure the base, crown or root flare sits above the existing soil grade after planting. Planting too deep can cause drainage issues and can contribute to pest and disease issues
5. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch. The addition of 2 to 4 inches of your favorite plant-based mulch not only reduces weed competition, but also helps to regulate extreme soil temperatures, in addition to (like compost) helping infiltrate more water and hold that moisture into the soil for longer periods.
Rooted In Nursery, 12804 Pelzel Rd, Pilot Point 76258. 979-777-4522.
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