When Robyn Walters decided to open her own nursery, she didn’t have to think twice about the name. “Viola is my grandmother,” Walters says. “She wasn’t alive when I started the store, but her name fit perfectly with what I was doing.”
Walters had worked at a nursery for a long time and says she really enjoyed it. “I love working with flowers and I love helping customers, so starting my own nursery kind of just happened,” she adds. “I decided to open up and sell some flowers for a couple of months, and then I was planning to move.”
That was in 2001. The move never happened. And two decades later, Viola’s Flower Garden has expanded to include a special event and wedding venue in addition to the nursery. But helping people cultivate their own gardens is still at the heart of what Walters and her husband, Art Escobedo (pictured), do every day. “Viola’s has been described [as] a garden,” Escobedo says. “It’s not just tables and plants in a row — we have things laid out differently.” Plants are displayed the same way people would have them in their yards, so customers can get a good idea of what plants will look like in their own spaces.
The garden center sells seeds, annuals, perennials, trees, and vegetable and fruit plants, along with accompanying gardening materials such as soil and fertilizer. Most of the plants are brought in from California, Oregon and Washington state because Flagstaff has a relatively short growing season.
When it comes to planting anywhere in Arizona, Walters and Escobedo say it’s best to come in and talk to them for advice on getting started. Arizona’s climate can make it tricky to get the timing right to keep plants healthy, and the internet can provide only so much information. “We had frost here on June 20 this year,” Walters says. “You’re not going to learn that on the internet.”
Dina Barnese, a longtime Viola’s customer, says she appreciates the expertise Walters and Escobedo provide for gardeners in Flagstaff. “They know that some things will grow in Kachina Village and some things won’t, or that a particular shrub will thrive in Doney Park,” Barnese says. “They also make it a point to hire super-friendly staff who are eager to help their customers.”
For those just getting a garden off the ground, Walters recommends learning the basics before moving forward with planting. “Don’t give up, and water every day,” she says.
From July through October, you can find fresh produce for sale at Viola’s, and in October, the nursery opens a pumpkin patch that includes a straw maze, pumpkin decorating and other games. In fact, the seasonal nature of the business is what Escobedo says he enjoys most about operating Viola’s. “The best part is that it’s always changing,” he says. “As soon as you start getting tired of flowers, it changes. You get tired of pumpkins, it changes.”
Aside from visiting Viola’s for their gardening needs, Walters says, many people come in to walk around the nursery and relax during their lunch hour. “It’s nice to be known as part of this community,” Walters says. “We’re like our own little Viola’s family.”
Barnese echoes the sense of community that Viola’s has cultivated. “Robyn and Art are always thinking of new ways to run their business and provide more for the Flagstaff community,” she says. “And they truly care about their customers.”
Viola’s Flower Garden closes for the winter December 23 and reopens March 1 to help customers kick off spring gardening.
Viola’s Flower Garden
610 State Route 89A