The purple people of Bordine Nursery are an institution in Rochester Hills.
But why purple?
General Manger Heather Glenday is a graduate of the Michigan State University horticulture program and has been with Bordine for seven springs. While she may know everything about plants, the purple people question had her stumped. So she called in the big guns, vice president and 30-year Bordine veteran Fiona Brinks.
As Brinks tells it, the answer to why Bordine employees wear purple and why so much purple decorates the nursery is simple: it all boils down to the striking combination of purple and grey hair.
According to Brinks, she and owner Bruce Bordine were in Florida in the early 1990s on a buying trip. When Bordine was running low on shirts, they went to a local Target to buy more.
Brinks teased Bordine that a purple shirt would look great with his grey hair, and as a matter of fact it did. They were both so struck with the vibrant color that they decided to make it the official uniform color of Bordine Nursery.
In 1993 a large highway billboard featured a number of Bordine workers in their purple garb. And so the name was coined: "the purple people."
It started with a roadside stand
With more than 70 years of history, Bordine has its share of stories of how it has transformed from a roadside stand to the largest family-owned production and retail nursery in Michigan.
Darrell and Marian Bordine opened their stand in 1939. Bordine Nursery now has four locations, employing 600 people each spring, including about 50 teenagers here in Rochester Hills.
But no matter how big Bordine gets, they still hold on to their roots.
"The geranium was Marian's favorite flower," Glenday said. "It's still a very important flower for us. It's her legacy."
Another legacy is the Bordine administration building on Rochester Road: the family once lived there.
The family-owned business is now in its third generation with brothers Corey and Calvin running the day-to-day business. They do have some help from past and future generations.
Second generation patriarch Bruce comes up from Florida every spring to help with the massive shipping out of their Grand Blanc location. And the fourth generation is digging in, too. Corey's daughter Addison works as cashier, nephew Lucas does carryout and even Calvin's little ones help pot plants.
It seems like the green thumb gene runs strong in the Bordine family.
Spring Garden Expo
The Expo runs Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and includes everything you need to get your yard and garden ready for the season.
"It's our kickoff to spring," Glenday said. "It's where we provide what people really want to know and it shows what we're really good at."
Bordine is known for having a great selection. Glenday gave this sneak peak of what's new for this season (see the photo gallery for the flowers in all their glory):
- A daisy-like double annual called Osteospermum, 3D Purple;
- A very unique rusty orange petunia called Happy Copper;
- A Sunburst Orange Splash marigold with orange and yellow streaking;
- The Coleus, Wasabi, a chartreuse colored annual that pops with color;
- The perennial Hibiscus, Summer Storm out of Zeeland, Mich., and
- The Sunshine Daydream rose which won All American Rose Selection for 2012.
The Expo, called "Paint Your Landscape," will include landscapers, deck companies, garden clubs and master gardeners.
"We'll also have dozens of experts from our vendors to answer questions and have three seminars daily at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.," Glenday said.
The day also includes sales, raffles, exclusive drawings, concession stands and activities for the kids.
"Quality plants and the education to be successful in your garden, that's what we're all about at Bordine's," Glenday said.
Bordine Nursery is located at 1835 South Rochester Road. Call 248-651-9000 with questions.