The Halsey Greenhouse

Three generations of Halseys: Tom, Dot, Adam, Lauren and Eli. The Halseys have been an East End farming family since 1747, when Abraham Halsey bought 17 acres at Head of the Pond.

A favorite of home gardeners seeking seedlings.

WATERMILL—When Dot Halsey stopped teaching in 1969, her husband, Tom Halsey, built an 8- by 10-foot wood-frame greenhouse to keep her busy. Her grandfather was a gardener for a large estate in East Hampton, so plants were in her DNA. She started with marigolds, petunias and snapdragons as well as seedlings of eggplant, tomato and peppers. What began as a hobby soon expanded into ever-larger greenhouses. Today, they have three acres of annual plant production, two acres of greenhouses and an acre outside where plants are hardened. This is in addition to 80 other acres under field cultivation of vegetables and flowers sold in their farm stand called the Halsey Farm Store.

Today in the greenhouse nursery, salvia, geraniums, guinea impatiens, begonias, pansies, dahlia, lobelia and lantana are among the 50 varieties of flowers they grow as seedlings, creating a riot of color. They grow a large selection of Asian greens, arugula, tatsoi and many other vegetables. Dot says, “This gives home gardeners a choice of varieties from an extensive selection.” When Dot bought Tom a holly bush for their first anniversary, little did they dream that Holly Hill Nursery would be such a big, satisfying operation.

In a relatively short period of time as their greenhouse business expanded, they stopped farming potatoes. That was in 1980. They developed a loyal following. But Adam Halsey, their son, says, “The deer have changed the way people buy plants. People used to buy 15 flats of impatiens, but now, we see the change from large annual beds to container gardening in pots on the porch or around pools that have to be fenced.”

The Halseys sell strictly retail, including to some prestigious landscape designers who buy retail from them because of their great product. In pricing they try to be competitive but would never sacrifice quality. I have never seen such a spotless, pristine, well-organized, well-watered place with hoses coiled like sculpture on the wall. Dot says, “We hire knowledgeable people who care about plants and who can help design planters for customers.” They grow everything themselves as opposed to a garden center that buys plants elsewhere. Tom says, “We pamper the flowers and vegetable seedlings in the heated greenhouse and water them generously.” Adam adds, “We control the greenhouse temperatures and harden off the plants to go outside, making a healthier plant for our customers.” Tom says, “It’s not all work, we have a lot of fun from February to May. We enjoy the nice clean smells, and the peace and quiet when it’s just you and the plants.” Tom and Adam particularly like it when they can watch the snow piling up outside. Dot Halsey says, “Working in the greenhouse in the winter, spring comes early for us.”

This time of year, they look forward to welcoming back old customers who have become friends. Dot says, “Some people like to take a walk in the greenhouse to be inspired and to see what new varieties are available.”

Now that son Adam, a 12th-generation Halsey farming on Long Island, owns the farm, which consists of the Halsey Farm Store as well as the greenhouse nursery, the operation is called Halsey Farm and Nursery, Inc., a name that more clearly defines the business. Dot and Tom still work with their son. Tom Halsey says, “We’re not keen on travel and aren’t ready to retire so we’re happy to farm with Adam.”