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Our History

Norman Cole, Sr. grew up farming near Bristol, Tennessee. After working hard and saving up his money for many years, he purchased some land in Springville, Virginia in 1937 and moved his young family to start Cole Nurseries. Back then, the focus was growing a wide variety of plant material for the wholesale trade and for company use to landscape local homes around the Bluefield, VA/WV area. 

Norman Cole, Jr graduated from from Ohio State University in 1954 with a degree in Ornamental Horticulture and joined the family business in 1956 after a tour of duty in Germany with his wife, Cherie.

In 1957, father and son moved operations to West Virginia where they could have a little more space to grow. Norman, Sr. worked primarily on a farm in the hills of Pipestem, while Norman, Jr. focused on a farm 30 minutes away at Barger Springs in a curve of the Greenbrier River. The combined nurseries of Pipestem and Barger Springs provided over 100 farmed acres of assorted B&B woody landscape material including rhododendron, hollies, conifers, and shade trees to the wholesale trade.

Norman, Sr. had a passion for interesting cultivars and recognized deviations in his fields. In 1959, after observing many promising plants, Cole Nurseries patented Ilex crenata 'Highlander' PP # 2272, or Highlander Holly.

Norman Cole, III joined the family business in 1990 after graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in Horticulture. He soon found a passion for boxwood and planted their first Buxus Green Velvet in 1993.

In the early 2000s, Norman III started pulling plants from field blocks that showed interesting and diverse characteristics from their parent plants and placing them in observation beds for possible propagation. In 2004, while driving around the farm at Pipestem, he stopped to cut down a plant in a field that he first thought was an oddball Green Velvet mixed in with a block of Buxus microphylla. When he walked closer, he realized the plant was a unique deviation from the parent Buxus microphylla and decided instead to dig it up and move it to the observation beds. 

Over the years, Norman III's observation beds became more and more full. After many seasons of evaluation, some of the plants showed great promise and were graded to be worth developing and propagating. Through a partnership with Star Roses and Plants, Buxus microphylla 'Highlander,' named as an homage to Norman, Sr's Highlander Holly, was patented and released in 2011, and the plant Norman III almost cut down was patented and released as Buxus microphylla 'Little Missy' in 2013.

B&B production continues at Cole Nurseries on the farm in Pipestem, and the search for interesting cultivar deviations never stops. Norman III continues pulling exciting things from the B&B fields for observation and possible propagation.

In 2022, Norman III and his wife, Missy, the namesake for 'Little Missy,' created Little Plants to focus on new plant development and creating plant varieties to meet changing market needs. Little Plants is proud to premier a new cultivar in 2024 and looks forward to more exciting releases as they are developed.

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