Richard Eyre developed a passion for gardening and conifers at a very early age. He was influenced by his parents and grandparents who were avid gardeners. In the early 1950s, Rich's parents met Pete Girard Sr. at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show where Pete was demonstrating tree grafting. Rich's mother Margaret grew trees from Girard's in a home nursery for their construction business projects, and Rich was fascinated with the more unusual trees in their catalog. In 1968, while working for the Peace Corps, Rich found a copy of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden series on dwarf conifers by Fred Bergman in his Peace Corps book locker in Bolivia. And it was while working in the Amazon jungle that he dreamed of raising rare conifers for a living. On his return in 1970, he began building his conifer collection. He realized his dream with his wife Susan and mother Margaret when they launched the business. The first trees were planted at Foxwillow Pines Nursery in 1988. After 31 years in business, Rich and Susan hope to retire in 2019.
The six acres at Rich's Foxwillow Pines lie in the terminal moraine where the kettle is highlighted as a major water feature. A decades old weeping ginkgo tree majestically reigns over the waterfall and two pools that feed into the pond under the holey boulder bridge. After the Eyres purchased the property in 1983, they discovered the sandy clay/loam soil type was ideal for growing conifers. Fifty-year-old weed trees - box elder, choke cherry, poplar and elm - predominated at the edge of the oak-hickory woodland. They were cleared, leaving the natural reseeding from the adjoining virgin oak and hickory forest.
Rich is particularly fond of Asian plants and his own collection of dozens of Pinus parviflora cultivars reflects this interest. Some of his best Asian plants are located in the rock garden that was originally constructed for the Illinois-Wisconsin Rock Garden Society meeting in 1992. The rock garden features sedums, semperviva, saxafrages, and alpine plants.
Part of the nursery is laid out like a botanical garden or arboretum, featuring mixed plantings of conifers and unusual and rare trees. The green-blue conifer woodland is accentuated by the yellows of Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Ogon', the reds of Japanese maples and the purples of European beeches. On a corner, a large-leaved Magnolia tripetala strikes a tropical note.
Hoop houses are filled with smaller pots of trees, while large containers line the paths. The old spruce garden is now home to larger b&b and container trees. Under the massive willow sits 'Hosta Haven', where volunteers take care of hundreds of hostas that are sold to benefit Heifer International.
Rich and Susan Eyre’s 1990 purchase of a 30-acre farm a few miles from the
Rich's Foxwillow Pines Nursery carries conifers and rare trees for retail customers and the wholesale trade. Conifers come in a variety of shapes, textures and colors. Gardening with conifers adds interest to a garden by incorporating unusual growth habits: columnar (fastigiate), globe-shaped, vase-shaped, narrow or broad pyramid, prostrate, spreading, weeping (pendulous), mounding, flattened globe or nested shape, bun shape, irregular, erratic or pruned.
Conifers are classified in four categories of growth: Miniatures (M) grow less than 1 inch per year, Dwarfs (D) grow 1-6’’ per year, Intermediates (I) grow 6-12’’ per year and Larges (L) grow more than 12’’ per year. These growth rates have been determined by the American Conifer Society. On this website, our ten-year growth averages are based on our 40 years of experience in Zone 5a. The numbers are estimates based on average soil and moisture condition in the first 10 years of the plant’s life from graft. Extraordinary growing conditions could modify information. West and East coast growth estimates can be quite a bit different.
Dwarf conifers are perfect for small urban or suburban gardens. Landscape size specimens are grown for the collector, homeowner, or landscape contractor/architect. We can provide the right tree for the right place for home owners, landscapers, landscape architects, rock gardeners, perennial gardeners, garden railroad enthusiasts, conifer collectors, arboretums, commercial projects, rooftop gardens, gardens with a small footprint, shady sites or full sun areas.
Each spring we get a shipment of mini conifers in small pots. These are perfect for container gardens, fairy gardens, model railroad gardens, and small rock gardens. These can also be used as beginning bonsai stock.
We can help our customers be garden-artists painting the landscape with our expanded palette of plants. Bring photos of your yard or a plat of survey and we will help you create a masterpiece! Know how much sun those areas receive in the summer. Do a drainage test to determine the permeability of the soil. Then select plants with appropriate growth rates for that area. You will create a sanctuary that your whole family can enjoy!
Our lives were enriched greatly by becoming more committed to the goals of the organization known as Heifer Project International. In more difficult areas of the world, to support a family, farmers are given farm animals to help solve hunger and nutrition problems. The farmer is required to 'Pass on the Gift' and give the first female offspring to another family in need. Rich and Susan are volunteers and former trustees of the Heifer International Foundation. In September 1997, the Board of Trustees met in Honduras and we visited several project sites. The farmers thanked HPI profusely for improving the nutritional value and health of their families. It was incredible to see the process work and to share the incredible success of the program. HPI provides a micro-credit loan of an animal. The gift is passed on and on and on. Our experience in Honduras was an affirmation and empowerment of the future for us to try to dedicate more time to solve the huge problem of world hunger. We encourage you to support HPI and those in need in the greater one world community in which we live. HPI is the best vehicle we have found that achieves the goals in which we believe.
RFWP supported Heifer for several decades by holding 'Hosta Happenings' in June and August, fundraisers where the proceeds from the sale of hostas went directly to HPI. Rich's mother Margaret Eyre, who passed away in early 2016, spearheaded the hosta sales. She and a dedicated group of volunteers dug up, divided, potted up, and cared for the hostas. These volunteers carry on this work today.
Call HPI at 800-422-0474 or visit their website: www.heifer.org.
Rich Eyre first heard of Mano a Mano International Partners at the 40th reunion of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers from Bolivia, held in 2008 in Estes Park, Colorado. In 1994 Segundo Velasquez (raised in Cochabamba, Bolivia) and his wife Joan (a former Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia) founded Mano a Mano International Partners, a Minnesota-based non-profit organization. Its mission is to create partnerships with rural Bolivian communities to improve health and increase economic well-being. So far they have built 163 public clinics, 62 schools, over 800 miles of roads, 8 water reservoirs, 45 surface wells, 276 water ponds, and rescued over 3000 critically ill or injured patients through their aviation program. The clinics alone provide 700,000 rural Bolivians with access to healthcare. And, there's more to what they do beyond the numbers. They partner directly with local governments and communities to provide their services. Rich and Susan have seen first-hand how effective these partnerships are in their visits to rural Bolivia and they whole-heartedly support this humanitarian organization.
RFWP now supports Mano a Mano through the sale of hostas and colorful Bolivian handicrafts during the 'Hosta Happenings' in June and August. With the probable retirement of Rich & Susan at the end of 2018, the final Benefit for Bolivia/Hosta Happening Finale will be Saturday, September 8th.
Presentations and Group Tours
Rich and Susan are available for speaking engagements with a variety of Powerpoint presentations. Group tours of the nursery are available to horticulture classes, garden clubs, or other interested groups. Box lunches or local restaurants can be recommended. The sales staff looks forward to answering questions on conifers or siting problems and can provide landscape design information at the nursery.
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