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There’s a very green business in Harford County that does some very green work.

Tucked away on North Furnace Road in Jarrettsville, Maryland Aquatic Nurseries is behind the beautiful home of Richard Shuck, owner of the business.

On the property are rows of greenhouses, serenaded by the croaking of frogs and toads.

“This place really sings at night,” laughed Shuck, speaking over the lovesong of mating toads.

The nursery supplies other nurseries and wholesalers with plants and fish for retail sale, as well as beautifies and stocks plants and fish for commercial and residential ponds and wetlands.

The recent trend of sales has been toward native plant materials and pond supplies, Kelly Billing, office manager at the nursery, said. As of this week, the nursery had 291 plants listed in its directory.

“The list changes all the time — we’re always adding things to the list and taking things back,” Billing said. “We’re primarily a wholesale grower; we do sell to gardeners in Maryland and the mid-Atlantic region, but we ship all over the United States.”

Shuck is no amateur when it comes to plants and pond designs; his own multi-tiered pond in his backyard has been photographed countless times, and has been featured in many magazines, including Chesapeake Home.

Shuck still remembers his first experience with ponds, back when he was a boy and his father made him his very own.

“It was no bigger than a bathtub and looked awful,” laughed a wistful Shuck,”but it was all mine, and it got me interested in the water.”

Schuck’s claim to fame are his patented floating islands and wetlands, which have been sating the salacious appetites of gardening green-thumbs across the country.

Simple in design yet beautiful in execution, the islands and wetlands are do-it-yourself container gardens that consist of specially designed plant containers nestled in floatation collars that have the ability to keep themselves partially submerged in a body or reservoir of water.

The bottoms of the containers have holes that allow water and biological matter to pass through them freely, allowing plants to grow and flourish, while the containers themselves can be customized to allow for any array of flora and fauna to rest atop them.

In time, Shuck explained, the plants grow to the point where they cover the entire visible portion of the containers, resulting in beautiful floating displays of floral artistry.

“It’s during the summertime that they really show their worth, at least on the surface,” Shuck said. “From the moment they’re placed, however, they’re improving the environment in which they’re placed.”

“Ponds support the entire gamut of the food chain,” Billing added. “We feed the birds, bacteria grows there, frogs grow there and fish as well.”

In addition to the floating islands and wetlands, Maryland Aquatic Nurseries is also known for its recent achievement of an official Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.

The property attracts a variety of birds, butterflies and other wildlife, while helping to protect the local environment. The nursery is one of 122,000 certified habitats nationwide, a feat the business is proud of.

“We applied for certification because we wanted to support the backyard wildlife program,” Billing said. “It’s a great idea.”

To attain certification, Billing said, the nursery had to meet four criteria.

“You have to have water available, and we’ve got lots of that,” Shuck laughed. “You have to have breeding or nesting areas; you have to have native plant material and you have to have cover for animals to seek shelter at.”

Schuck, for his part, is pleased to be certified.

“I’m more of a hands-on man; I like to be out on the field,” he said, “but I’m very honored to have such a distinction.”

Despite the instability of the economy, Billing said the nursery is thriving, based in-part on its beautification projects.

“The wholesale business has been down, but our environmental beautification projects have been strong,” said Schuck, whose recent project consisted of improving stormwater pond quality in Easton.

“The consumer backyard pond business is a little flat, but that can be for multiple reasons, besides just economic,” Billing said. “A lot of those jobs and orders are seasonal, for one, but there’s also the trickle-down effect from just having less to work with as opposed to in years past.”

Despite the downturn on the commercial end, Billing is extremely happy with the rise of environmental projects the nursery is taking on.

“A number of projects we’re working on are within the state, and that’s always exciting,” Billing said. “The environmental beautification jobs are always fantastic.”

“When you do jobs like these, I feel like we’re making a real difference.”


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