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Verderber’s was founded more than 45 years ago. (Credit: David Benthal)

David Benthal, editorial, portrait, davidbenthal.com

From Main Road, Verderber’s Nursery and Garden Center (459 Main Road, Riverhead) may look like your average, cheerful little nursery, but the 110-acre Aquebogue property is practically a park — just the kind where you can take the plants home. 

Grab a wagon and wander into the Verderber’s myriad areas of botanical splendor, like the Sunken Garden, where you can browse a large selection of perennials, trees, shrubs, flowers, annual and seasonal plants or take a rest on a bench in one of the dramatic tree branch gazebos built from Eastern Red Cedar or Black Locust trees. Each section is marked with detailed information on the products, so gardeners know exactly what they’re buying and how to properly care for it. 

Save some energy to explore the gift shop, too, as it is always prolifically stocked with indoor and outdoor décor, trinkets, gardening essentials and gifts galore (and free coffee by the register). The garden center also has a full landscape division and offers various size specimens for wholesale. 

Run by husband-and-wife team John and Maria Verderber and their three children — John Edward, Joseph and Mary — the love for horticulture and landscape design runs in the family. John holds a Bachelor of Science degree in plant pathology and entomology from Cornell University, while Maria earned her business degree from Adelphi University. 

“We met quite a long time ago,” says Maria, “and we’ve been together forever.” 

Over 45 years later, their business is still going strong. In total, the Verderbers cultivate around 370 acres on the East End, with locations in Southampton, Mattituck, Southold and Aquebogue — where their headquarters is located.  

“We’ve always tried to make our garden center a destination garden center, where people can come walk around and get ideas,” Maria says. “People come from the South Fork to buy; people come as far as New Jersey to buy — people drive past many places to come here.”

Garden Pinwheels, $150-$210

These giant metal, eye-catching spinners will bring any garden to life. They especially shine on a windy day and Verderber’s sells several with intricate, vibrant designs with floral shapes and colors. 

Benches, $160-$1,500

Tuck an iron loveseat under a tree for shade during those sultry summer days or go for a more romantic feel to an outdoor space with a curved granite or stone bench. 

Deer resistant plants, $39.99-$189

Worried the deer might feast on your greenery? The Verderbers recommend implementing deer-resistant shrubbery to ward off any munchers. This includes blue Colorado spruce, ground cover juniper, delicate bell-shaped flowers called Andromeda and a multi-colored evergreen shrub known as Osmanthus. 

Pottery and other hard goods, $40-$300

Overflowing stacks of imported glazed pottery in a multitude of shades are a staple at Verderber Garden Center. It’s one of the largest selections in the North Fork. 

Fire pits, $85-$260

Summertime calls for backyard smores sessions and late-night hangs. The garden center offers small to medium-sized, already assembled fire pits to add warmth to those cooler, summer evenings. 

Bird baths, $75-$150

One of the center’s bestsellers and a vital decoration for the avian population. 

Edible native plants, $110-$250

Maria’s daughter, Mary, says a trend among the younger generation of homebuyers is incorporating perennial edible, native plants into their gardens. Not only do these plants require less maintenance — water, fertilizer, overall attention — but foraged foods provide nutrition and culinary diversity, as well as benefits to the entire ecosystem. Quench that summer fruit fix by planting blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. 

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