A longtime Island landscaper has purchased Heather Gardens, the West Tisbury garden center and nursery that has been supplying Vineyard gardeners for 35 years. 

Tara Gayle, owner of Gayle Gardens Landscape Design, bought the 3.2-acre parcel on State Road last week for $2.1 million. In an interview with the Gazette, she said she plans to continue running a nursery there with hopes of including more organic and native plants. 

“I think it’s really special to keep plant production and nurseries healthy and alive out here,” said Ms. Gayle, whose landscaping company specializes in regenerative and ecologically-focused designs.

Sourcing Island plants over more popular seasonal favorites had become a challenge in recent years, prompting Ms. Gayle to start considering opening her own nursery. 

When Heather Gardens went up for sale, she knew that would be a great location and feared the property could have become an offshoot of a larger flower operation, ridding the space of its former charm.

“I didn’t want it to be anything else,” said Ms. Gayle, a board member with the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation. “I want to continue [its] legacy and not see it become some tool shed.” 

Heather Gardens was founded in 1988 by Kevin Hearn, who turned a life-long gardening hobby into a business after a 22-year career with the New England Telephone Co. He and his wife, Roberta, named the nursery for their daughter Heather (Hearn) Maciel, who later ran it.

It was later acquired by Tom Richardson and Terri Cook, who hired Mike Saunier as its manager in 2003 and sold the nursery to him in 2008.

In a 2008 interview with the Gazette, Mr. Saunier talked about the nursery’s reputation for growing most of its plants from seed on-Island. He said 85 to 90 percent of the plants he sold were locally grown.

“The advantage to growing your own plants is that they’ll already be acclimated to the climate you want them to thrive in,” he said.

Ms. Gayle, a longtime customer of Heather Gardens, admired the business’s perennials and dedication to rare plants not often found in the Vineyard market.

“It’s a smaller operation, it’s not a giant nursery, but they’re very intentional in what they offer,” she said. 

Mr. Saunier, in a phone interview from Worcester Wednesday, said he was looking forward to new blood at his former property.

“We’ve been doing it for 20 years and we felt like it was time to move on to be closer to our families,” he said. 

Mr. Saunier was grateful to his employees, many who had worked the gardens for almost all of his tenure. 

“The staff was not large, but I’d say most of them were there with me for 15 to 18 years each,” he said. 

He was also impressed by Ms. Gayle and her hard work ethic. 

“I think she will be successful here,” he said. 

Ms. Gayle intends to reopen Heather Gardens, which will be renamed to Gayle Gardens, for the annual winter boutique sale held around Thanksgiving. She expected to fully open the business in 2024.