A Brief History of a Family-Owned Nursery
After serving the United States Merchant Marine during the Second World War, George Dunegan lived for some years in San Francisco. He loved
it. In fact, it was said that George loved the place so much he almost never left. Despite his affection, in 1953 George made his return to
Pennsylvania. While no one is really sure what all propelled the man back to the area where he grew up, we do have a pretty good idea where
much of his interest lied; within months of returning George purchased land near the Indiana/Cambria County border. Making good use of acres
that had long been cleared for agriculture, George went to work growing a small selection of evergreen seedlings. They were sown in '53 and for
sale in '55. George named the operation Dunegan Nursery.
Possessing an insatiable curiosity in growing, George found an inspiration in the James S. Wells publication: Plant Propagation Practices.
After years of success in growing seedlings and grafting various evergreen trees – most notably Colorado spruce varieties - George expanded
on Wells' methods of using rooting hormones and environmental controls to begin growing rhododendron and deciduous azalea varieties from
cutting. Just like Wells in that he possessed no formal education in horticulture, George instead utilized his practical and professional
knowledge of chemistry and electronics to create a propagation program for various species of plants which at that time had never been widely
grown from cutting. Witnessed once late at night by an employee, that assistant remarked, "I saw George in the greenhouse late at night. He
was working on plants and there were bottles of chemicals everywhere. He looked like a mad scientist!"
Certainly not mad, only diligent in his craft, George Dunegan was practicing what would eventually provide the longstanding reputation and
success for Dunegan nursery:
A dedication to perfecting growing
Fueled by his experimentation and innovation, Dunegan Nursery began moving away from large-scale growing and wholesaling of Christmas
trees and into the propagation and wholesaling of container-grown nursery stock. By the mid 1970's Dunegan Nursery had expanded to include
a greenhouse dedicated to propagation and numerous structures for growing liners and overwintering container plants. Two reservoirs were
then in use for irrigating the expanding supply of nursery stock. Material was being sold regionally to a number of re-wholesalers, garden
centers and landscapers. His plant quality was superior. News of his effort had gotten out. By 1978 it had become quite an operation for
George Dunegan to handle alone.
Nursery stock was expanded through this period as well; field-grown balled and burlapped material was offered for the first time and the palette
of available rhododendron, deciduous azalea and holly continued to grow. George continued his experimenting with propagation techniques
and by the 90's had rekindled his interest in grafting. His work with various evergreens and Japanese maples became an inspiration for Tim
who, by the end of the 90's, developed his own interest in grafting and growing a variety of plants that had not yet been produced in any number
on the nursery.
The years of the new millennium have been the most transitional for Dunegan Nursery since George and Tim partnered up more than two
decades ago. A new generation has assisted in the operation: Tim's son and George's grandson, Warren Dunegan and a close friend of the
family, Mark Brady provided much to the operation throughout the decade. Mark was especially helpful in assisting Tim in his efforts to refocus
the nursery from being a large scale rhododendron growing operation to becoming the wide variety grower and supplier to regional landscapers
and garden centers that it is today.
Company founder, father and grandfather George Dunegan passed away in 2003. Leaving behind a legacy of innovation, hard work and love for
his family, George's memory today is nearly as strong as his presence was then. His effort in work and in love was extraordinary for any human
being. For his son, his family and anyone gifted the fortune to know the man; their every step forth has been made with a more confident
direction, a more honest optimism and a more open heart.
With the benefit of living much of his life under such an influence, Tim has guided Dunegan Nursery confidently through its latest transformation.
Owing as much to his father as to his own experience, Tim continues to carry out what has provided the longstanding reputation and success for
A dedication to perfecting growing
Not requiring much convincing, George's son Tim Dunegan came on
board that spring. Possessing his own interest in growing and having
always treasured the land and the setting of the nursery, Tim made an
effortless transition to managing the daily operations. Production saw
a boost; the last cut of Christmas trees was made in 1979, and all
effort was then focused on container-grown material. Owing to Tim's
assistance, plants were being grown to larger sizes. Budded and
blossoming rhododendron were offered for sale for the first time. Tim
quickly absorbed the instruction from his dad: Propagating, growing,
managing and selling. Now piloted by a spirited father-son team,
Dunegan Nursery was producing quality and quantities besting any
The output continued through the 1980's. The nursery's structures
and infrastructure expanded to suit: Two 13,000 square foot holding
buildings were constructed. A 4,200 square foot soil mixing and
potting barn was added near the end of the decade. Numerous
additional hoop houses, roads and irrigation zones were installed. In
the 1990's two more irrigation reservoirs and an additional pump
house were built.
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