Flowers, trees, succulents and cacti sprawl across Green Things' 13 acres of land just east of the Rillito River. 

Fields of snapdragons stretch toward greenhouses in the distance, the Catalina Mountains looming beyond. 

This is the kind of place where you take a deep breath, slow down and enjoy the colors and textures surrounding you.

Especially if you're here for the local nursery's Succulent Bowls and Mimosas class. 

Now you're really ready to relax. 

Opened in 1970, Green Things, 3384 E. River Road, had two previous owners before Jan Westenborg purchased the property in 2004. Under Westenborg's supervision, the nursery has blossomed into a local oasis for gardening geeks. 

"When I started, we were 70 percent wholesale and 30 percent retail," Westenborg, 65 says. "It's now the opposite." 

Westenborg purchased the nursery after more than 20 years of a career in software. 

"People are always like, 'This must have been a dream you had from when you were young,'" she says. "And I'm like, 'No. Honestly, I had no idea I would ever own a plant nursery.' I mean, I had a Creeping Charlie in my college dorm room and that's about it." 


Jan Westenborg purchased Green Things in 2004. She has changed the nursery's focus from wholesale to retail. 

When she moved from Dallas to Tucson in 2001, she started working with landscapers on her own property. Soon, she was landscaping other people's yards. 

She didn't know much about plants. 

"When you're in high tech, you're traveling 75 percent of the time..." she says. "Customers don't understand what you're doing, so there's no appreciation for what you're doing ... it's an invisible profession. No one touches or feels or understands what you're doing ... This is completely the other way ... I'm dealing with greenhouses, plants, people — things you touch and feel and are right there, so it's more gratifying." 


A colorful field of flowers greets you at Green Things, 3384 E. River Road. 

When Westenborg took over, she rebuilt many of the greenhouses. Customers included landscaping companies, local resorts, grocery stores and the University of Arizona. Green Things did landscaping for La Encantada for about 10 years, she says. 

"I gave up La Encantada because I was spending all of this time making it beautiful and thought, 'Why don't I make my own place beautiful?'" she says. "Once I did that, I started hiring different kinds of people for customer service and merchandising ... and about three years ago is when we really started focusing on social media." 

One thing that hasn't changed: The poinsettias the nursery grows every year. Green Things has always had a reputation for its holiday harvest and now grows more poinsettias than ever — 25,000 every year, Westenborg says. 

The nursery has about 30 greenhouses covering more than 100,000 square feet, Westenborg says. The nursery grows about 60 to 70 percent of what it sells. 


The 13-acre property has about 30 greenhouses covering 100,000 square feet. That's a lot of plants. 

Social media has helped the nursery push its newer reputation as a public retailer — and helped Westenborg and her staff keep up with trends. 

"House plants seemed to be going out of style when I bought this in 2004, and I would say in the last three years they have made a resurgence..." Westenborg says. "(Customers) see fiddle leaf figs and zz plants and some of these other plants on Pinterest and the way they look, and now they have come back." 

Westenborg lists off other plant trends she sees: Air plants, carnivorous plants and vertical gardening; herbs, vegetables and fruit trees — a result of the farm-to-table movement; spicy peppers such as ghost and scorpion peppers; cactus for drought tolerance. And of course, succulents. 


Green Things tries to host classes that teach people to enjoy gardening. 

"We've done classes on and off, but we really got them going in the last few years or so," Westenborg says. "Succulents have been so popular and fairy gardens." 

Cathy Day, an employee of four years, teaches most of the classes and brainstorms new ideas with Westenborg. 

You'll notice that while the nursery does host more traditional gardening classes, it also hosts classes that make gardening sound like the absolute best way you could spend a morning. 

"My goal in every class is just to kind of give people confidence in planting a garden, and I like to make it fun..." Day, 52, says. "If it's the fairy garden class, I have my fairy wings and my wand, and I induct all of the kids into fairy land." 


Cathy Day, right, demonstrates how to build a wood-pallet succulent garden-making during a weekend workshop at Green Things, 3384 E. River Road, on Sept. 23, 2017. The main elements for a vertical pallet garden are cocoa core and green moss for filler between plants.

Classes draw all ages, from kids to seniors, and especially help attract customers during summer months, Day adds. Classes usually only cost the price of supplies. 

Last weekend, gardeners created succulent pallet gardens. This Saturday, the class will transition from yoga and stretching to meditation to the creation of a mini meditation garden. How's that for your weekend zen? 


This is what a completed pallet garden looks like. 

"I've done anything from cooking classes to herbal salve classes, so I'm pretty eclectic," Day says. She has plans for upcoming holiday and fall container garden classes. 

In the future, Day and Westenborg are looking to host a watercolor and wine class and expand into weekend retreats. 

"We know that people enjoy the classes, and it's a way of showing people how to enjoy plants," Westenborg says. 

People can't get enough succulents with mimosas and fairy gardens. Those classes return often. The Succulent Bowls and Mimosas class sometimes attracts between 120 and 150 attendees, Day says. Watch for Green Things Facebook events — that's where you RSVP. 

"I love to get families in here," Day says. "I'm into sustainability, and I think it's important when families come together and they plant together and it's a bonding experience." 

Upcoming events

Yoga with Mini Meditation Gardens in the Greenhouse

What: This class will include 10 to 15 minutes of yoga stretches, a meditation session and the creation of mini meditation gardens. 

When: 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Sept. 30. 

Where: Green Things, 3384 E. River Road

RSVP: On the event page at

Fairy Garden Workshop 

What: Build a miniature world with succulents and fairies. 

When: 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Oct. 7. 

Where: Green Things, 3384 E. River Road.

RSVP: On the event page at

Succulent Bowls + Mimosas

What: Plant a succulent bowl while sipping mimosas. Pretty self explanatory. 

When: 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Oct. 14. 

Where: Green Things, 3384 E. River Road.

RSVP: On the event page at

Kids Magic Pumpkin Class

What: Stuff miniature plastic pumpkins with whatever plants you choose. 

When: 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Oct. 21. 

Where: Green Things, 3384 E. River Road.

RSVP: On the event page at