November 20, 2009

Bristol Mums owner dead at 63

The owner of Bristol Mums - Jerry Heresko -- has died at age 63. It's a real loss to the community.
Here's what reporter Jackie Majerus wrote about him back in 2007:

Jerry Heresko knows his mums.

Owner of Bristol Mums Inc., he oversees the cultivation of hundreds of thousands of the city's namesake flower every year, shipping them across the country and into Canada as well as selling to friends and neighbors around town.

About 200,000 tiny mums – with and without roots – are sent out by mail every spring, said Heresko.

They're about three or four inches tall, said Heresko, who said he packs them into boxes of 500 plants each.

"We do another 30,000 flowering plants in the fall," said Heresko.

Many of them go to landscapers, Heresko said, but there's also a steady stream of homeowners who come to buy the popular fall flowers.

The city buys about 1,000 mum plants each year, said Heresko, and ESPN buys almost that many. Chippanee Golf Club and housing developments are among the many others who use his mums to beautify their grounds, he said.

Bristol Mums, at 50 Pinehurst Road, used to be part of Bristol Nurseries, said Heresko, who has owned Bristol Mums since 1987 but has worked at the company for 42 years.

Bristol Mums offers more than the basic yellow, purple and white flowers.

"We catalog about 75 to 80" varieties, said Heresko, who created some of them himself.

One of them, he said, is named Vampire.

"It's a bright red," he said. "It's a late flowering one."

He named another variety Carousel. That one, a spider mum, was developed by Roderick Cumming, the son of one of the company's two founders.

Heresko said the breeding and research work he does to develop new varieties is what he likes best as a farmer, but misses most as a business owner because he doesn't have time for it.

Trying to keep the business thriving leaves less time for growing plants, according to Heresko.

"Small business and farming is on the wane in this state," said Heresko.

Bristol Mums has four acres of growing space – two inside greenhouses and two acres of outdoor land for the container-grown plants.

"The original hardy mum was started in Bristol," said Heresko, who remembers when the land across the street was a field of mums. "We used to have bus tours and everything."

In addition to mums, the company grows thousands of geraniums, New Guinea Impatiens, and other plants for hanging baskets. At Christmas, there are poinsettias for sale.

Shoppers looking for Bristol Mums have to go to the source, said Heresko, who said it is "not likely" that any mums at local stores came from his farm, though he said Wojtusik's Nursery and Garden Center does sell them.

At Bristol Mums, the signature plants sell for $2 to $17 each, depending on the size.

Heresko said the popular favorites change from year to year.

"Generally, yellow's the most popular," said Heresko. "This year, red has been fantastically popular."

His own favorite of those he's developed, Heresko said, are the Sombrero, a bright yellow football mum, with blooms that measure four or five inches across.

Some of them are planted in Longwood Gardens, botanical gardens in Pennsylvania, he said.

As for his own yard, Heresko said he's got some mums planted.

"Not as much as people think I do," he said. "I'm never home!"

Bristol Mums is open year round, Heresko said, but there isn't a lot of action in the early part of the year. That's when he's growing the young mums to mail out in the spring, he said.

The spring is the busiest time, said Heresko, with about 10 people working at the company. Fall is plenty busy, too, but the staff then numbers about five, he said.

The secret of mums

Want to keep your mums happy and bring them back year after year?

Jerry Heresko, owner of Bristol Mums Inc., said it's all about the dirt.

"Mums like well-drained, loose soil," said Heresko.

Generally, mums don't freeze, he said.

"They'll rot out first," said Heresko.

Don't toss the snow onto the sleeping mums, Heresko advised.

"The biggest thing is the drainage," said Heresko. "They don't like to be soggy wet."

Wet and muddy soil is deathly for mums, according to Heresko.

"That's the curse," he said.

Mums also appreciate their space, according to Heresko.

"They do not compete very well with other plants, including weeds," said Heresko.

Many homeowners, Heresko said, tuck mums in with green shrubs, but the plants don't do well there.

It's best to give them room, he said.

Mums also like full sun, said Heresko, and

Mums are hungry, too, according to Heresko, and love fertilizer. He said they like a neutral soil and respond well to slow release fertilizer.

"They like a lot of food," said Heresko.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at


Anonymous said...

A quiet contributor to Bristol.

Always had a friendly smile.

He will be missed!

Bill Stortz

Anonymous said...

HE WAS A GREAT MAN.Our condolences to the family.

Tim Gamache said...

Good man with a big heart.Went to school with both he and his brother Ken.A real loss for Bristol.He will indeed be missed!

Anonymous said...

A great guy with a positive outlook. I will miss him.

Anonymous said...

The greatest contributor to Bristol's Agricultural community in the last 50 years Bristol will always be missing a important piece on The Hill and that is Jerry