The History of Our Bonsai Nursery

About D&L Nursery

Our Journey: From a Love of Bonsai to a Thriving Nursery

About Us

A Serendipitous Beginning

Established in 1981, the D&L story began in classic fashion, “Man stops at a restaurant for lunch, meets an attractive woman, they fall in love, and the rest is history.” While that may sound cliché, it is, in fact, how some love stories begin, and for David VanBuskirk, originally from the Fort. Lauderdale area, and Linda Downing, from Paducah, Kentucky, it was exactly that.


The Dream Takes Root

At the time, David was a roofing contractor and Linda a waitress at a local restaurant in Ocala, Florida. Having stopped in at her restaurant, David met Linda and was immediately attracted to her personality and beauty. Linda enjoyed the pursuit, always reflecting on how she loved David’s patient persistence. It wouldn’t be long before they realized they shared a similar dream: a house on a hill overlooking a lake; one where you could put your shoes on, walk out the door, and be at work.

From Dream to Reality

It took only three years for that dream to materialize. While out exploring roads throughout Ocala National Forest, they stumbled upon a property outside the town of Ocklawaha. They knew they had the house on a lake, but it wasn’t until they purchased it and moved in that they realized exactly what they got. Not only did they have their slice of heaven, but it was large enough to accommodate their other dream: a rare and exotic plant nursery.

The Nursery Takes Root

Within a matter of time, David and Linda had over 400 varieties of plants. Little by little, they built a dream into a reality. To achieve the long-term goal of operating a nursery full time, David continued roofing while Linda cared for and managed the nursery. Starting with appointments, they evolved to full-time hours as the business grew. They would also vend at local plant fairs and gardening shows to help expand their experience and build a following.

Continuous Learning and Growth

Motivated both by knowledge and a pursuit of happiness, David and Linda took advantage of every opportunity available to learn and progress. In 1993, Linda became a certified Master Gardner through the State of Florida. Around the same time, David completed identification and flora courses at the local college and in the process built a sizable library of books on plants and the art of bonsai. They also attended events held by local clubs, public collections, and museums. David and Linda did anything they could to continue evolving their mutual dream.

The Bonsai Transition

By 2008 there was no denying the direction that D&L had taken. It was at this time the nursery became a fulltime, nothing but, bonsai nursery. While David had been growing bonsai since the late 70’s it wasn’t until customers kept invading his roped-off, personal collection of trees that David and Linda realized how much interest there was. In this section of the nursery, David’s personal collection of bonsai was not meant to be available to the public. Most were grown from cuttings or air layers, some collected, and the rest acquired as raw stock then later designed. In fact, David still has one of the first trees he trained into a bonsai, a Ficus salicaria, grown from a cutting in 1979. D&L is rare in that it has most of the original collection that began in the late 70’s and 80’s from the founding artist, David VanBuskirk.

Sharing the Passion - Workshops and Growth

Together David and Linda became fixtures in their local area for bonsai supplies and material. Linda would say she wasn’t the artist, and that David was, however, what he brought to bonsai she brought to life. And with that they began providing workshops. Unfortunately, only one person attended their first workshop. As discouraging as that felt, it motivated them to continue. Slowly but surely the newsletter subscribers and workshop participants grew.

Passing the Torch - The Next Generation

One of those participants would eventually be David Cutchin. In August 2011, David C first visited D&L with two junipers bought from a roadside vendor. At the time a Wildland Firefighter with the Forest Service, David C had taken up bonsai as means to relax after a stressful fire season and to fulfill a childhood interest. The day he came to D&L they were hosting a “Bring Your Own Tree” workshop. First, he met Linda and after an introduction to the nursery, David C joined the rest of the group. After staying for the entire six-hour workshop, he was met by Linda to check out and she said, “If you don’t feel like you got $25 out of this workshop, I will not charge you.” David C was blown away. Not only was it worth it, but David VB and Linda cared enough to sacrifice their income to ensure people went away with a positive experience. And so began the next chapter of D&L.

A New Beginning

Over the next two years, David C began volunteering at the nursery and attending meetings with a small study group there as well. Having left the Forest Service a year earlier, David C enrolled in school full time and, with the encouragement of family and friends, decided to begin pursuing bonsai as a profession. When David VB learned of his intentions, he took David C to sit under one of the largest southern live oaks on the nursery grounds. As they gazed up at the live oak’s natural arrangement and movement within David VB asked David C, “What do you see?” In this pivotal moment both Davids understood each other’s affection for the natural world and how that should translate to bonsai along with a shared perspective and a drive to do it well. From this point forward, David C began working at D&L part time on a weekly basis with the goal of becoming the nursery’s second-generation owner and operator.

Community and Appreciation

It was also during this time that David C’s spouse, Katie, began visiting and occasionally participating in workshops at D&L. Sometimes while the two Davids worked on trees together, Katie and Linda would hang out and propagate or arrange different grasses and succulents. Katie was also there the first time David C went with David VB to collect cypress for bonsai. While pursuing similar dreams, the two couples’ paths had interwoven and in 2015 it was officially decided that the nursery would carry on to a second generation. David and Katie bought their first house nearby and David C began working full time at D&L Nursery.

Customer Appreciation and Giving Back

That same year, D&L Nursery hosted its first Customer Appreciation Day on World Bonsai Day, an event that is now going into its 9th year. As a way to say, “Thank you!” to the customers who have supported and built D&L into what it is today, the free event includes demos by guest artists from around the southeast, a potluck, vendors, and a local display. Additionally, D&L continues to support the community through a raffle during the event with all the proceeds going to a different charity each year. Over the years and excluding 2020, the event has raised tens of thousands for various charities and causes.

Facing Challenges and Embracing Change

Sadly, on February 8, 2020, Linda passed after a bout with cancer and a month later the world shut down due to the coronavirus. As challenging as this was, D&L Nursery remained open and was supported by the bonsai community. David VB, David C, and Katie leaned on each other and with the help of students and volunteers, were able to get through it. In 2021 the two Davids began rebuilding and reorganizing different areas of the nursery as well as holding regular workshops again. Now it felt more important than ever to carry on the legacy of the nursery. No matter what has taken place in the world or in people’s lives, both the nursery and bonsai in general, have flourished.

Expanding Horizons - A Global Reach

In 2021 D&L began partnering with Bonsai Mirai to produce online content on sub-tropical and tropical species as well as propagation for Mirai Live, an online source for information and instruction founded by Ryan Neil. Together, this partnership has brought D&L into homes across the world.

Inviting You to Our Bonsai Journey

To this day you’ll find a sign at the nursery that says, “Friends & Family Gather Here.” This has always been the success of D&L Nursery, to treat everyone as you want to be treated and to support those who have supported you. It began as a family business with David and Linda VanBuskirk and will continue as a family business for a second generation with David and Katie Cutchin. And who knows, there may possibly be a third generation down the road with Poppy, David and Katie’s daughter. For now, we invite you to be a part of our bonsai journey and allow us to be a part of yours!

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Nursery Info

6550 S.E. 153rd Court 
Ocklawaha, Florida. 32179

Tue-Fri (Winter) 9:00am - 4 :00pm
Tue-Fri (Summer) 9:00am - 5 :00pm
Sat - 9:00 - 3:00pm
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