A Chat with Gregg Thompson of Thompson + Hanson

Thompson + Hanson, the high-end nursery with the dreamy retail shop located on West Alabama at Joanel, first sold Christmas trees in the early 1990s, about a decade after its founding in 1981. However, the surprise success of the nursery’s on-site restaurant Tiny Boxwoods subsequently required so much space that partners Gregg and Lance Thompson stopped the tree sales in 2008. This year the nursery’s hand-selected trees were back.

Photo courtesy of Thompson + Hanson

“We decided to start selling them again this year,” says Gregg Thompson (photo below), who drove a truck to North Carolina with his brother Lance to personally oversee the Christmas tree selection. “We recently purchased an old warehouse that we are renovating and we are now able to receive the trees there and transfer them to our nursery as we need them. We just sold our last few trees last week, and it all went well. We plan to start selling trees in Austin, too, next year.”

The River Oaks Letter recently settled in for a chat with Gregg, who took time from a super-busy holiday workday to answer a few nosy questions.

Photo courtesy of Thompson + Hanson

What is the most common mistake people make with their Christmas trees?
They stop watering them daily, and the trees can no longer “take up” water and so they dry out.

Besides re-cutting the trunk at home, what else can people do to keep their tree fresh?
Water, twice daily if needed. North Carolina was in a severe drought this year, so our trees really took up a lot of water after they had a fresh cut.

You cut your Thompson + Hanson trees in mid-November. Will they still be fresh on Christmas Day?
Yes, indeed. We put a fresh cut on them when they arrived in Houston and immediately put them in water, which is not a common practice. Most tree lots put a fresh cut on them when they are sold.

Photo courtesy of Thompson + Hanson
Photo courtesy of Thompson + Hanson

Did anyone in your family ever try to put up an artificial Christmas tree?
Ha! That’s blasphemy. I’ll pretend like you didn’t ask that question.

What’s your favorite way to decorate the tree?
My grandmother made velvet-and-sequins ornaments for many years and sold them at the church bazaar. We were the beneficiaries of her work as well, and I now have many of those ornaments on my tree.

How did you become involved with the nursery?
Lance started working at a nursery when he was in high school and started landscaping at about that time. We opened the nursery in the early 1990s on Edloe and moved to the current site in 1998.

Tell us about your education. University or straight into work?
University of Texas, BBA in finance

Favorite garden tool?
A landscape crew

“At 5 pm, I’m usually thinking about …”
… I have ADD so there is no telling what I’m thinking about, but it usually involves family, work or old cars.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Racecar driver or a pilot

What is your favorite flower?
It’s hard to beat wisteria (photo below) when it’s in full bloom.

Click photo for source

Is there a great tree for Houston that is under-utilized or often overlooked?
Mexican sycamores and weeping willows

What is your biggest extravagance?
My old Datsun 240Z

Favorite Houston building?
Thompson + Hanson’s design office

Fun fact about you that most people don’t know?
Hmm … I’m a pilot, although I haven’t flown in 10 years.

What is your favorite personal item?
The perfect money clip that my wife gave me and a 1946 Oyster Perpetual Rolex that was a gift to my grandfather.

And your favorite food-and-drink combo?
The ribeye at Tiny Boxwoods with a cold bottle of Pellegrino