Plant Answers  >  William A. “Pete” Peterson Obituary
William A. Peterson

William A. “Pete” Peterson Obituary

By Mary Mills Heidbrink STAFF WRITER
William A. “Pete” Peterson

Born: May 23, 1928, Mesa, Arizona

Died: July 6, 2016, San Antonio, at 88

Survived by: Wife Marlene L. Peterson; son Rodney A. Peterson and daughter-in-law Rebecca; daughter Linda Henning and son-in-law Timothy; three grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; a brother and a sister.

When William A. “Pete” Peterson decided to start a transplant nursery while living in his native Arizona, he didn’t just pick a spot and start building greenhouses. Driving throughout the Sun Belt states, Peterson collected samples of water to be tested in California, his son Rodney Peterson said.

“He found out that San Antonio had the best quality of water,” Rodney Peterson said. “It was also centrally located in a very large state, and had a good transportation network.” “He put a lot of thought into it.”

More than 50 years later, Peterson Brothers Wholesale Nursery has, among other accomplishments, helped launch numerous Texas Superstars, plants that have been proven to perform well in the often tough semi-arid Texas landscapes.

“Probably 80 percent of Texas Superstars can trace their increase to Peterson Brothers Nursery,” said renowned horticulturist Jerry Parsons, who is considered the father of the program. “Without Mr. Peterson, we wouldn’t have a bluebonnet transplant; he was the first to produce bluebonnet transplants in the world.”

An Army veteran who served in Japan just after World War II, he was working for a seed company when he realized there was money in selling transplants. Starting with his backyard greenhouse, Peterson “went out to start peddling what he was growing, to see if anyone was interested,” his son said. Taking the idea to his boss, Peterson decided to strike out on his own after the business owner declined to expand.

After finding his ideal location here, Peterson sold his house, and, with savings and some backing from his brother, moved to San Antonio in 1965, starting with a few acres on the East Side.

“He started out very small and limited,” Rodney Peterson said. “We had to clear the land first, and then he started building A-frame greenhouses.” Adding to them as the business expanded, Peterson eventually bought 13 acres a few blocks away, transferring the business to the new location over time.

“My mom was his secretary starting out. I was his labor,” Rodney Peterson said.

Working closely with the Texas A&M Cooperative Extension Service over the years, Peterson was involved with the development of many Texas Superstars and, perhaps more importantly, helped get them into residential landscapes.

Deciding on a potential Superstar was just the beginning. “We knew it was a good plant, but we had to propagate it and test it,” Parsons said. “Once we found out it was a super-good plant … he (Peterson) would not only grow transplants of the variety, but would … start selling them to the local nurseries.”

Never territorial, Peterson opened his operation to fellow nurserymen from as far away as Australia. “He said there’s no secrets in this business,” his son said. “But before they’d leave, he’d say, ‘What works for me might not work for you.’ ”

Peterson often visited nurseries on his travels with his wife. They went all over the world. “It didn’t bother him to walk into a place of business and start a meeting with whoever was in charge of the operation,” Rodney Peterson said. “He was always interested.”

Building his success with a meticulous attention to detail and good business sense, Peterson taught his son a basic lesson: “Be fair and take care of your customers,” Rodney Peterson said. “He’d always tell me, ‘Never worry about what everybody else is doing. Worry about what you are doing and you’ll be all right.’ ”

After retiring in 1994, Peterson turned his attention to another love, restoring antique cars, including a 1911 Cadillac and a 1927 Model T, sandblasting every nut and bolt.

“He didn’t just show the cars, he toured in them all over the U.S.,” Rodney Peterson said.

A partial listing of plants which Peterson helped introduce included:


ASPARAGUS (transplants grown from seed) Jersey Knight, Jersey Giant
BROCCOLI Green Comet, Baccus, Green Magic (AAS), Emerald Pride
CABBAGE Bravo 6, Rio Verde, Green Boy
CANTALOUPE Magnum 45, TAM Uvalde, Ambrosia, Israeli, Topmark, Caravelle
CUCUMBER Slicer Sweet Slice, Slicer Sweet Success(AAS)
EGGPLANT Black Beauty, Oriental Ichiban
LETTUCE Crawford Reseeding Lettuce (2000 and 2001)
OKRA Oscar Okra
ONIONS Texas A&M Supersweet 1015Y, Grano 502, Granex (Vidalia), White Granex(PRR*), Yellow Skin Granex, Yellow Skin Granex 33 (PRR*), Texas Grano 1015Y (PRR*), Texas Grano 502(PRR*); Onion transplants grown in four inch pots – Dixondale Farms
PEPPERS Summer Sweet 860 Bell Pepper, Bell Tower Bell Pepper, Capistrano Bell Pepper, Hidalgo Serrano, TAM Mild Jalapeno, Grande Jalapeno and Rio Grande Gold Sweet Jalapeno), Parsons Potent Chili Penguin (2000), Pepper - Sweet Bell Jupiter
SPINACH Fall Green, Coho, Samish, Ashley
TOMATOES Spring Giant (1975), Bonus, Big Set, Jack Pot, Bingo, Whirlaway, Heatwave, Surefire, Merced, SunPride, Christa (2008), Tomato Sweet Cherry Rodeo Surprise (BHN 968) (2009), Carnival , Celebrity (VFNT), Jackpot (2003), Sunmaster, Amelia (2004 - 2005) & Solar Fire (2006), Florida 47 & 91, ValleyCat (2014), Tycoon (must buy 1000 seeds for $83.10) (2011), Bobcat (2015), Roma Surprise (Fall, 2015), Red Cherry – Large, BHN444, Phoenix (2010), BHN 602 (2012), Tygress (2013), Top Gun (2007), Abundant Cherry Surprise (BHN 268) (2002)
Watermelon (Transplants grown at Petersons for commercial plantings) Allsweet, Crimson Sweet, Jubilee, Tendersweet, Yellow Flesh, Jamboree, Duration, Sentinel, Ole, Mickeylee, Triple Crown, Tri-X 313, Fascination, Sweet Slice, Cut Master, Crunchy Red


They have grown, facilitated increases and helped popularize flowers such as 'Blue Shade' Ruellia and 'Bonita' pink 'Katie Dwarf' Ruellia (Dwarf Mexican Petunia); 'Tex-Tuf' Verbenas; ‘Blue Princess’ Verbena; 'Firebush' (Hamelia patens); 'Texas Gold' columbine; 'Indigo Spires' salvia; 'Carpet' petunias; 'Mari-Mum' marigold; 'Plum Parfait', 'Eclipse' and 'Burgundy Sun' coleus; 'Belinda's Dream' rose; ‘Grandma’s Yellow’ rose; 'Blue Princess' Verbena; ‘John Fanick’ perennial phlox; ‘Henry Duelberg’ Salvia; 'VIP' petunia and 'Laura Bush' (lavender & pink) petunia; Firespike (Odontonema strictum); 'Stars and Stripes' variegated red Pentas; 'Moy Grande', 'Red River' ‘Peppermint Flare’ and 'Flare' perennial Hibiscus; 'Bunny Bloom' larkspur; Dwarf Bush Morning Glory; Purple Heart (Setcreasea pallida); Vinca ‘Cora’ series; ‘Texas Lilac’ Vitex; Fantasia ‘Violet’ and ‘Strawberry Sizzle’ geraniums, Satsuma Mandarin orange varieties and ‘Frost’ series of Mandarin Hybrids. “Rosette” transplants of Martha Gonzales and Antiques.

They introduced a host of new Texas bluebonnets colors such as 'Barbara Bush' lavender, 'Abbott Pink', ‘Henry’s Red’, ‘Lady Bird Johnson Royal Blue’, purple and 'Texas Maroon' (‘Alamo Fire’). They also developed the Texas state flower into a bedding plant. This was a thirty year project started in 1983.

Compiled by Jerry Parsons, Larry Stein and David Rodriguez

Peterson and Friends receiving TNLA awards in 2009
Peterson and Friends receiving TNLA awards in 2009
Peterson and Parsons receiving TNLA awards in 2009
Peterson and Parsons receiving TNLA awards in 2009
Peterson Family receiving TNLA Award in 2009
Peterson Family receiving TNLA Award in 2009

Copyright © 2024 - All Rights Reserved. PLANTanswers and are trademarks of Jerry Parsons.