The Early Years
Peter John Mezitt was born into a family of farmers in 1885 in Madonna, Latvia and studied agriculture near Moscow before being conscripted into the Russian army. Sensing the future, he fled Russia, working in gardens in Rumania and Switzerland and making bricks in Germany, to earn money for the passage to America in 1911.
Despite his rudimentary knowledge of English, he worked his way from Virginia to Lowell, Massachusetts and enrolled in a winter course at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Income from working at an estate in Maine soon enabled him to send to Latvia for his bride-to-be, Anna Olga Purens; they married in 1912 and he took a job as a greenhouse night watchman in Lowell, propagating and potting geraniums during the days. They had two children: Laura, born in 1913, and Edmund, born in 1915.
In 1917 Peter accepted a position with Marion Case in Weston as superintendent of her vegetable farm. But his heart was in nursery plants: Peter and Anna worked nights and weekends using their horticultural knowledge for rooting understock and grafting fruit trees: these they sold to several orchards just starting in the area. By the early 1920s he felt compelled to become a full time nurseryman and persuaded Marion Case to help finance the purchase of 80 acres off Winter Street in Weston, the site of the Weston airport. It was here that Weston Nurseries began on July 24, 1923. They began by raising annuals and perennials from seed while continuing to work for Miss Case and living at her farm. The land not used for crops was rented to the pilots who continued to operate the airport. In 1927 a fire destroyed the old airport hanger and the nursery equipment stored in it, and the family decided to move into the old farmhouse that was on the airport property and devote all their efforts to the new business. Peter, with part-time help, began doing landscape jobs, while Anna and the children grew and sold perennials.
By the time the depression started in 1929, Weston Nurseries had ten acres in nursery production and had begun to build a reputation for quality products. All the Mezitts took part in nursery tasks, often working day and night, developing horticultural and market expertise. During this time, rock gardens became a craze. Recognizing and responding quickly to this market, Weston Nurseries became a popular local source for herbaceous perennials and rock garden plants, enabling the Mezitts and Weston Nurseries to prosper despite the bad economic times.
Laura Mezitt married John Russett in 1935 and, in 1936 after graduating from the Cambridge Graduate School of Landscape Architecture, she and her new husband joined the business. Edmund Mezitt worked at the nursery while attending school and joined the nursery full time in 1938 after graduating from Cornell with a degree in architecture. He married Wally Bralit in 1940 and she also became part of the nursery operation while raising their children, Wayne, born in 1942 and Roger, born in 1944. Nurtured by the combined efforts of the entire family, Weston Nurseries grew steadily in size and popularity, producing plants with characteristics most suitable for New England's rugged weather and soil conditions. They grew literally thousands of different plant varieties, attracting the attention of other nurserymen and landscape gardeners, and they began to sell wholesale as well as retail. By 1941, the nursery encompassed about 200 acres. As the nursery grew, so did the need for workers. Before World War II, most of the labor employed by the Nursery was local people, many out of work after the textile mills in Maynard closed.