John Hamilton Burton, 73, retired founder and president of the J. H. Burton and Sons Nursery and Garden Center in Olney and Hyattsville who was active in the Rotary Club, died Thursday at his home in Boca Raton, Fla. He had emphysema.

A native Washingtonian, Mr. Burton worked in his father's nursery business in Cottage City, Md., before establishing his own nursery and garden center in 1929. He served as president of the firm, which operates a nursery and garden center in Olney and a garden center in Hyattsville, until retiring in 1957.

He also operated a dairy farm at his Olney residence from 1940 until 1959, when he moved to Silver Spring. He moved to Florida in 1961, and lived in Key Biscayne before moving to Boca Raton last year.

Mr. Burton was a past president of the Maryland Nurserymen's Association, which named him Nurseryman of the Year in 1958.

He was an active and honorary member of the Rotary International and a past president of the College Park Rotary Club.

He was a member of St. John's Episcopal Church in Olney and a director of the Citizens Savings and Loan Association of Maryland.

Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Abbie Hester Burston of Boca Raton; four sons, Alfred T., of Olney, William, of Homestead, Fla., and Ronald and David, both of Coral Gables, Fla.; a daughter, Phyllis B. Martin of Woodbine; three brothers, Charles G., of St. Petersburg, Fla., William G., of College Park, and Robert E., of Landover; a sister, Esther B. Serrin of California, 34 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to The Rotary Foundation, c/o Wilbur Baughman, Chairman of District 762, 1055 Norman Dr., Apartment 211, Annapolis, Md., 21401.