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A Renowned Destination for Midwestern Gardeners

On Sunday, June 26, we’re honored to be visiting the Flower Factory, near Stoughton, Wis., southeast of Madison. Long a favorite regional destination for gardeners, the Flower Factory, at one time, boasted the Midwest’s largest selection of perennials, hostas, and ornamental grasses. Here are Fling team member Mark Dwyer’s recollections of his first impressions of the Flower Factory and the joy of visiting this special place:

I moved to Janesville, Wis., in the summer of 1998 to start my job as director of horticulture at Rotary Botanical Gardens (RBG). Kim Emerson, the executive director at the time, wanted to introduce me to area growers and nursery folks, which certainly made a lot of sense. It was an enjoyable “whirlwind” of travelling for three days around Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois to connect with many amazing people, many of whom are still close friends. This tour culminated with a stop at The Flower Factory near Stoughton, Wis. Kim had mentioned that I wouldn’t believe this nursery when I saw it. That was the understatement of the century.

We pulled up to a rustic set up of hoop houses, greenhouses, barns, outbuildings, and an ornate old house with a rustic gravel drive and parking lot. The nursery was nestled nicely amongst the landscape, with display gardens, vegetable gardens, garden railways, and so much more. I met welcoming owners David and Nancy Nedveck that day, and continue to be amazed by their horticultural knowledge, generosity, and affability.That was the first nursery I ever visited with more than 3,000 perennial varieties (at that time) available for purchase. As I explored all the retail houses, featuring an amazing array of selections, I realized that not only was this a special place, but the proximity to RBG (35 miles) would be beneficial for the botanical garden (and my home garden of course!). That certainly became the case as I relied on this nursery for my more than two decades at RBG. The Flower Factory became an amazing resource (and frequent supporter) for the gardens and me, professionally and personally. More than 90% of my perennials still flourishing in my home garden were from this nursery!

I recently asked Nancy about some of the nursery’s history, which I found fascinating. Of course, the story begins with the combined passion that Nancy and David have for plants, along with a desire to be self-employed. The Flower Factory was officially started by Nancy and David in 1984, primarily as a source of plant material (annuals, perennials, vegetables, and cut flowers) to be supplied at the well-known and amazing Dane County Farmer’s Market (which we’ll also visit during the Fling!). David still sells select plants at this market throughout the growing season!

They opened the larger nursery in 1988, and Nancy mentioned that early transactions were made in cash, checks, and IOUs—all gathered in a cigar box. Unsurprisingly, this immediately popular nursery grew by leaps and bounds, and doubled in size a couple of times, to ultimately feature 35 structures over eight acres, including 11 greenhouses, four shade structures, and 25 employees. A point-of-sale system was installed in 2004, and receiving and perusing the annual catalog was a winter expectation for thousands of gardeners.

Peak offerings, in terms of varieties, were more than 4,000; although scaled down to around 2,500 selections during the last years of the business. Grabbing a wagon(s) and filling it to the brim was always a joyful experience at The Flower Factory. The nursery closed at the end of August 2020, much to the distress and dismay of literally tens of thousands of customers. The customer base for The Flower Factory extended well beyond the immediate area, and the nursery was a common stop for bus tours interested in a buying spree! Nancy and David were also very active in providing educational programs and supporting area botanical gardens and the green industry in many ways.

Nancy and David still live on the property, and they garden as time allows in their pseudo-retirement. They’re in the process of downsizing their gardens, which they describe as being “in flux.” They’re focusing more on woody plants and less on an ordered appearance; allowing chaos and a bit of messiness to add personality! I asked Nancy what she observed in terms of garden trends over the years, and she described noting gardeners and gardens focusing more on diversity, incorporating native species (finally!), and interest in the collective ecosystem. From a consumer’s perspective, she also observed increasing interest in larger pot sizes and more established plants for instant impact. Nancy’s life advice: Always be curious, embrace change, cultivate friends, relax in your garden, and listen to the birds!

Visit this link to register for the Madison Fling!


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