Midwest Groundcovers has deep roots in horticulture and a strong tradition of innovation. When founder Peter Orum immigrated to the United States in the mid-1960s, he brought with him a solid foundation in the practices and traditions of horticulture, an engineer’s knowledge of systems, and an entrepreneur’s drive.
He gained his horticultural knowledge from his experience and training on the two-acre nursery of his father, Palle Ørum, in Jutland, Denmark; his nursery apprenticeships at Spejlborg and Vilvorde Nurseries; and his education at the Vilvorde Horticulture School in Copenhagen. But more than that, Peter had an entrepreneurial spirit and a vision of the course his life would take. It is a career and calling that has been defined by hard work, passion, and a fearless determination to succeed.
Peter’s organizing, planning, building, and management skills were honed during his service as an Engineer Officer in the Danish Army Corps of Engineers, and these attributes have been essential to his success in the horticulture industry, as well as to Midwest Groundcovers’ inception and development. Peter achieved lieutenant rank in less than two years, and he cultivated leadership skills that would qualify him for his first job in the United States: supervisory trainee at D. Hill Nursery Company in Dundee, Illinois. After only a few months of training, Peter was promoted to Superintendent of Propagation, and served in this position for almost seven years.
Despite Peter’s success at D. Hill Nursery, he could not suppress his entrepreneurial drive. In 1969, he and his wife, Irma, began a life-long journey that would establish and grow the Midwest family of companies. They began by rooting several thousand cuttings in the West Chicago backyard of their friend and mentor, John Wilde. That same year, the Orums purchased five acres of land on Illinois Route 25, just north of St. Charles, Illinois.
The Midwest companies were built through the collaboration of many talented and dedicated people, and, in the early days, friends and family worked on weekends and evenings for wages of hamburgers and beer. Irma employed her bookkeeping skills and relied on her many years of experience in business administration to nurture the new company. Her dedication to fostering its growth was evident in her full participation in day-to-day nursery operations, including potting plants, sticking cuttings, watering, and mowing, all while caring for family and home.
To supplement his expertise in horticulture, as well as his management and construction skills, Peter logged many nights studying business, finance, and accounting. He earned a bachelor of science in Finance and Accounting from Northern Illinois University in 1978.
The initial vision for the five-acre nursery was to produce and sell quality ground covers at fair prices to local landscapers, independent garden centers, and nurseries. This simple and wise business philosophy translated into continuing success for the Orums, and fueled the expansive growth of Midwest Groundcovers during the coming years.