From its beginning in a friend’s back yard, to the purchase of the first five acres, to its current 1,000-plus acres in five locations in two states, Midwest Groundcovers has grown to become a leader in the horticulture industry.
The past ten years have ushered in considerable change, with the expansion of the 1-acre greenhouse and development of the fourth major growing area at the Virgil Nursery; the purchase of The Natural Garden and development and introduction of the Natural Garden Natives® brand; the update and expansion of the St. Charles sales yard; and the redesign of the St. Charles display and educational gardens. Internationally renowned designer Piet Oudolf consulted on the renovation of the award-winning gardens.
A significant renovation of the St. Charles office was completed in 2018, relying upon the original building through the reuse of salvageable materials, and incorporating several innovative and sustainable elements.
Throughout the last decade, production has increased to offer a broad range of ornamentals, greatly expanding the company’s inventory.
Ground covers are now joined by more than 500 cultivars of perennials, ornamental grasses and locally sourced native plants. The selection also includes nearly 200 varieties of deciduous shrubs, broadleaf evergreens, conifers, vines, and shrub roses.
More than 100 varieties of ground cover plants continue to thrive in production. Midwest’s own Hocus Pocus Groundcovers® brand, established in 2013, is a collection of more than 85 hardy plants that are colorful, easy to grow and maintain, and “cover like magic.” Special groups are selected for sun, shade, and dry sites, as well as those that tolerate foot traffic. There’s even a group of miniature plants suitable for fairy gardens.
The Natural Garden Natives® collection features more than 200 flowering forbs and prairie grass plants indigenous to the upper Midwest. The Natural Garden Natives brand was presented in 2011, following Midwest Groundcovers’ acquisition of The Natural Garden. These local ecotype natives are genetically adapted to thrive in Illinois; they originate from seed and stock plants that were collected in the 1970s and 1980s within a 90-mile radius of the St. Charles nursery site.
Launched in 2008, Midwest’s Bud & Bloom Collection offers garden centers an opportunity to purchase eye-catching, ready-to-sell selections just in time for the spring rush. The collection includes trees and shrubs, roses, hydrangeas, annuals and perennials, vines, grasses, and even Cottage Fresh Herbs.
The Michigan Nursery continues to develop with the completion of a significant heated greenhouse expansion; greenhouse improvements and new construction, as well as development of additional growing areas, continue in Virgil. Looking ahead to the next fifty years, Midwest Groundcovers is well-positioned to carry on its tradition of innovation in propagation, production, and distribution of quality plants.
Now encompassing five locations that, combined, produce more than 16 million plants annually, Midwest Groundcovers provides top-quality selections for garden centers and landscapers in the Upper Midwest.
As Midwest Groundcovers observes its 50th year in business, changes in leadership are poised to continue the company’s success in honoring the past and developing the future. Christa-Orum Keller accepted the position of Chairman in 2017, and with the 2019 retirement of forty-year Midwest veteran Gary Knosher, she has assumed the role of President. Gary maintains his role as Director.
Founder Peter Orum has reduced his day-to-day responsibilities, but remains active in his onsite experiment station, working on projects for the Midwest management team, and with the horticulture industry locally, nationally, and internationally.