From bountiful blossoms, floating pond plants and hearty shrubs for your home landscape to Christmas trees, velvety sod and more, Wisconsin’s nurseries grow it all. The industry contributes significantly to the state’s agriculture sector, with sales totaling about $195.6 million in 2017, the result of 1,508 nursery enterprises across the state. The green industry – which includes greenhouses, nurseries and floriculture – employed approximately 2,000 Wisconsinites.
Wiltrout Nursery has been providing a variety of plants, shrubs and landscaping services to the Chippewa Falls community since 2000. Owner Robert Wiltrout felt a connection with the environment in high school and was involved in landscaping at an early age. After a stint in teaching, he decided to pursue his interest in nature and opened the nursery. “We lived at the edge of town, at the present location of my nursery,” Wiltrout says. “I got a nursery license and set up a sales yard for trees and shrubs on my front lawn. The year was 1999, and the following spring of 2000, Wiltrout Nursery was born.”
One of the nursery’s most unique products is decorative pond plants. Wiltrout says that he had previously learned how to build rock gardens, and in 2004, he and his son built the first pond at the nursery. “It was really an underwater rock garden,” he says. “We began to build ponds for others and the water garden area proved to be a lifesaver for us.” Wiltrout and his team became skilled at growing water plants, particularly water lilies, and soon we were the most successful local source for them.
Wiltrout Nursery offers many varieties of pond plants and their landscaping section has become one of the most successful parts of the operation. They are also planning for the future, including progress in native plants, native wildflowers and prairie restoration. They’re also developing a display building that promotes birdhouses, feeders and habitat, as well as a critter habitat that features plants and shelter in relation to pollinators, reptiles and amphibians. Wiltrout says they also want to include other water features and raised garden beds.
In the northern town of Winter, Winter Greenhouse was born out of a love for yoga, meditation and nature.
“A group of us had a common interest in yoga and meditation and started a center here in Wisconsin,” says Jim Wilson, one of the owners of Winter Greenhouse. “That was 35 years ago, and there have been a lot of changes since then. None of us were educated horticulturalists. We went to all the commercial conferences we could find, read magazines and talked to other growers to learn. Growers in general are generous types and eager to share and learn from each other.”
The group began their operation with annual bedding plants but have since built their inventory to include hardy perennials and nursery stock, annuals, herbs, vegetables, trees, shrubs, and more.
“Our selection of hardy perennials includes over 800 varieties to fit specific garden needs,” Wilson says.
For consumers seeking visual inspiration, Winter Greenhouse features display gardens that give a good idea of how plants will look at full maturity with other plants.
“People often come several times throughout the season as gardens are constantly changing,” Wilson says. “We tend to revise the display garden to feature new plants and trial varieties. Various garden features have also been added, like a pond-less waterfall.”
And for kids – and kids at heart – Winter Greenhouse’s miniature gardening department provides an outlet for growing imaginations.
“We greatly value being part of Wisconsin’s nursery industry,” Wilson says. “We believe in plants and the value they have for the environment, plus the benefits for everyone who grows and works with them.”