Meandering through the Flower Factory in Rutland for some is like walking through a scene in Willie Wonka’s wonderland from the movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
Instead of a candy for every occasion, there are thousands of perennials to meet many needs — but for some that experience will only happen for a few more weeks.
After 37 years in business, The Flower Factory will close Aug 31. The owners, Nancy and David Nedveck are retiring amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Like a painter uses primary colors to bring a portrait to life, Rutland’s Nancy considers herself a lifetime gardener who uses a sense of detail to plan her garden.
“I’ve always over the years had a keen interest in preparing and making the world a more colorful place,” she said.
Now in pending retirement, Nancy plans to focus on her personal flower gardens.
“I will always have my fingers in the garden,” she said.
“It’s been our social life in addition to our work,” David said.
The Nedvecks started their business in 1984 by selling vegetables out of their truck at the Dane County Farmer’s Market in Madison. Nancy always had a passion for raising and selling annuals, perennials and cut flowers at the farmer’s market.
“We hit a niche at the right time,” she said. “I started the business and that is when I got my education and on the job training.”
Over the years, there have been some innovation and technological advancements that have made Nancy’s gardening business easier.
The business started using a computer and server to help her catalogue her stock of perennials.
In the early years, the Nedvecks didn’t use a system to catalogue or classify their flowers.
“It was a lot of memory work,” she said.
Now, each type of perennial is catalogued and stocked in alphabetical order and based on whether it’s a native prairie or native woodland. Some are housed in shaded barns and others in the sun.
The Flower Factory has 35 structures over eight acres, including 11 greenhouses and four shade structures.
At its peak, it housed around 4,000 different varieties of perennials and had 30 employees. It has been dubbed “the largest perennial flower business in the Midwest.”
“No one has ever fought or objected to that,” she said.
The perennial flower business over the years has opened the second Saturday in April and closed for the season the end of October and Nancy spends eight to 12 hours a day working in her various gardens.
The Flower Factory carries perennials, including daylilies, hostas, ornamental grasses, pond plants and rock garden plants. Nancy said the busiest time for sales was always Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.
David has 10,000 different types of plants and will retain some stock he plans to sell at the farmer’s market. The business now sells more than 2,000 different types of plants.
“I’m a collector and it’s a good thing in this business because I have had a lot of variety,” he said. “I’m at the point now where I’m looking at the plants I personally like and I think will do well in Wisconsin and when the market resumes on the (Capitol) Square I will be using those plants as my nucleus.”
There is no secret recipe when it comes to growing a perennial flower and plant garden. It requires trial and error.
Nancy recommends starting with a small scale perennial garden and then building up.
“Learn as you go,” she said. “It’s always a learning experience and changing. Always be an optimist.”
Nancy has seen the benefits of perennial gardening for four decades. She likes the quiet reflection site a garden can offer.
“Growing plants and flowers brings you back to nature and with nature you get the ebb and flow of life and not the rush of big city life,” Nancy said.