Walking into the greenhouse at Country Garden Center in Topeka is a treat for the senses. Fragrant flowers, lush greenery, colorful planters, garden decorations, and the soothing chime of rain chains moved by the breeze all provide instant relaxation.
Judy Hostetler often sees stress evaporate when customers come to the center to shop. That is one of the benefits from the work it takes to keep plants thriving and growing.
“This was something I loved to have,” Hostetler says. “My aunt had a greenhouse and I loved to go in there and dream in there. Plants inspired me.”
After marrying her husband Maynard 23 years ago, Hostetler says he promised she would see that dream come true. She opted to wait until her six children, including three sons and three daughters, were older to open the greenhouse on the family’s farm. It was an opportunity to give the children and herself something to do, and a chance to work together on something. Some of her children still help with plant care and customer service.
Country Garden Center has grown from one small greenhouse to larger ones. Hostetler says the years have given her regular customers and new friends.
Hostetler sells what she grows. Ferns, houseplants, annuals and perennials are popular with customers in the spring. She also stocks vegetable plants for gardens, as well as flowering shrubs, asparagus and grapes.
From gardening tools to packages of seeds, the Country Garden Center team tries to stock what people are looking for. It is located in a rural part of the county, and having supplies people need is helpful and convenient. Along with the friendly greeting from Hostetler, customers can have an experience that leaves them a little more knowledgeable and in a happier frame of mind.
The greenhouse also houses a line of potting soil, compost and fertilizers that enhance plant growth, such as the Lobster and Crab Meal, manufactured by Coast of Maine. This company makes and sells products that are organic and can feed a wide variety of plants.
“There is something for everybody here,” Hostetler says.
Succulents arranged in pots and decorative containers are one of the many popular items drawing customers to Hostetler’s business. Succulents have become one of today’s trends for several reasons, Hostetler explains. The plants are interesting and vary in size, color and texture, and succulents require less care than other house plants.
Another trend is the attraction to large-leaved house plants, such as the Monstera. These plants have a dramatic effect when incorporated into the greenery inside a home.
One of the benefits of buying plants from a local grower like Hostetler is the customer service and free advice offered to those who may be novices when it comes to choosing plants and caring for them. Hostetler is happy to help steer people toward the right plant to fit into their landscape or home decor based on the customer’s experience and the environment the plant will live in.
She can advise them on how to design a planting bed, or simply how to pair different plants for a beautiful planter or hanging basket with height color and variety. Knowing which plants thrive well together comes from experience and being aware of what each plant species needs to grow. When it’s done correctly, the arrangements are a welcoming addition to a house.
Customers can also choose one of the pre-planted and ready-to-go planters or baskets.
“Plants make a house a home,” Hostetler says.
The couple moved to Maynard’s family’s home farm near Topeka from Elkhart County. They first lived in Goshen, and Hostetler grew up outside of Nappanee. In addition to their six grown children, the couple has 30 grandchildren all living within 10 miles of them.
Although the business is not open to customers year-round, that doesn’t mean Hostetler takes time off. She nurtures the plants and prepares for the season during the winter time too.
“I never quit working,” she says.
Country Garden Center opens for the season in mid-March or April, and continues through the month of October. It is located at 4640 West 400 South in Topeka. Hours vary by season. Call 260-593-3747 to confirm the business is open.