A Hidden Gem!
You may have wondered where the beautiful plants seen around the Iowa Great Lakes have come from. Cottage Gardens in Milford has been creating stunning planters along the Okoboji Bridge and the Arnolds Park State Pier for years.
Cottage Gardens has also been supplying annual and perennial flowers for places like The Ritz, Emerald Hills, the Taco House, Okoboji View, and the former locations of Boji Bay and The New Inn. In 2020, they will be designing 14 planters and 40 hanging baskets for the Imagine Iowa Great Lakes Beautification Initiative.
“It has been a pleasure working with Roger and Nancy DeVries at Cottage Gardens. They have been a part of the initial design conversations with Imagine and also work with the City of Arnold’s Park and Team Wave,” said Michele Goodenow, Imagine’s Executive Director. “The goal is to keep the beautiful container plantings consistent throughout the Park and the surrounding areas for continuity.”
Love of Gardening
Cottage Gardens initially started as a hobby-sized greenhouse in 1998, and moved to its present location on the southeast side of Milford in 2006. In 2010, they expanded with an automated Nexus greenhouse and have continued to update their skills and knowledge by attending educational programs on the latest technology and products.
“We are always on the lookout for new and interesting plants to add to our product line,” Nancy said. “We use many organic and natural products to keep our plants healthy.”
Nancy’s love of gardening began as a child. Her grandparents had a greenhouse business and both of her parents loved gardening. They all had access to the farm garden and spent many hours playing in the dirt and caring for the plants. Nancy was in 4-H and often focused on vegetable-gardening projects. She has always enjoyed reading about gardening.
Roger grew to really love gardening later in life. Prior to opening Cottage Gardens, Roger was a Sewing Machine Mechanic at Stylecraft, a Milford business who built upholstered furniture. When the location closed, the couple discussed their future and decided to turn their gardening passions into a full-time business.
“We started small and gradually grew Cottage Gardens to what it is now,” Roger said. “We both really love learning about new things and developing new design styles.”
For many of the containers around the area, Cottage Gardens has developed a combination that lasts for the season and does well with the Iowa conditions. The special petunias are super beefy and grow extra-long. The three-color mix of bright pink, plum, and bold lilac provide a pop of color wherever they are located.
“Last year, the larger prototype basket we grew for Imagine filled an entire full yardstick,” Roger said.
New for 2020
Nancy said there will be several new varieties of impatiens flowers available at the greenhouse. Several years ago, impatiens suffered a fungal disease that caused mildew and wiped the plant out. Impatiens could not be replanted in the soil where these diseased plants had grown.
New disease-resistant impatiens has been developed, with the DeVries trying the new Beacon and Imara varieties at Cottage Gardens this year.
“We are trying both varieties to see how they do in our area,” Nancy said. “These flowers generally grow well around the lake, especially with all of the shade, and are good in containers and window boxes.”
There is also a new coleus plant with very pink leaves called “Heartbreaker.” The leaves are supposed to stay pink and not fade in the bright sun. Nancy added how there are always new colors coming out, with orange growing in popularity. “Shades of pink are always popular, as well as reds and purples,” she said.
Spring Planting at Cottage Gardens began March 1, as they received over 1,000 rooted cuttings of geraniums. They immediately began filling 4½-sized pots, to later be sold to customers. Other flowers will arrive throughout March and into April.
A unique item is their Pillar Geraniums, which grow to more than 30 inches and are generally sold out by Mother’s Day.
Throughout May and June, the greenhouses are completely stocked with beautiful containers, hanging baskets, and individual annuals, perennials, and shrubs. In the fall, Cottage Gardens is stocked with mums. All of the plants are planted in special potting soil. The potting soil, fertilizer and pest control products are all available for purchase, which Roger says helps keep plants looking great all season long.
“We want to grow our plants with materials that are the least harmful to the environment, natural and organic,” he said. “After the rooted cuttings are transplanted, we add a special root-protecting drench that provides beneficial fungus rather than a fungicide. The fungus then colonizes on the root system and will battle bad diseases.”
For those people looking for gardening help, Cottage Gardens offers numerous seminars throughout spring and early summer. Roger and Nancy are also always available for gardening advice.
“We love questions and always happy to help find solutions to a problem. Our staff is friendly and willing to help you find the perfect plants, containers, potting soil or other needs,” Roger said.
A question they may ask a customer is if the gardening space is sun or shade, dry or moist? Then how many hours of sunlight is in the area, as generally full sun plants need at least six hours of full sun. “We can guide you in what plants to get for your space,” he explained.
Many customers drop off their containers each spring for Cottage Gardens to custom plant. Cottage Gardens will also pick up and deliver planters.
“We want gardening to be fun and something to be enjoyed by making it easy,” Roger added. “When our customers are happy, we are happy.”
Cottage Gardens can be located at 801 21st St. in Milford, and more information can be found at www.cottagegardens.net. Roger and Nancy can be reached at (712) 338-4569.