by Sally Colby
When Brenda Koshollek started to look for plants after landscaping an area on the dairy farm where she and her husband Jack lived, she learned two things: purchasing plants for a large area was going to be costly and every greenhouse had the same tired selections.
“I wanted something different so I started my own plants from seed and my mom helped me transplant them,” said Brenda. “When my friends and neighbors stopped over and asked what I was doing, I told them I was starting my own plants because I wanted something different.”
Brenda’s friends started asking her to grow some different plants for them and before long, she had covered a large space with young plants — all more interesting than those she had found while shopping. But spring temperature extremes in Hatley, WI meant the plants had to be protected at night, so Brenda and her mother carefully transferred plants to the basement at night and brought them out every morning. Brenda realized she needed a greenhouse, so she and Jack put up the first of seven structures on the farm.
After about five or six years, Brenda’s greenhouse business was going well, but customers started to ask for help with planting shrubs and dealing with landscaping challenges. When Jack got home from work in the afternoon, Brenda would have the truck loaded and ready to go and their two daughters went along to help. Jack eventually quit his job in town and has spent the last 19 years as a landscaper. Today, Majestic Farms Greenhouse and Landscaping has a foreman and a crew who take care of new installations, spring and fall cleanup, mulching, plant replacement and maintenance throughout the season.
Now in their 26th year of business, Majestic Farms is still focused on providing interesting greenhouse selections. In addition to growing something just a little bit different for customers’ gardens, the family grows native plants, native wetland plants for shoreline restoration and helps customers with ideas for unique landscapes. “Something other than arborvitae on each side of the door,” said Brenda. “Something that focuses more on their personality.”
Brenda says the key to bringing customers back is offering what other garden centers don’t have. “We’ve been doing succulents for years,” she said. “Now everyone is doing succulents.” Brenda added that bromeliads are also popular and encourages customers to try them.
A popular service at Majestic Farms is custom potting, and many customers take advantage of this service. Brenda and her staff will plant custom pots for customers prior to the season and keep them in a greenhouse until weather conditions are appropriate. “We also let people bring pots and plant them at the greenhouse, and we’ll help them select the appropriate plants,” said Brenda. That greenhouse becomes the “sold” house, and after people have picked up their pots it’s used for staging plants for landscaping jobs. Customers are welcome to walk through that greenhouse to get ideas.
Brenda says customers realize that the plants at big box stores lack variety but don’t always know what they want until they see it for themselves. “Maybe they like a certain plant, but they haven’t paired it with the right thing or put it in the right pot or location,” said Brenda. “Being here gives them a chance to see what else is out there. We provide a table with potting soil, so they can leave the mess here.”
When it comes to selling plants, Brenda goes beyond the basics to help customers succeed. “Some places might teach customers about whether a plant is good for sun or shade, but they don’t teach people what to plant based on how much time they have,” she said. “We teach people to think about how much time they have and what kind of gardener they are. Are you someone who loves to go out and water because it’s relaxing, or do you go out and do it because you have to? That will determine what kind of plants to buy.”
For shoreline restoration projects, the Kosholleks work primarily with local DNR. “The customer has to get a permit through the DNR then we do the restoration,” said Brenda. “We use coir logs anchored into the shoreline and plant them with native wetland plants. Plants that are in the coir logs anchor into the eroding shoreline and over time, the log fills in with plants. As we move up the shoreline where it’s drier, we use other native plants.” Most of the restoration work has been on local lakes with erosion problems that are the result of heavy waves created by activities such as jet-skiing and high-powered boats.
Majestic Farms offers a selection of garden-themed classes throughout the year. A fall workshop in September helps customers dress up pots created earlier in the season. “By then, some of the plants aren’t looking too good, so we introduce ornamental kale and ornamental grasses and some curly willow,” said Brenda. “In October, we’ve done a succulent pumpkin workshop. We show them how to use a flat pumpkin or a decorative gourd and add succulent cuttings on the top…That lasts through Thanksgiving, then we tell them to cut the top of the pumpkin off and set the top in a pot. The succulent cuttings will root and grow as the rest of the pumpkin starts to rot, then in spring they’ll have a pot with succulents growing in it.”
In November, Brenda hosts an amaryllis workshop which features creative ways to display the popular holiday bulb. A Christmas workshop held the first Saturday in December is popular among customers who enjoy learning to make a wreath. “They can also bring their pots along and they can put greens, winterberry and spruce in them,” said Brenda. “We want them to decorate for Christmas, but they also have a pot that will last through winter as a decoration.”
Brenda says Majestic Farms has been in business long enough that customers know if they don’t come early in the season, their first-choice plants might be sold out. “The people who come before we’re even open in March and April get first pick,” said Brenda. “We carry a lot of different varieties, but only about 75 plants of each.”
No matter what the season, the Kosholleks always take time to make sure their customers succeed. “We try to do a lot of education here,” said Brenda. “It makes a big difference.”
Visit Majestic Farms Greenhouse and Landscaping online at www.majesticfarmsgreenhouse.com.
Cultivating variety at Majestic Farms Greenhouse and Landscaping
by Sally Colby