Thriving: Meet some of the longest-standing plant nurseries in Macomb County

Take a walk and smell the flowers. 

In Macomb County, products from nurseries, greenhouses, floriculture, and sod, make more than $35 million in annual sales. Also, in 2017, the U.S. Census of Agriculture ranked the county in the top 5% nationwide for the production of nursery, greenhouse, floriculture, and sod products. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most well-established nurseries in the county. 

David LewinskiRay Wiegand’s Nursery 

Ray Wiegand’s Nursery 

The business of growing in the Wiegand family dates back to the 1860s but the idea of a nursery began when Marvin Wiegand, the nursery's general manager’s parents married in 1941. 

“My mother grew flowers and my father grew trees and vegetable plants,” Wiegand says. “She had us kids out there helping grow flowers and trees and shrubs, all 13 of us.” 

David LewinskiRay Wiegand’s Nursery During the spring, Wiegand’s father would harvest and load flowers and shrubs onto a truck and send them off to other nurseries for them to be bought and sold. Then in the summer, his father would lay bricks while his mother kept things running on the farm. 

Then in 1960, the family purchased a 40-acre farm on Romeo Road in Macomb County, which is now where the nursery resides. At the time, many plants they grew were evergreens like Taxus and Juniper. 

David LewinskiRay Wiegand’s Nursery 

Wiegand notes since the age of the internet, there has become a growing interest in plants and flowers. He says this is because people can look up different varieties of plants so people can know which ones they want to put in their garden. 

Today, they still sell many evergreens, along with flowers like Hydrangeas, and Roses. 

“We grow about 30 thousand roses a year,” Wiegand says. “So that’s about 150 different varieties of roses.” 

They also carry tropical plants inside their greenhouse. The nursery also provides landscaping services to those who want to beautify their outdoor living spaces. 

David LewinskiRay Wiegand’s Nursery 

More than just plants, the nursery also sells patio furniture and indoor decor. 

“I would call our center a lifestyle store,” says Wendy Bohn, the regional general manager. “Everything from rugs to wall hangings to table sets.”

Then during the winter, the nursery becomes a Christmas store, where they sell trees, lights, ribbons, bows, blankets, and pillows. 

While the garden center is a good portion of their business,  the other big component is their 800-acre farm in Lennox Township. 

Roughly 600 to 650 acres are fields with flowering and shade trees, Arborvitae, and evergreens. The remaining acres are part of their container plant production with over 40 varieties of Hydrangeas, assorted flowering shrubs, more than 600 varieties of perennials, and some aquatic plants like Water Lilies. 

“About a third of what we grow on the farm we ship to other nurseries around the state and other places like Canada, Illinois, and Wisconsin,” Wiegand says. “But 90% of those products stay in Michigan.” 

When people come to the center, they can have some insurance that these plants are hardy varieties because they were grown here in the state, Wiegand says. 

The farm is also MAEAP (Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program) certified, meaning the farm is seen by Michigan as environmentally friendly and conscious. 

“All of our water that goes to our plant material at the farm gets recycled back into our pond where it settles out before it goes back into the stream,” Wiegand says. “A lot of the water on the farm is reused five or ten times." 

For the shrubs and trees on the farm, they practice drip irrigation, meaning they only water at the base of the tree, which uses up less water. They also have a native butterfly house that people may enter from July until September. 

David LewinskiRay Wiegand’s Nursery 

Even with the success of the business, there are still challenges that arise when working with plants. 

It’s hard to predict what you should grow more of or less of when planning 5 years ahead, Wiegand says. 

“I’m buying things in 2025 that we probably won’t sell until 2030,” Wiegand says. “So we are always trying to look ahead by sales figures, and what's the newest trends.” 

Sometimes mistakes are made and we buy things we didn’t realize were fading out until the third year it was planted, Wiegand says. He adds, that there have been times when they grew plants for five years and when they were placed on the shelves, no one bought them. 

Over the years, Wiegand has learned it’s important to be financially conscious in the business. 

“I remember my parents making a statement that they had two shoe boxes, one shoe box they put bills in and one shoe box they put money in,” Wiegand says. “I learned to not buy new equipment or new improvements at the nursery until I know I have money to pay for it.” 

All year round, the nursery also holds education seminars on topics around gardening, plants, and plant and lawn care. Bohn adds the garden center is more than just a place where people can drop in and grab the things they need, but is a destination spot for community members. 

“I was talking to somebody last weekend who says she stops in every so often just to energize her inner being by walking around and looking at all the beautiful flowers and the plants and the gifts,” Wiegand says. 

David LewinskiRay Wiegand’s Nursery 

As Wiegand steps down from the family business, the next generation, including Bohn will take over and run things as usual. 

“I love seeing our customers and having the privilege to watch how their families have grown through the years, making Ray Wiegand's Nursery part of their tradition and knowing that our 4th generation is entering the business and will continue those traditions with them and keep our family legacy growing for many more years to come,” Bohn says. 

David LewinskiDeneweth’s Garden Center 

Deneweth’s Garden Center 

Dating back to 1964, when original founders Carolyn and Kenneth Deneweth bought the 40-acre farm in the city of Macomb to fulfil Kenneth’s dream of owning and operating his own farm. 

It started as a small family farm where they grew and sold rhubarb. A few years down the road, Kenneth built greenhouses for vegetables like tomatoes and cabbage that they would then plant in the field during the warm months. In the late 60’s to early 70’s, Carolyn decided to grow flowers, herbs, and other vegetable plants which would all be sold at the Eastern Market. 

David LewinskiDeneweth’s Garden Center 

Then in 1974, the couple decided to dedicate two acres of their farm to create a Pick-Your-Own Strawberries for customers to come and grab farm-fresh strawberries. This began the business, then called Deneweth’s Greenhouses and Strawberry Farm. But they eventually ended the strawberry picking due to lifestyle changes. 

Marketing Manager Rachel Zavadil says today, the business sells your typical annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, garden tools, and fertilizers. 

“We are really well known for our annuals,” Zavadil says. “Lots of Geraniums and Begonias, as well as Petunias.” 

David LewinskiDeneweth’s Garden Center 

She adds, they even still have customers asking about their strawberries. Although they no longer do the U-Pick they do sell strawberry plants. 

They also sell garden decor like yard spinners, statues, and pots for indoor house plants. 

As Kenneth and Carolyn stepped down from the business, their children took over the garden center until last year Chris Wilson, a long-time employee and family friend bought the business from the Deneweth family. He wants to continue growing the business. 

“I know the owner Chris learned a lot over the years from his mentors about growing the plants so I know we emphasize the quality,” Zavadil says. “The practices and techniques they use they really try to hone in on having the healthiest plants by using the least amount of pesticides or fertilizers as possible.” 

David Lewinski

He has also experimented with seeing what events the community enjoys, Zavadil says. 

“In the spring we have a greenhouse tour which is a big hit,” Zavadil says. “And then in the fall we do a huge bash that’s Fall Fun Fest, so I know they’ve added onto that year after year and learning how to make events that people want to come to.” 

It’s also about learning the challenges of the business. The seasonality of the business can be tricky, Zavadil says. 

“You could have a day where it’s sunny and beautiful and everybody wants to come out or you have a day where you’re fully staffed and it’s raining and nobody comes it so it’s kind of hard to manage the cost for when those things happen,” Zavadil says. “It really is a take it as it comes sort of business.”  

Plants also die, Zavadil says. They try to reconcile this by teaching their customers tips and tricks on how to take care of their plants and what to look out for like mildew or other diseases. 

“There’s always an opportunity to learn like “oh if a plant looks like this” and learning what the managers say is wrong with it, I’ve definitely learned a lot working here,” Zavadil says. 

In the future, they are hoping to add educational seminars and workshops. 

“We are always trying to make our community more beautiful and get people into gardening,” Zavadil says. “We want to continue being a resource for the community.”

David Lewinski
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