“Green thumb paradise”
You’ve never seen flowers and plants like those at Ebert’s Greenhouse Village - or met such dedicated employees.
If you’re headed for Ebert’s, put on your walking shoes.
There’s over 150,000 square feet of growing space in 38 greenhouses filled with stunning annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs and hanging baskets. You’ll find traditional favorites like geraniums, begonias and petunias, as well as more hard-to-find specimens like lisianthus and Persian shield - and over 40 different varieties of coleus!
Especially in the weeks and days before Mother’s Day, Ebert’s is a special destination for thousands of flower fans from all over the Midwest, with buses coming from several hours away, just so people can take home the hanging basket of their dreams - Ebert’s has over 12,000 to choose from.
No wonder Ebert’s was voted “Best Green Thumb Paradise” by a Milwaukee magazine.
Everyone who visits Ebert’s is dazzled by the displays in the greenhouses and on the grounds, but very few of them think about the long hours of work and horticultural know how that goes into this huge operation.
Jason Wenninger is the head grower at Ebert’s, working closely with assistant grower Jason Putz. More than anything, it’s his job to make sure that every Ebert’s customer takes home a flower or plant that is as healthy as it can be, and will provide lasting satisfaction, fulfilling Ebert’s motto: “We grow happiness.”
“This business is both an art and a science,” says Jason. The art you can see, in the beautiful displays. The science is unseen, but Jason takes us through some of it.
“We’re constantly ‘trialing’ different soil mixtures, different fertilizers and plant foods, different greenhouse products,” he says. “Right now the soil mix for our annuals has eight different ingredients in it: peat moss, composted bark, vermiculite, perlite, two different kinds of lime, a wetting agent and a starter charge of fertilizer. But if we find something that works better, we’ll gradually transition over to it.”
The peat moss comes in on trucks from Canada, where it is sustainably harvested from the enormous peat bogs in that country.
Jason has a keen knowledge of all the latest horticultural products and trends. He started at Ebert’s when he was nineteen, worked there for twelve years, then left for several years to work for BFG Supply, which sells to greenhouses in 23 different states. He returned to Ebert’s in 2016 as head grower.
“Being a grower here is a high-risk job,” says Jason. “When you spray the plants and flowers with fertilizer, you’ve got to get the mixture exactly right. If you’re off by just a hair, a whole greenhouse full of flowers can drop their blossoms, and that’s a mistake you can’t afford to make in a business as seasonal as this one.”
Because Ebert’s has such a vast amount of growing space in its greenhouses, Jason and his team use large foggers that can treat a 30 foot by 150 foot greenhouse in just 5 minutes - compared to the five hours it might take a single grower to spray by hand. “When you start up one of those foggers, it sounds like a jet engine,” says Jason.
The best personal protective equipment is essential in Jason’s work, and Ebert’s has been getting theirs from Gempler’s for years, along with sprayers, tools and more. “Your gear performs really well for us,” says Jason, “and the prices are fair. Of course, we like that you’re right in the neighborhood too.”
As you watch Jason and his team work, or talk with other employees at Ebert’s, you sense their dedication. “We’re proud of what we do,” says Jason. “Seeing people go home with big smiles on their faces means a lot - especially when you know their plants will thrive. But Mark Ebert always tells us, be humble.”
Humility is an Ebert family value. Milton Ebert started the business as a small vegetable farm in 1976, growing potatoes, onions, sweet corn and a few flowers. He bought a small Allis Chalmers tractor to help him with his work. (You can still see it in the fall at Ebert’s, in a display with mums and hay bales.) His son Ron joined him in the business, and later his other son Mark - they provided the vision and expertise as Ebert’s expanded to its current size and scope.
Although these days flowers are the main attraction, plenty of people still come to Ebert’s for the vegetables. “Our hot peppers have a real following,” says Jason. One of them is the notorious Carolina Reaper, judged the world’s hottest pepper by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Milton was also one of the founders of the Madison Farmer’s Market on the Capitol Square, the largest producer-only farmer’s market in the country, and a place where Ebert’s has always been a premier vendor, and where most people probably first come into contact with Ebert’s eye-popping wares.
But to truly appreciate Ebert’s, and the dedication of Jason and his fellow employees, you’ve got to get off the beaten track, drive through the rolling hills and farmland of southeastern Wisconsin to Ebert’s Greenhouse Village, in a beautiful valley just north of Ixonia. But remember: wear your walking shoes!