Service and family keeps Crystal Gardens growing

FRANKFORT – There’s a good chance that if you’re looking for an unusual plant, flower or shrub, you’ll find it at Crystal Gardens, off M-22, just north of Frankfort. There’s also a good chance that if you need help finding that something special, it’ll be one of the owners who helps you.

Three generations of the Putney family now man the 10-acre spread that has grown into a thriving business and a summer destination for locals and vacationers alike.

Their nine greenhouses explode with every color of geraniums, over 60 varieties of day lilies and hostas, over 20 kinds of clematis and astilbe, and everything in between, including vegetables, herbs, shrubs and trees. They grow over 15,000 perennials themselves and truck in thousands of flats weekly during the peak-growing season from mid-May until the end of June.

It all started with Wendell and Edith Putney, back in 1968 with a cottage and resort service.

“It was the roots of that business that started this one,” Wendell explained. “We were going all over for the products we needed so we started stocking things like grass and garden seed and shrubs and we did lawn mower maintenance out back. Our first Crystal Gardens customers were the ones from the resort service, and it has evolved since then.”

Over the years, they have expanded to include all types of landscaping materials, custom potting, cut flowers, and water and shade gardens. Three years ago, they opened the Barn Swallow gift shop which Wendell and his grandsons built, and daughter Kelly has filled with everything a gardener could dream of. Future plans include more theme gardens, a butterfly house and bird sanctuary.

They pride themselves on offering high quality products, which are handpicked by Wendell and his son Dan on their twice-weekly trips all over the state.

“We get only the premium plants,” Dan said. “For instance we have one grower who supplies all our geraniums, and we do that to keep the high quality.” They also keep a customer “wish list” and will try to find what their customers want.

They go above and beyond when it comes to customer service, as evident by the golf cart that Dan uses for customers who need a lift around the grounds.

“We have customers who come back every year just to see what’s new,” Dan said.

They also have customers who drop off their own containers and planters and have them custom potted.

“That has grown so much over the years that we have a whole greenhouse just for custom potting.”

Staff is eager and knowledgeable to answer any and all gardening questions, some which have been with the business since they started.

Now heading into their 29th season, it has become a successful family business, with the grandchildren now taking an active role. “You always hope you do something your kids will want to carry on,” Wendell said. “We’ve been lucky that everyone’s naturally found an area in the business that they like. The most successful people are those who make a living doing something they enjoy doing.”

Crystal Gardens summer hours are Mon-Sat., 8-6 and Sunday 10-5. Their popular Herb Festival will be held this year on Saturday, July 17, featuring samples of dishes with fresh herbs, information on growing and using herbs and herbs for planting. Call 231-352-9321 for more information. BN