Van Wilgen’s Grown

Van Wilgen Grown

There’s nothing like walking into our growing greenhouses.  Every day, the growing team is busy at work planting and tending to different crops.  Billy P. is our Growing Manager, and if you know Billy, you know he likes to remain behind the scenes and let the plants speak for him. Billy started here as an intern over 29 years ago! Since then, his dedication to bringing the best plants possible to our stores has made him a well-respected and admired grower.

Throughout the years, we have moved greenhouses, bulldozed overgrown brush to expand, moved greenhouses again, fixed fields from flood damage, built new greenhouses (again), and everything in between.  Today we manage over 10 acres of land, our product line continues to expand, and our passion is still just as strong as the day we came up with the Van Wilgen Grown concept over 30 years ago.

Providing you with a plant that we know you will be successful with is what we love most about the Van Wilgen Grown brand. We believe everything starts with trust and respect so our selection process for choosing the plants we grow is lengthy and rigorous.  We receive samples of new varieties that we like to plant and really push them to their limits to see how they bounce back. It’s important to us that a plant can handle extremes and not give up at the first sign of stress.  The best way to tell? We plant stuff in our yard and see how they last through the seasons. Only the tough plants make it to our shelves.

While we’re growing, only the best ingredients go into our plants. The most important thing for a plant is a healthy root system, and healthy roots start with great soil. We use soil formulated just for us, not to mention we work with the same people to make our Van Wilgen’s soils.

The best soil is living so as soon as we receive a shipment of tiny plants, we apply something called Quantum Growth. This is an all-organic product packed full of beneficial microorganisms that work with plants to harness as much energy from the sun and soil as possible. Quantum Growth is a local business founded right here in North Branford. Once we apply these microorganisms they stay with the plant and multiply exponentially. After only 9 days we noticed an immediate improvement difference so every plant grown here gets a bath in beneficial microbes.

With the Van Wilgen Grown brand come our dedication against the use of harsh chemicals.  We have practiced Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for over 30 years as well. We constantly scout our greenhouses for pest and disease issues and eradicating them early with the most environmentally safe solution possible. We make sure we keep a clean greenhouse and eliminate pesky weeds, as they harbor most of the pests and diseases that we don’t want.

When harsh chemicals are used not only do the bad bugs die, so do the good bugs. Never knew there were good and bad bugs huh? We have had excellent results and a lot of fun using beneficial insects to control populations of “bad” bugs.  We use an assortment of parasitic wasps, nematodes, ladybugs, and lacewings to keep bad bug populations to a minimum.  Parasitic Wasp sounds scary, however there’s nothing to be afraid of! These guys attack bad bugs and lay their eggs in the now empty exoskeletons.  The eggs hatch creating more wasps that attack the “bad” bugs.  When we say “bad” bugs, we are referring to insects that eat precious plants.

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We have had just the best time growing (pun intended) our herb and veggie program over the last few years.  We’ve been adding new flavors to our list of organically grown herbs and vegetables every year. All our herbs and veggies are grown in a sustainable eco pot, in an organic soil and fed with organic fertilizers.

The most important thing is that our herbs and vegetables are grown chemical and pesticide-free, ensuring a crop safe and healthy for the whole family because we think it is so important that kids know where food comes from. Just like your homegrown food we measure local by the foot, not the mile…besides, it just tastes better!

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Trees & Shrubs

When it comes to choosing a tree, there is a lot of thought that goes into the decision.  It is an investment, for you, your children, your grandchildren and everyone else in the future.  We have chosen to grow a lineup of trees that we know will succeed in your yard.  We understand that yards aren’t as big as they used to be, so we focus on easy to grow and maintain trees that will fit in any yard no matter how big or small. 

Van Wilgen Grown trees arrive “bare-rooted”, which is basically a 6’ tall stick with roots and no soil.  I know this goes against everything you think of when it comes to healthy trees.  We carefully and methodically root prune each tree then dip into Quantum Growth.  At that point, every tree is hand-potted and then put in our field.  We support the top of the tree until it can begin to grow roots and support itself up. 

Throughout the summer we fertilize and prune multiple times to get the best shape and branching, that groundwork can be seen for the rest of the tree’s life.  The best part about Van Wilgen Grown trees is that they are grown in containers which is much easier to manage.  Container trees have a more fibrous root system and can establish quicker than balled and burlap (B&B) trees. Once the trees begin to flower and look beautiful, we move them to retail, and ready for a lifelong home. Look for our large Van Wilgen grown tag.

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We keep preaching about how healthy roots make healthy plants.  We put our money where our mouth is and we plant over half of our perennials in late summer for next year.  We do this so that the plants grow for the rest of the season and put their roots down.  We cut them back a few times to get them to branch out and get stronger.  Finally, we tuck them in for the winter in a cozy greenhouse with barely any heat.  The results? Explosive plants in spring. 

The extensive root system they have already established lets them focus on growing and flowering.  It’s impressive!  Our custom-made Perennial tags are a great tool for you as well.  There are icons that let you know if the plant is deer resistant, good for cutting if it attracts butterflies, and more.  Look to our tags for a helpful picture and guide.  We carefully select the varieties of perennials that we grow, only the toughest and most reliable make the cut.

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We recently added 3,000 little Fraser Fir seedlings to the huge hill you see from the garden center.  Every spring we plant small 12-18” seedlings and in 8-10 years you will be able to start picking those trees to take home with you for the holidays. Every year we spend time carefully pruning our trees, so they have the best shape possible. We make sure to mow the fields at least 3 times a year, keeping weeds free from around the trees allows them to grow more uniform and reduced the risk of pests and disease. 

Our final mow is in November, where we brush hog between the rows to make it easier to walk around the field. We grow Fraser Fir, Douglas Fir, Blue Spruce, and Turkish Fir trees.  Turkish Fir is recently new to our Christmas tree field, and we really like the way these guys are finishing.  They take a few years to get established and begin growing outward; around year 4 they start really pushing upwards.  We like them because they look similar to a Fraser fir with just a little longer of a needle.  They have strong dense branching so you can hang heavy ornaments on them. Their shape is very conical without much pruning.  We think this is going to be a really great Christmas Tree, we hope you think so too.

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People have plants in their lives for many reasons and everyone at Van Wilgen’s shares this passion. Our goal is simple, making you successful.  
With deep roots in the industry, we work with many growers and vendors to offer a great selection of plants..  As well as our own line of Van Wilgen Grown plants. Van Wilgen Grown is our pride and joy, we love that we are able to grow plants that flourish in your yards.  
Our culture is rooted in the development of our team, the delivery of quality products and services, all while providing exceptional customer service.  Behind our great plants and services are great people. 
The one thing we like to grow more than plants is relationships. You will see a lot of familiar faces year after year when you visit and there is something comforting knowing you get to see team members that remember your garden from all the photos you shared.

Our Values Guide Us: In Everything We Do!

Team – Reliable, Experienced,Adaptable
Integrity – Honest, Respectful
Passionate – Inspired,Knowledgeable
Fun – In Everything We Do