By Wendy Nugent
NORTH NEWTON—The old Benton Greenhouse location in North Newton holds a lot of nostalgia for many area folks, including the Schmidt family. Now, the Schmidts are turning their fondness for the place into future memories for others by opening Hidden Stems Greenhouse there, germinating where they’re planted.
Husband and wife Butch and Denise Schmidt are the owners, while their adult children, Katie, Cassandra and Nick Schmidt, are helping out in their areas of expertise. Katie works in horticulture and is managing their plant inventory. Cassandra, a photographer and graphic designer, is helping with marketing, and Nick, a machinist, has helped with maintenance and repairs.
“This location has such a good history of selling plants,” Katie said. “This whole location is really close to family. Back when I was a teenager, this is the first paying job.”
Cassandra said they grew up two blocks from the greenhouse, and their parents still reside there.
When Katie worked there, the location was Benton’s. Benton’s had been there since the 1980s, Butch said.
“I remember Mom sending me down here as a kid with money on my bike,” Katie said. “It’s kinda fun here. We’re all spending so much time here. It’s very nostalgic.”
Benton’s inspired Katie’s career.
“This was my first job in the greenhouse industry,” she said. “I worked here every season for about six years, and that inspired my education in college to be focused on botany.”
The adult children all will still have their full-time jobs while also doing work for the greenhouse, which is a family-operated business. Katie will remain at the Arboretum, and Cassandra has her photography business, Strikker Images.
The greenhouse will open Saturday, April 10, and the address is 2311 Edgemore Avenue in North Newton. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. They’ll be open through mid-June, although they might stay open past then to sell houseplants.
The greenhouse will carry a number of items, including houseplants, vegetables, cacti, bedding plants, perennials, unique shrubs and trees.
“A handful of exotics,” Butch said.
They’ll also have rare and unique plants consumers can’t get anywhere else in the area, Katie said, as well as flowers for cutting gardens.
“I think it’ll be a good mix of classic garden plants mixed with unique stuff they’ve never seen before,” Katie said.
There also will be for sale gardening supplies, décor and accessories.
“Something we’re really proud of is we have a nice selection of big ceramic pots that can withstand the Kansas wind,” Katie said.
“The plant might disappear,” Butch said, talking about the wind.
“But the pot will stand the Kansas wind,” Katie added while they all laughed.
The greenhouse also will carry pre-made variety planters, Katie said.
“We got cactus for days,” Cassandra added.
Those varieties include spikey cactus, blooming cactus, bald cactus and hairy cactus, to name a few.
“Some of ’em don’t have a thing on ’em,” Butch said about some of the cacti.
“If you’re a collector of interesting or rare plants, we have something for you,” Katie said. “We have air plants, carnivorous plants, so we have interesting stuff.”
She suggested people put a Venus flytrap near their kitchen sinks to catch those pesky flies.
The air plants take very little water and need no soil, Cassandra said.
They also sell spring bulbs by the scoop.
“You can buy one or buy 50,” Katie said.
“Kinda like a candy store for plant people,” Cassandra added.
One thing they have to offer is having Katie, an expert, available to answer questions the public might have. They’ll have a question box there, and Katie will respond to questions via email.
“Hopefully, I can be a plant doctor,” Katie said.
Cassandra and Katie will run the business’s social media and monitor it.
Those who wish to place large orders or special requests can do so by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s a reason Butch wanted to open the greenhouse.
“I have spent most of my life digging in the dirt and playing with water,” he said, adding this didn’t seem like much of a departure. “I’m still digging in the dirt and working with water.”
He worked for 25 years as a municipal utility contractor and the last 10 to 12 years, hauling heavy construction equipment.
Katie said the public can follow them on Facebook for news updates, additional information and hours.