The heart in heartland


Garden at Heartland Growers opened in honor of mothers, love of flowers


Jim Gapinski can remember a small greenhouse in his hometown in Illinois. He can remember the perfume from the flowers and musty soil. His mother, an avid gardener, would always bring him on her frequent visits to that greenhouse.

Now Gapinski is the owner of Heartland Growers, the 25-acre greenhouse in Westfield.

After completing an associate’s degree in business management, Gapinski worked in a greenhouse. When he was told about wholesale flower business in Westfield, he took on the challenge of growing the business.

The business, which had started in 1976 on the south side of Indianapolis, had grown to a 10-acre wholesale-only business by 1984. Gapinski bought the land and began developing the greenhouse and creating retention ponds as a water source.

The Gapinski home is on the property of Heartland Gardens.  As their nine children grew up, the home and the business were interconnected.  Gapinski said he would go to work early in the morning and return for a mid-morning coffee with his wife – an old-fashioned, Dutch tradition. The family had lunch together and even took the family Christmas picture in front of the poinsettias grown for the holiday season sales.

Gapinski said his children worked in the greenhouse. Three children and a daughter-in-law remain in the business while some have used their knowledge of flowers in other careers.

Recently, Gapinski and his team of growers and gardeners created a blooming trial garden in honor of his mother, Clara Gapinski, and his wife’s mother, Cora VanWingerden.

“Both of our mothers loved plants. So we said the least we could do was dedicate it to them. We call it the Gardens at Heartland named after Cora and Clara,” Gapinski said.

The garden is located in front of the business at 2621 East 186th St. and is open for the public to enjoy.

“It’s a destination point for people. They get to see a nice garden. They get to see how to mix colors and how to mix certain varieties,” said Gapinski. “We thought we could take a piece of land here – we’ve got room on the other side of the pond, too – and turn it into gardens to have a place to just relax, walk, walk with the kids, walk with the grandkids, fall in love again with your wife and just have an opportunity for the community to come look at what plants do. It’s like our gift to the community.”

There’s also a chance for people in the community to have events in the gardens.

“People could have their reception out here, if they want to, amongst the flowers. It’s available,” Gapinski said. For those interested, calls can be made to the main office at Heartland Growers.

Another reason for Gapinski to create the trial garden was to test different varieties of flowers for All-America Selections.  Heartland Growers was one of many gardens across the United States that grew flower gardens and wrote reports on flower varieties for the nonprofit organization, All-America Selections.

“They compile all the information and publish it. They’ll determine whether something makes the list to meet all the standards of All-America Selections,” Gapinski said.

Doug Antle, one of the growers at Heartland Growers, was placed in the role as caretaker of the garden this past summer. He just recently finished the garden report.

“Drought was the biggest challenge,” said Antle, adding the severe heat took a toll on some of the plants, but enough water was provided from Heartland Growers’ retention ponds. “It’s a good project, but it’s still new to us. It’s going to get better as the years on.”

Those who visit the garden and wish to buy some of the flowers can visit Lowe’s or other independent garden centers.  They would be tagged as Heartland Growers’ product.

“We have a lot of space,” Gapinski said waving his hand across the open lawn beside the garden. “It’s still in its beginning state. We see this thing really growing and getting really, really beautiful.”


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