When Melinda and Peter Madden opened Madden’s Nursery & Landscaping on Route 27 in Little Rocky Hill, Ms. Madden was fresh from a career as a multi-media coordinator for corporate meetings in New York City. A young mother, with no horticultural experience, she began an intensive learning program.
“Peter had been in the landscaping design business, and it was always his dream to have his own garden center,” she explains. “Although I had always loved flowers, I had no real horticultural background, so I signed up for courses at Rutgers.”
That was in 1995. In the past 18 years, the nursery — like its plants, flowers, trees, and shrubs — has thrived. The Madden’s now have a second location open full time to customers. They acquired their 24-acre farm nine years ago, and it is where they grow the products for their Route 27 location. Now, customers can go directly to the farm at 50 Route 518 (not far off Route 27) in Franklin Township.??
“We grow all our own plants, both annuals and perennials, and shrubs and trees (?),” notes Ms. Madden. “This was always our plan to compensate for changes in the economy; it enables us to keep our prices low over the years.
“We have bigger spruce trees at the farm, including 2½ and 3 inch caliper trees,” she continues. “Lots of nice evergreens, including 6-foot Norway spruce, blue spruce, and 8-10-foot white pine. Also, weeping cherry, flowering cherry, flowering pear, and dogwood.”
Shrubs include hydrangeas, weigela, spirea, azalea, rhododendron, and boxwood, among others. Fall is an excellent time for planting all of the above, adds Ms. Madden. “Winter pansies are available, as are flowering kale and cabbage. Of course, mums are very popular now, and we have a big selection, all home-grown, with a starting price of four for $10.”
Pumpkins are on hand and also cornstalks and bales of straw for fall decorating.
“We get a lot of customers in the fall,” says Ms. Madden. “And as a special treat for kids on the weekends from September 21 through the end of October, we will have a complimentary petting zoo, with our mini cow, Lindyann, goats, bunnies, and chickens. A visit to the farm can be a fun family outing.”
The creativity and natural beauty that is an intrinsic part of Madden Family Farms especially appeals to Ms. Madden, and she enjoys helping customers with landscaping ideas. “I like to help select the plants for a customer’s landscape and garden. And if people e-mail pictures, we can help design a landscape for them. I love this; it is so creative.”
In fact, Ms Madden enjoys just about everything about her work. “I love this business. It truly is my passion. Watching seedlings grow into lush beautiful plants is exciting. I love the beauty of the farm and the garden center. I love plants and flowers. Actually, I feel as if I have an addiction to certain types of plants, such as succulents and hybrid coleus as well as hard-to-find Rex begonias.
“Our family has had a passion for this business from the time we opened. A lot of hard work and long hours have gone into it. My children were babies when we opened, and they have worked in the business right along with us. Now our son Mason is 23, and is running the farm, and in charge of its expansion. His younger brother Mike helps on weekends and after school. Our daughter Megan, who is studying commercial photography, helps with our website.”
Ms. Madden also likes the seasonal aspect of the business, even when the weather poses a challenge. As she says, there is also something different to look forward to. “Every season is different in our business. We start the new year strategizing and planning for the spring. When the end of February rolls around, our little seedlings arrive at our farm, where the production of growing annuals and perennials begins. Our doors open mid-March with a vast selection of cool crop annuals. As the temperatures warm up, the array of hundreds of proven winter annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees arrive at our nursery on Route 27, and we start setting up our display at the farm. We have pottery shipped in from all over the world.
Array of Colors
“As spring turns to summer, Madden’s continues to sell beautiful summer flowers, both perennials and annuals through August. With the arrival of September and cool nights, both our locations are filled with mums in a huge array of colors. We have pumpkin gourds and Indian corn for fall decorating needs.
“As fall comes to an end, and winter approaches, Madden’s gets ready for our cut Christmas trees, fresh Fraser fir wreaths, poinsettias, and grave blankets. All of our Christmas inventory is handmade by our family, including the dozens and dozens of complimentary homemade cookies, a way of thanking each and every customer who comes to our door to support our family business.”
Ms. Madden thinks of her business as offering people a soothing activity in the midst of an increasingly high tech society. “In a business like this, it is back to the basics. People like to come here. It’s low stress, and there is beauty here. I am so pleased when people are happy buying our flowers, and I love to watch young people becoming enthusiastic about gardening. I love working outside, and I love working with the public. I also love it that I am working with my family. This is truly an owned and operated family business. We have come a long way, and I absolutely love what I do!”
Madden’s farm location is open Tuesday through Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the Route 27 garden center is open seven days 9 to 6. (908) 208-5164. Website: www.maddensfamilyfarms.com.