DEMOTTE — With a few minutes of starting to talk to her, one thing becomes evident, Judi Rajkovi, has several passions – having fun, growing flowers and plants, her dogs and her husband, Monte Richardson. Rajkovi and her husband, who she fondly refers to as “Mr. Bloomers, are the owners of Judi’s Bloomers, formerly Walstra’s Greenhouse, located at 12634 N 600 E in DeMotte on the Newton and Jasper County line.
Rajkovi, her husband and one employee plant 32,000 vegetable starts and 18,000 other plants every year, starting in February, including over 1,200 hanging baskets. The couple actually begins the order process nearly a year in advance and tries to anticpate what their customers will want. In March, transplanting to sales pots begin in anticpation of the schedule late April opening. This year, that opening date is scheduled for April 23, but the owners are understandably anxious about this season. The greenhouse is scheduled to stay open through July first but even that can change as they sometimes sell out early.
Judi worked for the previous owner, Don Walstra, as his head grower, for years before she and her husband bought the business nine years ago. Richardson joined Rajković in working full-time and then some after retiring from U.S. Steel several years ago. They bought the adjoining farm last year. The farm was established in 1914 and used to be the largest asparagus farm in Indiana. The greenhouse business, itself, is almost 50 years old.
“This is my playground,” said Rajkovi. “I like to try new things.”
This past year, Judi’s Bloomers offered a new variety of cherry tomatoes known as Rapunzel for the way the tomatoes trail downward from the stalks. To put it lightly, the plants became so sought after that even other greenhouses were calling to find out where they could get some.
There are three large greenhouses, as well as outdoor growing areas at the business. Each greenhouse needs to be heated and monitored in northern Indiana’s notoriously unpredictable weather.
“NIPSCo loves me,” laughed Rajkovi. “It is non-stop around here but it issomething that I like.”
In the last couple of years, the couple has added classes to the mix that range from creating porch planters, topiaries and other plant-related make-and-take items. Especially popular have been projects involving succulents and miniatures. The classes run nearly year-round and often sell out.
“I like oddities and if I like it, we try it,” she said. “We also host numerous school and scout field trips at no cost. We try to teach them the love of gardening. We also donate to area community gardens.”