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In 1920, after service in WWI, William C. Van Wilgen came to the United States from Boskoop, Holland as a nursery salesman. Fascinated by exotic and complicated horticulture breeding and genetics, and as a licensed arborist, William developed many wholesale nursery products. He settled in a house on Old Pine Orchard Road in Branford and began propagating on the surrounding property. He also farmed on nursery fields on Tabor Road, Branford. He sold the properties to purchase 220 acres of farm land on Valley Road in North Branford-some acreage still maintained by Van Wilgen's Garden Center as their main growing fields.
William imported and marketed the Rhodo 'Wilgen's Ruby', a rhododendron created by his brother, Aart. Aart Van Wilgen developed the 'Wilgen's Ruby' in Holland, a species that is still available for sale today. It is a mid to late-season bloomer that boosts deep-red flowers with dark green foliage. Its compact habit will grow to 4-5' in 10 years.
Over the years, landscaping and tree work became part of William's business. His son, Cornelius, joined the business in 1960. Cornelius carried on the tradition of a long-line of Van Wilgen nursery men.
In 1976, grandson William Van Wilgen took over the business responsibilities. His primary focus was to enhance the landscaping services of the business and in 1977 he opened Van Wilgen's Garden Center. The garden center was a small retail location, funded by sales from his landscaping service. Though in 1988, Bill decided to transition his landscaping business to a larger retail establishment and began growing his own product line.
In 1992, the Van Wilgen Grown brand was born. The initial product line included a variety of annuals and perennials. Soon after introducing the Van Wilgen Grown brand, Bill hired a retail consultant and constructed a much larger retail facility, and growing greenhouses.
Over the past 34 years, Bill has worked to turn Van Wilgen's into a premier Garden Center. Landscape instructions and plant installations are still a part of Van Wilgen's services, but the primary focus of the business is growing his own product line, Van Wilgen Grown, and the retailing of the expanded product lines in the recently constructed garden center store and new greenhouses.