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Countryside homegrown plants for the holidays

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CRYSTAL LAKE – There's a Polar Plunge pond with a waterfall inside Countryside Flower Shop Nursery & Garden Center.

It's surrounded by holiday polar bear decorations, which appear to be looking hungrily at the koi swimming in the pond.

Christmas is everywhere you look inside the several buildings at Countryside – from the 12-foot pre-lit King Spruce to poinsettias, hundreds of them.

Richard Harms, who has owned the business with James Riedl since 1973, said there are least 20 different varieties of poinsettias, in colors ranging from red to burgundy to pink to apricot. Some white poinsettias are spray-painted blue "for Hanukkah," he said.

There also are topiary poinsettias, hanging basket poinsettias and gift baskets which are a combination of poinsettias and green, flowery plants.

The Winter Rose poinsettia looks like a dahlia, and the Carousel poinsettia has ruffled petals.

Harms' wife, Lori, said she starts growing poinsettias on July 4 at Countryside's growing facility in Woodstock. "It's a six-month crop," she said.

She said the homegrown poinsettias last longer because they're never boxed, and always have the right growing conditions. "People still have them in the spring," she said.

Countryside also is a holiday destination for fresh-cut trees, wreaths and evergreen garland.

Business workers decorate about 125 homes for the holidays, and during the summer does all the plantings in downtown Crystal Lake.

Countryside recently received a plaque for being a chamber of commerce member for 30 consecutive years. And next year, Harms and partner Riedl will celebrate 40 years in business.

"We went to high school together" Harms said of his longtime partner. Countryside originally opened in 1960 by Bill and Katherine Hameder, and when it came up for sale, Harms and Riedl bought it, along with Harms' parents.

Since then, the business has grown from 13 to 28 acres. There are 21 greenhouses.

Harms said the business has five divisions: Flower shop, garden center, greenhouse, growing center and landscaping.

Countryside employs 80 total during peak season. and has about 20 support staff. There are four full-time landscape designers. Harms estimated his business is 90 percent residential and 10 percent commercial.

Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beats, lettuce and other vegetables are all grown from seed at Countryside, as well as annual and seasonal plants.

"The core of the business is supplying annuals and perennials," Harms said. "The rest is good business, but that is the main core."

"Rick, Jim and their staff are amazing," said Crystal Lake chamber President Gary Reece of Countryside's owners. "They do a lot of things under the radar. They are instrumental in seeing that things get done in this town."

Reece noted that when the chamber office was remodeled a couple years ago, Countryside was there to landscape and install a patio. "They made the place look great.

"They are really solid people," Reece continued. "They've really done it right for almost 40 years."

Countryside Flower Shop Nursery & Garden Center:

Where: 5301 E. Terra Cotta Ave., Crystal LakeHours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.Information: Call 815-459-8130, or visit www.countrysideflowershop.com

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