About Us

Our Approach

At Specialty Growers, we hand-raise our plants, right here on our nursery grounds, from seed, cuttings and root divisions. We pride ourselves on carrying unusual perennials in addition to the tried-and-true varieties that are the backbone of all good perennial gardens.

We grow all of our perennials outdoors, under natural conditions. These growing methods ensure that our plants are hardy and well-adapted to the local climate. Our customers appreciate how well they establish and grow in their gardens!

We offer more than 600 varieties of perennials, hostas, daylilies, ornamental grasses, native plants, ferns and wildflowers. This amazing selection, coupled with our knowledgeable nursery staff, keeps our customers coming back to Specialty Growers year after year.

Our Story

Karen Bovio developed a love for gardening early in life. When she was asked in kindergarten what she would like to do when she grew up, Karen replied: “I would like to grow flowers for people so I can make them happy.” During her childhood, her family lived in Chicago in a two-story apartment. Although they only had a postage-stamp-size backyard, their garden was “always the prettiest in the neighborhood.”

Karen fondly remembers the many trips with her family to the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago and the summers she spent with her maternal grandmother, also an avid gardener, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Not surprisingly, this love for gardening and the Michigan outdoors rubbed off.

Karen studied ornamental horticulture at the University of Illinois and after graduating, she began her career as a grower for Goldner Walsh Nursery in Pontiac, Michigan. In 1982, Karen started her own nursery business in Howell, growing pots of perennials to sell at the local Farmer’s Market. She soon developed a following of dedicated gardeners who were interested in unusual perennials ─ hence, the name Specialty Growers

Through the years, Karen’s love of plants and her enthusiasm for her nursery business have never wavered. This is the reason customers have come to depend upon Specialty Growers for new, interesting and unique garden plants.

Meet the Team


Karen is not only the owner and founder of Specialty Growers, but also the heart and soul of her nursery’s business. Each year, she looks for new varieties of perennials that will excite her customers and adds them to her already comprehensive catalog of available plants. She manages the nursery operations daily, writes a weekly newsletter during the growing season, and can often be found in the nursery tending plants or helping customers.


As chief propagator, Elli is responsible for potting our extensive selection of hardy garden perennials. She instinctively knows how to make more plants from existing ones through the process of division, and is never afraid to tackle this sometimes daunting task. Her favorite words of advice to hesitant gardeners are “plants want to grow!” When she is not busy potting plants or helping customers, Elli can often be found working among the Peonies or Phlox, two of her favorite perennials.


Leslie is a key part of our Away Team. She chooses and prepares plants for our displays at off-site events, such as Master Gardener conferences and garden walks. Leslie always has her finger on the pulse of the gardening public. She has great insight into what gardeners are looking for. Leslie loves shade plants, such as hostas, hellebores, and ferns, because her own garden is in the shade.


Adrianne is our market manager and an integral part of our Away Team for off-site events. She loves bright cheerful colors, and with her display skills and attention to detail she helps keep the nursery and gardens looking great all season. Nursery visitors appreciate Adrianne’s kind and helpful approach to customer service. She’s equally at home working with seedlings in the greenhouse or using her marketing skills in the nursery.


Val is our greenhouse and seedling manager. As a former nurse, she has just the right touch ─ delicate and caring ─ for transplanting young seedlings. Val tends all of the plants that we grow from seed, including our springtime selection of annuals, herbs and vegetables. She also excels at customer service, with her helpful and big-hearted personality. Val can often be found creating beautiful container combinations of plants that might otherwise have been cast onto the compost pile. Her goal is to give every plant a second chance!


Glen is our Saturday Guy. He has selflessly offered to work every Saturday during our nursery season. Customer service is Glen’s number one priority, and he can usually be found running the cash register or helping customers choose and locate their plants. With his polite and considerate personality, customers find him to be the perfect gentleman and the perfect salesman. When he is not at the register or with customers, you can expect to find Glen helping out in the greenhouse area. He particularly enjoys growing plants from cuttings, including our collection of sedums, hens and chicks and our Michigan-hardy prickly pear cactus.