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Nestled between Kearney and Grand Island, Nebraska, lies a greenhouse oasis brimming with vibrant flowers. But this isn’t your average flower shop. Here, at Open Air Nursery, owned by husband-and-wife team Clark and Kelli Plihal, blooms a unique concept – the Bump Up Pot.

So, what exactly is a Bump Up Pot? Imagine a container pre-filled with a stunning combination of annual flowers, carefully grown to a mature size, ready to be instantly displayed in your favorite pot or planter. The clever design features a removable bottom, allowing you to easily “bump up” the plant mass and drop it effortlessly into your chosen container. No muss, no fuss, just instant gratification and a pop of color for your patio, porch or landscape.

The Plihals’ journey began in 1991 when they bought a property in Shelton complete with a greenhouse. Initially meant for personal landscaping, the idea of selling plants sprouted quickly. The Plihals opened for business in 1992. Balancing their teaching careers with family life, Clark and Kelli built and grew their greenhouse floral business from the ground up.

“We started the same as many other nurseries – 4” pots of flowers and vegetables,” said Clark. “We noticed that people wanted to plant annuals in containers instead of in the ground, and it was too overwhelming to pick the right flowers to mix together in a container. We threw away about $40,000 worth of flowers that year.”

Clark says he remembers the exact moment this discovery struck a cord with him.

“I was helping a customer pick out plants that would go together in a pot and drawing the plans out for her,” he said. “As I was showing her the plan, she looked up and called out ‘Hi, Nancy!’ and went to visit with a friend. I realized right then and there that people don’t want to learn, they just want the instant gratification.”

The Plihals decided to take a leap of faith. They closed their business for one year and began their search to simplify container flowers. The result was the invention of the Bump Up Pot.

The Bump Up Pot started as a waxed, bottomless cardboard container. They then made a purple plastic container that was assembled with tabs. The third version was made of recycled sheets of thermoformed plastic. Clark built his own oven and vacuum system to make each pot.

When prices for the sheets were too expensive, the Plihals once again went back to the drawing board and came up with today’s design – a black plastic bottomless container with a removable base that resembles a colander. The pot is made with a bottom which Clark meticulously cuts out. He replaces the base with a locally produced, colander-like insert that allows customers to “bump up” the flower mass from the bottom of container.

Today, the Plihals grow 5,500 Bump Up Pots annually. They own 13 greenhouses and have 3 locations – Shelton, Schneider’s Hardware in Aurora and Lucky Stop in Odessa. After 18 years of teaching, Clark retired to focus on the business. Kelli joined him after 22 years of teaching.

The Bump Up Pot’s brilliance goes beyond convenience. Clark and Kelli meticulously design each pot, ensuring a harmonious blend of colors, textures, and sunlight requirements. Kelli, with her keen eye for design, draws inspiration from various sources – from the Pantone Color Institute’s predictions to local clothing stores and, most importantly, customer feedback. This ensures that each Bump Up Pot is not just beautiful, but caters to the specific needs and preferences of their customers.

Another secret to their success? Quality. Open Air Nursery uses patented flower hybrids, boasting unique colors and varieties. Unlike big-box stores that often rely on generic varieties, the Plihals prioritize offering flowers that are not only stunning but built to thrive in Nebraska’s climate.

Open Air Nursery’s dedication to quality and innovation has garnered them a loyal following. They’ve grown from a local operation to a destination spot, attracting customers from Scottsbluff, Lincoln, Columbus, and even beyond Nebraska’s borders. Their success can also be attributed to their prime location on Highway 30, ensuring high visibility, and their convenient remote sales system during the off-season.

Clark and Kelli’s story demonstrates that grit, creativity and a deep commitment to customer satisfaction can make a local business successful. From their humble beginnings as teachers to becoming greenhouse gurus, they’ve transformed the way people experience container gardening. With their Bump Up Pots, they’ve not only simplified gardening but turned it into a delightful and accessible way to add a touch of floral magic to any space.

Visit www.BumpUpPot.com for details or find them on Facebook.


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