prairie nursery company potrait

Our Story

Bringing Landscapes to Life, Since 1972

bob smith

50 years ago, one of the first nurseries to grow and sell native plants sprang to life in rural Wisconsin. Prairie Nursery began at the Westfield home of Bob (J.Robert) Smith, a retired DNR employee. Inspired by the native wildflowers and grasses growing around his farm, Bob started experimenting and teaching himself to propagate and grow prairie plants. By 1972 he was selling his plants and the backyard garden soon expanded into a half acre plot – known as the Prairie Nursery.

At the height of the environmental movement of the 1970's Neil Diboll was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (dubbed eco-U) where he was studying Environmental Science. After graduating from UWGB Neil worked summers for the U.S. Park Service in Virginia, and later the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado. At the end of the decade he returned to Wisconsin and worked at the UWGB Arboretum. During this time Neil taught himself prairie ecology by researching and studying exhaustively on his own, and by managing the existing prairie plantings at the Arboretum and seeding new ones. Seed for the restoration projects came from a fellow named Bob Smith in Westfield, and Neil soon became his biggest customer. In 1982 when Bob was ready to retire, Neil moved out to Westfield with his business partner Brian Bader, to take the reins at the small but growing Nursery.

Proponents of the early prairie movement, Bob Smith and Neil Diboll were both ecologists, as well. They wanted not only to grow native prairie plants, but to preserve both the crucial ecosystems supported by plants, and the genetic diversity of the plants – the key to their variability and adaptability in nature. Their knowledge, commitment and enthusiasm for native plants are at the root of Prairie Nursery's mission and have sustained the Nursery through the decades.

The original backyard prairie garden, Prairie Nursery has grown to become a national retailer of native plants and seeds. Today we continue to feel encouraged by the growing interest in native plants and their benefits, as we strive to offer the highest quality North American native plants to our customers.

Delivering quality plant material and expert information – to gardeners, landowners, landscape designers and project managers – is our way of creating success for our customers, and success for a product that we feel passionately about. Whether gardening in a small space or restoring larger habitat, native plants are an empowering choice that supports life, biodiversity, sustainability, and soil and water conservation. Prairie Nursery is proud to be part of that choice.



Prairie Nursery is Neonicotinoid-Free. We do not use neonicotinoids in any part of our plant growing process. Learn More about neonicotinoids...