Joe and Lucille Klupenger's business began as one of Joe's hobbies in the mid 40's. Within 2 years, growing rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias emerged into a full time job. In 1959, Joe incorporated his sons Ron and Ray into the business and purchased Panzer Greenhouse, a floral operation located in the Portland area. Joe's operation grew rapidly, and his 100,000 field-grown rhododendrons made him the second largest grower of these plants in the country. Klupenger's success came out of Joe's love of growing and hybridizing only quality plants of numerous varieties and species. Marketing came naturally to him because of his extensive plant knowledge, and sales were made to garden centers, chain stores, florist shops and vegetable stands across the country.
In 1962, Joe's need for efficiency led him to coordinate his locations at a 96-acre site in Aurora, one that stands today as the corporate headquarters. Over the next 18 years, Japanese maples, grafted conifers and additional flowering plants were added to Klupengers line of products. Joe remained extensively involved in numerous trade organizations, sharing his knowledge and always seeking new and different growing techniques, plant varieties and markets.
Many challenges arrived for Klupengers Nursery along the way, however. In 1955, a Portland freeze killed 80 percent of the rhododendrons, camellias and florist azaleas. Not to take defeat, Joe travelled to California and purchased crops and liners necessary to cover his spring sales and bring him back into business.
Klupengers began developing a major expansion of container grown crops, including Japanese maples on outside gravel beds. An arctic express in the winters of 1979 and 1981 brought temperatures from 60 degrees to zero in only a few days, and the nursery experiences an enormous loss of crops. In the spring of 1980, Klupengers built holding houses to protect marginal root hardy plants grown in containers. Now the nursery carries the philosophy, "If we cannot protect it we will not grow it."
Plant growing selections have changed over the years as markets weakened and different species were introduced. In the year 2000 crops grow on over 320 acres of land, including 50 acres in greenhouses, poly and lath shade houses. Over 300 varieties of plants are produced and shipped throughout the U.S. and Canada, and Klupengers is one of the largest producers of rhododendrons, container grown Japanese maples and dwarf rhododendrons.
2005 spring the nursery business and inventory was sold to Spring Gardens, but Klupenger family retained the land and buildings. The 2008 year gave Spring Gardens some very difficult hurtles to overcome with collapse of the housing bubble, the nursery industry experienced substantial decline in sales. 2010 the Klupenger Family bought back the business and inventory and have been operating the business since that time.