• 1998
    1998 After hours of talking and working out a business plan at the local coffee house, Bud and Jim form and incorporate Distinctive Gardens. That summer the 100-year-old barn gets remodeled into a gift shop and back office space and two greenhouses go up while doing landscaping to bring in some income.
  • 1999
    1999 The premier opening happens in March. A snowstorm hits, but all goes well. It's realized the parking lot has to be doubled in size. DG opens for regular business in spring. This is a year for learning what works and what doesn’t and the basics of running a business.
  • 2000
    2000 More space is needed and a third greenhouse goes up in the summer. Creation of display gardens begins. It is a building year.
  • 2001
    2001 With business growing, Lisa joins Distinctive Gardens in February. She takes over advertising and the financial aspects of the business and brings a new way for us to communicate with our customers.

    Consigning local artists begins in spring. Quin joins DG and begins helping with landscaping alongside his dad. Landscaping really starts to take off.
  • 2002
    2002 The first ad with “Peace Sign Bud” appears in DG advertising. Everybody is tuning in, turning on and dropping out with the new advertising. “Design Fest” happens in September. This is the first venture into festivals. In November, DG takes “People’s Choice” for their tree design at the Quad City Arts Festival of Trees.
  • 2003
    2003 The gift shop gets a make over and 5 tons of limestone gets worked into the main infrastructure of displays. Peggy starts working at DG. “Are You Experienced” ad runs for Open House in May. First musical event, “Garden Party” occurs in July. “Design Fest 2” happens in September. In November, DG takes multiple top awards at Quad City Arts Festival of Trees, Best of Show, Designer’s Choice, 1st place Most Artistic, and People’s Choice.
  • 2004
    2004 Nursery display area outside the back door expands. First vegetable garden goes in out back. Display gardens continue to expand. “Garden Party” turns 2 in July.
  • 2005
    2005 Community projects begin starting with a coop between DG and Dixon High School (DHS) art teacher, Lisa Kastello and her students. In May DG hosts the DHS “Mural Project” complete with the band “Carolina Dog” playing in the back of the third greenhouse. In July the DG website launches and the beginning of the power of the internet is realized. “Garden Party” turns 3 and foreshadows more fests to come.
  • 2006
    2006 Second DHS community art project happens. In April, Lisa travels to DHS working with students on a variety of projects. They track their progress on a blog. Teacher, Lisa Kastello brings her students to DG to install permanent art projects on the grounds. A two-day event, “Artificial Obsolescence & Hope” transforms DG into an art installation by Ms. Kastello’s three advanced art classes. The installation illustrates current trends in society and suggests hopeful solutions. The front half of the grounds detail the Current Trends segment of the project and the back half is home for the Hope side of the art installation. An art opening with music by “Flying Fish” celebrates the project completion.

    In June, the first benefit held on DG grounds, Flutterbies Gardenwalk, benefits KSB Hospice.

    “Chilifest” is born on a chilly and rainy September day. Eight chili’s dot the front porch and circuits get blown. Rosie Donoho takes overall best chili for her “Nana Ro Ro’s Chili”.

    The Dixon Area Garden Club tree fundraiser moves out to Distinctive Gardens in November.
  • 2007
    2007 The first trough gardens are introduced in spring. July, "Garden Party" enters its final year.

    The business is growing and creates a big milestone for Bud in August. He retires from National Mfg after working there for 22 years. No longer working third shift, he has the opportunity to devote all of his time to continuing to develop DG.

    In September, “Chilifest” is 2. Rosie Donoho’s “Nana Ro Ro’s Chili” and Kelly Dunphy’s “Better Than Bud’s” tie for overall best.
  • 2008
    2008 Distinctive Gardens now enters its tenth year of business. Bhut Jolokia, the world’s hottest pepper in ‘08 is featured in spring and sells out almost immediately.

    In the summer, Bud, Tom Prendergast, Julie Deutsch, Bill Wolfe, Joan and Craig Melzer build the pavilion. The back yard is mowed down for parking. In September the first wedding at DG occurs, the marriage of Timothy and Carolina Prendergast.

    “Chilifest” turns 3 and Lorna McNamara takes overall best. DG's Lisa and Bud co-op with Eric and Judy Brantley to launch the Crystal Cork Art Quarterly bringing artists to the venue.
  • 2009
    2009 In March, DG's Bud and Lisa co-op with Trein's Jewelry's Linda Brantley and Eric and Judy Brantley of The Crystal Cork Wine Shoppe along with area artists to launch the community monthly art event, “Second Saturdays Art Happenings”.

    “Distinctive Classics” and “Distinctive Collectibles” tagging program launches. Vegetable gardens expand. In July, the first Digger Veggie Stand opens.

    “Gardenstock Art & Music Festival” benefit for Sinnissippi Garden Project launches. It gets plugged in the Chicago Sun Times because it’s the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.

    In September, “Chilifest” turns 4 and Scott Seeley takes Best Chili with his “Swamp Rat” chili. Jodi joins DG and begins handling the majority of greenhouse tasks. In December, Bud turns into Santa for “Saturdays with Santa”.
  • 2010
    2010 The first Quick Classes offered during spring open house. The first DG Pop Up Shop happens with both Sterling’s CGH and Dixon’s KSB Hospital Spring Plant sales benefiting the hospital auxiliaries.

    In August, “Gardenstock Art & Music Festival” turns 2. In September, “Chilifest” is 5 and Lorna McNamara takes top award for the second time with her, "Chililiscious Chili". The traveling Chili Award gets a facelift when area sculptor, Michael McNamara casts the fading twisted chili in bronze.
  • 2011
    2011 The entire year is pretty much a blur. In January, Peggy takes over maintaining the Plant Database. In spring, Josh joins DG to help with landscaping.

    In April, DG enters the national Facebook American Express OPEN’s Big Break for Small Business contest. In June, Amex notifies DG they are in the top ten and a bi-coastal video crew descends on DG to shoot the contest video. In July, public voting begins and an arduous two weeks ensue, pounding both the physical and digital pavement for votes.

    In August, DG wins a Big Break and Bud and Lisa fly out to Facebook Headquarters in California for an intensive two-day one on one workshop to learn how to grow DG with social media. As a result, Learn.Share.Grow launches its first Facebook community class.

    “Gardenstock Art & Music Festival” turns 3 and debuts the first byproduct of winning the Big Break by broadcasting the Gardenstock Facebook page live during the festival.

    In September, “Chilifest” turns 6 and benefits Second Saturdays Art Happenings. Nick and Courtnie of Griffin Computer Repair take Judges Choice for their “Griffin Gut Bomb Chili”.

    In October, the second Learn.Share.Grow Facebook class happens and a second video crew comes to DG for a post Big Break video and Second Saturdays kicks into high gear with a projection installation by Bruce Walters in downtown Dixon.

    In November, Sauk Valley Shop Small is born and DG celebrates Small Business Saturday with over 50 area small businesses. In December Facebook sends a video crew to shoot a spot on DG for the upcoming fMC conference in NYC. Then we collapse and try to regroup.
  • 2012
    2012 In February, Bud and Lisa are in the “Building Essential Connections video for the Facebook fMC marketing conference in NYC, right after the introduction by Mr. Zuckerberg. They are one of three stories showing how people are developing relationships with brands on Facebook through their connection with American Express.

    In April, YWCA of the Sauk Valley honors Lisa with the "Pearl Woods" award for achievement in industry and private business for her work in the community in bringing culture and small businesses together through Second Saturdays Art Happenings and Sauk Valley Shop Small.

    In May, American Express OPEN invites Bud and Lisa to sit on a discussion panel in Provincetown, MS for the workshop, “How Social Media Can Help Small Business”, to talk about how to use social media to boost business. Lisa teaches a Facebook 101 class to business people offered through the Sauk Valley Chamber. Spring Open House gets renamed to “Springfest” and offers day long Quick Classes and music in the afternoon. Pop Up Shop expands with two more hospital shows in Clinton, IA.

    In August, “Gardenstock Art & Music Festival” turns 4 and launches its first livestream of the festival and runs a nighttime digital projection.

    In September, “Chilifest” turns 7 and Nick and Courtnie of Griffin Computer Repair take the Traveling Chili Award home for a second year.

    In November, Sauk Valley Shop Small expands to a yearlong marketing campaign and participates in its second Small Business Saturday. Pop Up Shop expands again with participation at the Sterling Farmer’s Market.

  • 2013
    2013 In April, Facebook visits Second Saturdays to capture stories on small businesses using Facebook to revitalize their towns. While there, they conduct a Facebook class for the community.

    In July, a video crew from American Express comes out to shoot Distinctive Gardens and do a story on Sauk Valley Shop Small.

    In August, “Gardenstock Art & Music Festival” turns 5 and makes history with record attendance, a donation of over $10K and films the event for a documentary.

    In September, “Chilifest” turns 8 and newcomer, Michelle Musgrove takes the Traveling Chili Award home for the year. Rosbrook Studio takes over the music stage and puts on the best musical show yet for Chilifest.

    In November, Sauk Valley Shop Small gets national exposure when the July video lands on the front page of the national Small Business Saturday website. Bud flies out to NYC to rally the troops to Shop Small and gets his picture shot with Al Roker doing his Today Show line walk.
  • 2014
    2014 The New Year starts with the launch of our mobile point of sale. Old man Bud is now armed with an iPhone can ring a sale wherever he stands and think’s he’s cool.

    In February the 2nd greenhouse gets a facelift. New benches and signage deck it out for a fresh look.

    In March, Bud and Lisa are asked to serve on the inaugural Facebook Small and Medium Business Council. They fly out to Facebook to meet other council members, share ideas and get an insiders look into FB future plans.

    In April, Early Bird Reserve online store successfully launches for customers to order plants online for in store pickup.

    In May, DG partners with Sterling Main Street on their hanging basket project to bring a burst of color to the downtown.

    In July, Lisa is invited to participate in a panel discussion on the state of the horticultural industry for the national Cultivate 14 convention in Ohio.

    Gardenstock documentary “For Community” releases. DG throws a nighttime premiere party for those involved and show’s it on a 24’ screen in front of the Pavilion.

    In August Gardenstock turns 6. Over 200 volunteers, artists and musicians kicked into high gear and created the biggest event yet grossing over $13K.

    In September Chilifest wraps up a 9 year run benefitting various local area cultural organizations.

    In November the Holiday Online Store launches, Sauk Valley Shop Small kicks off its 4th season with Small Business Saturday, and Bud brings in a cool new style Christmas tree called a Victorian. Quin gets a baptism by fire and sap when he makes his first wreaths, 30 total, for the biggest Holiday season yet.

  • 2015
    2015 saw some firsts and a much-needed vacation.

    Revolutionary 100: DG gets name one of 100 Revolutionary Garden Centers from across the country. The Dudes and their Benches: Quin and Jay build a ton of new benches for the second house and new perennial lot.

    Giving Garden: DG launches a pay-it-forward project which supplies vegetables to various organizations in Sterling, Rock Falls and Dixon. May is for Monarchs, Paula Sands Live: DG is featured on the show to help spread awareness of the Monarch plight. Sterling Main Street baskets: Sterling gets a facelift for street beautification with DG designed hanging baskets placed along the light posts throughout downtown.

    Gardenstock: The people came out in droves raising just over $18K for the Sinnissippi Centers Youth Garden Program.

    Vacation Yehaw! Bud and I were able to peel away for a 3-week road trip out west.

    Holiday Time
    Small Business Saturday: Grows again with the addition of a Wreath Making Project Party and a whole lotta good cheer. Dixon Area Garden Club Christmas Tree Fundraiser: The tradition continues raising money for the DAGC. This year the Christmas tree lot expanded with the creation of the Christmas tree forest on the east side of the shop. Project Parties: Fun times grow offering project parties all season long throughout November and December.

  • 2016
    The year of “The Weather”

    The shop and 1st greenhouse get a massive overhaul to set stage for a re-envisioned DG concept called “Shop Story”. Shop stories switch like art shows. Unfold like good books. Pop with project parties. And happen with community events. Each seasonal story focuses on one theme.

    On a stormy evening, “Transform” the first shop story opens April 7. The shop highlights the transformation of the Monarch butterfly, introduces fun new succulent containers and features local area artists. In May, Springfest kicks off the flower season with a second, of what would become many, wet event.

    In July, Lisa is invited to participate in a panel discussion on the state of the horticultural industry for the second time at the national Cultivate 14 convention in Ohio.“Community” is the summer shop story. And boy does it earn its name. Gardenstock is dubbed “Mudstock” witnessing the wettest run up to the event in its history. Thursday night before the event sees a storm come through and destroy most all of the tents. Friday morning’s quick response and immediate community support gets the grounds ready to go in record time. Saturday comes and so does the rain. The grounds turn to mud. 14 stuck cars, a ton of big-hearted volunteers and fest goers later, and Gardenstock 16 still manages to raise 16K for the Sinnissippi Centers’ Youth Garden Program.

    DG wins Lawn and Garden Retailer’s “Merchandizer of the Year”. Lisa is asked to sit on the magazine’s editorial board. DG gets a new greenhouse! Carrying on with the year’s muddy tradition the whole front run of the greenhouses is excavated to get water out to the new house. And of course that happens with a hell of a lot of rain. Caving trenches and sneaky, hidden water lines push construction right up to the start of the holiday season.

    Holiday Time
    DG wins the Facebook Small Medium Business Council Creative Challenge for their Holiday Facebook campaign. “Peace On Earth” shop story opens November 18. By this time weather is an anticipated factor. And it does not fail to deliver. Sleet welcomes the opening. But that doesn’t damper spirits in the slightest. The season flies by in a flurry filled with much good cheer and an overdose of holiday tunes.
  • 2017
    The year we became grandparents.

    The shop backroom gets a massive update allowing for better organization and a place to hold project parties. 4th greenhouse is completed. 3rd and 4th greenhouses get an organizational overhaul.

    “Dig In” shop story opens for spring. New introductions include DG’s Tiny World line of terrariums and supplies. Expanded Project Parties are held in the new back room. Springfest kicks off the 19th season of business.

    Gardenstockers raises $21,760 dollars for the Sinnissippi Centers' Youth Garden Program the largest yet.

    New greenhouse heaters turn into a massive rework of gas lines. Friends and family kick in to help before the weather turns.

    Holiday Time
    “Christmas Past and Present” shop story opens with the blessing and announcement of the birth of two new future gardeners. Quin and Hailley welcome Jameson to the world. Jay’s son, Lucas and Michaela welcome Olivia. There is much to be thankful this holiday season.
  • 2018

    The first “R&D” happens. Everyone spends one week developing container ideas and the next making them. Front room gets a new “U Create” display for make and take succulent gifts. DG takes Sauk Valley Media’s People’s Choice for “Best Landscaper” for the fourth straight year.

    “Create” shop story opens. R&D items are front and center. Springfest celebrates the 20th anniversary of the business.

    Gardenstock celebrates turning ten and welcomes Woodstock artist, Melanie.

    DG wins Lawn and Garden Retailer’s “Merchandizer of the Year” for the second time.

    Holiday Time
    “Joy” shop story opens. Boy Scout fundraiser doubles in size. We end the year on a joyous note and look forward to a long winter’s nap.

Moving to new home



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Thank you

Distinctive Gardens opens for business in the spring of 1999


share in a passion for plants, people and community


 offer a unique destination for garden-lovers.  


the DG crew has met the coolest people along the way.


Distinctive Gardens

2020 Lowell Park Road

Dixon, IL




by appointment  

Mon - Sat 9-6   Sun 11-3  

by appointment  

mid NOV - DEC  
Mon - Sat 9-6   Sun 11-3