In the world of horticulture, few names resonate as powerfully as that of Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery. For generations, this nursery, run by the Klehm family, was a beacon for gardening enthusiasts, offering not just plants, but also a rich tapestry of stories, inspirations, and traditions.
At the heart of this legacy was Lois E. Klehm, a remarkable woman whose passion for flowers and commitment to the family business left an indelible mark on the horticultural industry. As we celebrate Mother's Day, it's fitting to pay tribute to Lois, a true matriarch in her field, who nurtured Song Sparrow Nursery into a beloved institution.
Lois's journey in horticulture started when she joined her husband, Carl G. Klehm, in operating Charles Klehm and Sons Nursery in South Arlington Heights. She quickly established herself as a dynamic force within the business, credited with the innovative concept of the pink barn and pink landscaping trucks, a nod to the signature color of the peonies that became the Klehm family trademarks.
Lois Klehm had a keen sense of branding that was ahead of her time. Recognizing the importance of a unique, attention-grabbing presentation, she made the bold decision to adorn the nursery's delivery trucks with a bright pink color, a nod to the hue of the peonies that were a Klehm family trademark. This move was not only aesthetically pleasing but also served as a mobile billboard, spreading the Song Sparrow Nursery name wherever the trucks traveled.
Today, the sight of flower trucks adorned with vibrant colors and designs is commonplace, yet few know that Lois was a pioneer of this trend. Her marketing savvy extended beyond the garden and into the very way Song Sparrow Nursery conducted its business, ensuring that the nursery's products were not only top-quality but also delivered in a way that was memorable and distinctive. Lois Klehm, through her innovative branding strategies, helped pave the way for the numerous cute flower trucks we see dotting our streets today, delivering beauty straight to our doorsteps.
The family's deep-rooted love for peonies is well-documented. Lois's father-in-law, Charles Klehm, was a charter member of the American Peony Society, and it was under his stewardship that many esteemed peony varieties like 'Emma Klehm' and 'Charlie's White' were hybridized and introduced. The peony's enduring presence in the nursery is a testament to this historical passion, one that Lois carried forward in her own unique way.
But Lois's influence went beyond the nursery operations. She was instrumental in establishing the Peony Pageant in Elk Grove Village and served on the horticulture advisory board of Triton College in River Grove. The Klehm Arboretum in Rockford was named in honor of Lois and her late husband, a fitting tribute to their contributions to horticulture.
Perhaps the most touching testament to Lois's generosity and love for nature is the story of her raspberry picking. Known to count every raspberry she picked, Lois would gather thousands daily, only to give them away to friends. This simple act of sharing embodied her approach to life and business - nurturing growth, valuing each unique piece, and spreading joy through sharing.
After the sale of the family nursery in 1984, Lois channeled her creativity into establishing Klehm's Pink Peony Doll and Mini-Museum, a charming reflection of her eclectic interests and another avenue for her to connect with the community she loved.
The Klehm family legacy continued with Lois's son, Roy Klehm, who took over Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery. Like his mother, Roy nurtured the nursery with a commitment to quality and innovation, introducing new plant varieties and maintaining the high standards set by previous generations.
Despite changes in ownership in recent years, Song Sparrow remained a trusted name among gardeners, renowned for its quality plants and exceptional service. That's why news of its closure in 2020 was met with heavy hearts across the gardening community.
Yet, as we remember Song Sparrow and Lois Klehm, we focus on the beauty they brought into our lives. The exquisite catalogs that were works of art in themselves, the careful packaging of plants like the martagon lilies, and the thrill of seeing a new, unusual daylily bloom in our gardens - these are the memories we cherish.
Lois Klehm, Song Sparrow, and the Klehm family have left an enduring legacy, one that continues to bloom in gardens across the country. As we celebrate Mother's Day, we honor Lois and all the "mothers" of horticulture who, like peonies