Dennis Walters, Walters Gardens founder, dies

Dennis Walters, Walters Gardens founder, dies

Dennis founded Walters Gardens with his wife, Harriet, in 1946.


Dennis Walters, one of the founders of Walters Gardens, died Jan. 11. He was 93.

Dennis was born April 7, 1925, to Frank and Della Walters. Dennis married Harriet Knoll, they raised their family in Zeeland, Michigan. Dennis and Harriet were the owners of Walters Gardens. Harriet preceded Dennis in death in 2008 after 62 years of marriage.

Walters Gardens posted a tribute on Facebook Jan. 11, which received several comments of support and memories of Dennis:

72 years ago Dennis Walters married Harriet Knoll and started what is today Walters Gardens. He put his heart and soul into the business. With only an 8th grade education, he was humble and wise to take advice from others and always attributed his success to his faith in God. Dennis passed away this morning at the age of 93 (words of remembrance by his granddaughter, Karin).

The Walters Gardens story began with a family of Dutch immigrants in Michigan who farmed vegetables in the early 1900s. Under contract with a local nursery, the Le Poire family started growing perennials. Their daughter Dena and her husband John Knoll continued growing perennials, until John died in 1936 and the partnership dissolved.

Left to care for her daughter Harriet and her mother Harmke at the height of the Great Depression, Dena Knoll took out a loan to advertise her nursery nationally. She grew the company enough to hire some employees — including a young man named Dennis Walters, who would end up marrying Harriet.

After Dena retired, Dennis and Harriet rebranded the business as Walters Gardens in 1946. With help from his four brothers, Dennis grew the company into a quality producer of bare root plugs and potted and packaged perennials.

Funeral services were held on Monday, January 14, 2019. In lieu of flowers please consider Hospice of Holland, Zeeland Christian School or the Bridge Youth Ministries.

To share memories or express condolences, visit the Grand Rapids Press' online obituary.