In Response: I’m All Green Thumbs

I grew up in one of those large nurseries. To this day, it is hard for me to forget the botanical and common name(s) for most plants. Sometimes I do stumble as I walk across my yard trying to remember is it Salix or Syringa….

I had memorized most of the “Dirr Book,” Manual of Woody Landscape Plants.” It is the bible of many nurseries and the dread textbook of many a botany student, who devoured the pages while missing his humor and insights.

I’ll never forget an older woman brought in a picture she had taken of a tree in her yard.

It was a magnificent specimen of a native tree. Simply beautiful in full bloom. I said, “Oh that’s an Old Man’s Beard, or Fringe Tree.” She said, “I know that, I want to know its real name.” Oooops, Chionanthus Virginicus I told her, but she made me look it up anyway, didn’t trust the kid, lol.

One of the best things about our greenhouse/nursery was our signage. We spent a lot of time on signs, getting them right. We would hand write signs this way:

upper left corner: type of plant, such as herb, annual, perennial, evergreen, etc.

upper right corner: the formal scientific name

Center: Common Name, in large letters

(beneath that bullet points)

  • sun or shade
  • type of soil
  • how to plant
  • when it blooms
  • how tall it grows
  • Anything specific to that plant like fall color, good for …..

And finally, the size and price, of course

I don’t think people understood how great and informative these signs were. We made them large, stapled them to posts and after every storm, we’d have to go out and collect them all from where ever the wind had blown them down.

We grew geraniums, lots and lots of geraniums. One year, eight colors of red alone. There were too many pinks, salmons and purplish colors to count or to remember their varietal names.

We offered a full selection of herbs and vegetables, impatiens, begonias, clematis vines, hanging baskets of everything imaginable. Houseplants, one greenhouse for houseplants alone, even though the houseplant craze of the 70’s was long over. Just didn’t sell many African violets, Ficus robusta or Chinese evergreens anymore.

When I was in elementary school I would ponder through this book, Exotica. It was a huge books, at least 5″ thick with pictures upon pictures of every known exotic plant from every exotic country. It was a fascinating book to me. Our copy got wet many years later and smelled of mold and mildew, but I will always remember that book for opening my eyes to the world of endless plants.

It was always a miracle to see the greenhouses go from barren benches to green tables of foliage and just when things were about to bloom, the customers came. Most of them were lovely people who came, got what they needed, asked a few questions, paid and left. Some asking why don’t we have anymore of this or that, they would complain.

It is amazing that my dad always tried his best to get everyone what they wanted if at all possible. The growing experience he has locked up in his brain would boggle you and me.

It has been over 10 years now since we closed the business. I do miss it sometimes. I miss the smells of fresh, damp potting soil, the humid warmth of a greenhouse on a chilly day, a perfumed evening wind when the nearly 2,000 roses were in bloom. I walk into some of the big box stores and see the meager selection offered.

553But then, who am I to complain?

I am just one of the many home hobbyist gardeners now with way too many memories.285In response to I’m All Green Thumbs.



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