Having spent some multiple of decades working in the nursery business, I have reached a plateau that I like to call “semi-retirement” (a term that I shamelessly purloined from James Brown). I still labor at the occasional landscape job (if the pay is right) and, of course, I maintain my own flora collection at home; however, several years ago, I thought it might behoove me to share with my community the wealth of plant knowledge that I acquired during all those years of toil.
That’s when I ran across a classified ad in the local paper asking for volunteers at a nearby historic site, “Luther Burbank’s Gold Ridge Farm”, and was presented with the perfect opportunity to do just that.
They called Luther Burbank “The Plant Wizard” (much as Burbank’s good buddy, Thomas Alva Edison, was called “The Wizard of Menlo Park”). Burbank was the inventor of the very-popular “Shasta Daisy” who applied Darwin’s Theory of Evolution to the science of plant breeding long before anybody ever set foot on a rung of the DNA ladder.
The really cool thing about being a horticulturalist (besides the high-rent title) is the modicum of immortality they enjoy because many of the plants they develop survive long after their creator has become compost. (Around here, “Ole Luke” -- as I like to call him -- is still considered pretty much of a VIP even though he shed this mortal coil back in 1926.)
My enthusiasm as a volunteer at Burbank’s Farm is partially due to the fact that it gains most of its volunteers from within the ranks of the local historical society. This means that most of my fellow volunteers are an average of 20 to 30 years my senior. (I don’t know about you, but when you’ve rounded the bend of 50 like I have, just being around a bunch of people who call you “kid” is enough incentive for me to put my work gloves on...)
The other thing I like about it is that my fellow volunteers are all plant-people, just like me, and I’m convinced that plant-people need to be around each other in order to have proper validation.
This is because we plant-people are very strange...
Now, I concede that there are probably lots of other hyphenated people that are considered to be quite odd; but, frankly, no matter how strange others may be, they’d really have to work at it to be stranger than plant-people. In fact, plant-people are so obsessed, they invented a special term just to describe our unique brand of madness, “plant-nut”.
While others are snapping roll after roll of 35mm film of Little Janie’s fifth birthday party, we are busy filling up all of our hard drives with pictures of our plants in every conceivable condition: Awwww, Honey, doesn’t the lace-cap hydrangea look so young in this photo?
And, as if that wasn’t obsessive enough, after we’ve taken enough photos of our plants to wallpaper the National Arboretum, we plant-people will sometimes travel hundreds of miles to take photos of other plant-people’s plants!
Lately, though, on “Farm Workdays”, I’ve been getting the vague impression that aged eyeballs are boring little holes into my back when I’m not looking and the senior volunteers have been inviting me over to their houses a lot lately for tea and cookies.
I was flattered... at first...
Then it hit me that they all insisted I take about a dozen or so potted plants they just “happened to have lying around” with me as I was leaving.
I think I’ve finally figured out what’s going on...
I think they’ve been sizing me up as a potential “plant-heir”. I mean, after all, everyone knows that any idiot can raise a child but, it takes a pretty knowledgeable, observant and patient person to grow a plant.
It’s a difficult situation because these are sweet, caring, wonderful people and I don’t want to be rude by refusing to take the little, orphaned plants but, the thing is, I’ve been threatened with divorce if I bring even one more plant into the yard.
So, I wind up putting the orphan-plants into the trunk of my car and then I drive all over the county searching for suitable homes for them.
So, if you happen to see me wandering aimlessly around town with a bunch of plants in my car, just honk and wave -- that is, unless you need some plants over at your house...