Ask A Nurseryman

As long as he doesn’t ask you anything back!
By Gary Carter. Art by Russell Thornton

Being the only fairly knowledgeable nurseryman in our small Oregon town does have its minuses. Take a social gathering I was invited to a while back. I ran into my family physician:
“Hello, Gary, how are you?”
“Just fine, Doc. How’s yourself?”
“Doing OK. I have a question. That hailstorm we had a while back, it knocked most of the flowers off my apple, pear, and plum trees. Should I go ahead and prune them back?”
“Well, you can, but if you do that now, you could destroy any flowers left that are trying to form.” I went on and explained the best times to prune, etc. Then I had a question.
“While I’ve got you, Doc, I’ve got this red lump on my leg, and I was wondering—”
“Make an appointment and I’ll take a look at it,” my doctor said. He smiled, nodded his head, and walked away.
Later I ran into my dentist.
“Hi, Gary. Good to see you. How are things?”
“OK. Thanks for asking.”
“I have a question.”
“Oh?”
“The leaves on my cauliflower, chard, and some of my wife’s other vegetables have holes in them. What would cause that?”
“Without seeing the plants I’d have to say probably snails or slugs. Maybe both.”
“Can you come over and take a look this week, talk to Sandy?”
“Well, I . . .”
“We bought the plants from you.”
“Well, OK. Listen, a couple of my back teeth have been hurting and I was wondering if—”
“Make an appointment and I’ll take a look,” my dentist said. He smiled, nodded and walked away. “See you later!”
Later on that week, after checking out the dentist’s garden, I ran into my lawyer, Ms. Marple, at the local grocery store.
“Well, hello, Gary!” she exclaimed, walking over and giving me a quick hug. “How have you been? Long time no see!”
“I’m OK. How’s the law business?” I asked as she let go.
“Good! Listen, while I’ve got you, something’s eating the plants in my vegetable garden. Chewed my darn lettuce and other crops right down to the ground. What could cause that?”
“Well, there are a number of things. It could be deer, or rabbits, or . . .” I went on for several minutes.
“Listen, have you got a minute?” I asked after I had finished my spiel. “My daughter and her husband are talking about getting a divorce and, well, I was wondering . . .”
“Oh, hey, we’re open nine to five. Sorry, but I’m in a hurry.” She smiled, gave me another hug, and hurried away.
Well, what can a nursery guy do? Set up an office and charge people to ask questions? Would anyone come? Probably not, because anyone can grow plants, to hear people tell about it.
But, hey, if that’s true, why do they keep asking me?

My Flower Friend

At last! Someone who loves my flowers as much as I do.

By Kim Rothrock-Mack. Art by P. Savage

I think it’s the way I came to flowers that makes them so important to me. I was looking for something joyous to balance the dread I felt within after 20 years in nursing, 20 years of watching people in pain and dying. Towards the end, I kept noticing how I remembered the names of flowers I saw. I don’t remember much these days and have begun to think memory highly overrated, but the flower names seemed a clue, a clue to something that might help me shake my depression.

So I planted a flower garden. That was two years ago. Now I have six flowerbeds and two herb beds. I compete with my husband and his vegetables for each new bed we establish. I am heavily addicted to flowers now, especially those with sweet scents. I think I’ve always appreciated scents because of my mother, who’s lived her entire life without the ability to smell. Somehow the flower smells help balance out the awful smells of my nursing past. The flowers flaunt life, filling the air with their flirty, sweet scents. I make daily rounds to examine every little change—finding a reason to get out of bed, to hope. In the solitude of the garden, everything is as it should be.

Except for one thing: my occasional desire to share it all with a friend. When I absolutely can’t stand admiring some exquisite new bloom alone, I’ll demand that my husband come look at it. He always thanks me for the opportunity, but after one or two flowers, he has wandered to the bean trellis to check how long the Romanos are today. I corral our rare visitors into looking at the flowers, but they, too, fail to give detailed, caring attention.

I was just about ready to give up on sharing my new powerful joy with another as crazy as me—when I saw her down in the lily beds. She was clearly on a lily tour, heading straight from one patch to the next. She knew right where they were without even looking for them. Clearly she had the garden memorized. My own heart fluttered in beat with her rapid wings as my desire was realized. She knows my garden as well as me, maybe better, and the flowers feed her life like they do mine.

Twice now she’s visited while I was watering. She dances tentatively at the outer edges of the spray, asking me to hold the hose still, which I do. The sun on the spray creates rainbows that she darts and dances through. Her own pastels milk in the watery arches of color. Other birds take baths, but my speedy hummingbird prefers rainbow showers. Other people and birds like flowers, too, but my flower friend and I live on them.