(With apologies to Douglas Adams)
Every nurseryman I know got into the business because they had an affinity for plants; and therein lies one of the great paradoxes of our trade. The best plantsmen, the great plant explorers of our age and indeed past ages have had an eye for a wonderful plant but generally a head full of compost when it came to making money with them.
The artist’s eye saw the soul of the plant and instantly understood how it thrives and enhances our lives. I have walked production and test fields with such people and have seen their scanning senses pull one plant from thousands as distinctive and worthy of attention. I have similarly had people ask me how I could pick out one small plant from thousands while scanning greenhouse benches full of similar plants. How could I pick out the one sick one?
I would answer that once you’ve seen a million healthy ones, the sick ones stand out — in an attempt to say that I had absolutely no idea how that one plant would speak to me.
Our plantsman’s reality is that we operate in “sympatico” with our plants.
There’s an instant acceptance but never-ending wonder at an emerging seed and no matter how many millions of seeds I’ve started, I confess that wonder is still there for each and every seed. It’s the delight in feeling the wonder of thousands of plants about to grow again after being snow-covered for 4 months.
It’s the delight on an early spring morning of having thousands of nursery blooms and not having to share that sensation with any living soul. Indeed, it is one of absorbing the exuberance of nature unfolding.
There are no magic words to adequately share these “nurseryman moments”, those skills, the attitude, or involvement with the plant world.
You look at pictures in a book and you either “get it” and know you are, as Canadian author Lucy Maude Montgomery described, a “kindred spirit” or you don’t.
Your sensibilities lie elsewhere and the pictures are simply gorgeous pictures.
But if garden pictures speak to you as they speak to me — the words aren’t necessary. You understand the seed emerging, the bud unfolding and the spirit that emerges to become a player on the universe’s stage.
And in the late stages of winter, this is enough.