How can anyone not feel amazing in this beautiful weather? Coach and I went for a walk to seize the day. After our walk, which included Coach trying to eat every single acorn in our path, I decided to do some deadheading in the garden. This is my favorite garden task. It’s just so satisfying. I know that with every spent flower I remove, another will be there soon to take its place. Many more flowers than if I had not done anything at all. We all need a little help sometimes, plants are no different.
So it was I deadheaded. When I got to the antique tea rose Mrs. B.R. Cant, I noticed that I made sure to cut right above the first five leafed leaflet (yes, leaflet is real a word in horticulture). It was just automatic that I did this. I thought back to when I learned this and from whom. It was 10 years ago at Floral Tree Gardens among the hundreds of roses in the parking lot.
Suzette was the main one who tended to the roses. I was out there helping her deadhead and she said, “Make sure you cut down to the five leafed one.” I didn’t ask why, I just did. Our roses looked better than other locations due to those extra little things she did. Due to my learning from her, I made sure I deadheaded everything since I could clearly see the benefits.
After I recalled this, I thought about some of the other teachers of the garden I have had. The ones that were not getting paid to teach me about horticulture. Not that I didn’t learn an enormous amount from them, but there is something about a person offering you information just because they want you to succeed at something. No matter how small it is.
My mother always taught me to not just mow the weeds, but get them by the root! Unfortunately she usually only had nothing but weeds.
My Aunt Ginny taught me how to propagate before I ever learned in college. She told me not to waste my money buying roses. Propagate your own, it’s easy! So we went through it step by step and I went out and bought myself some Root-tone. In fact, my first day on the job at University of Florida I was asked to propagate something. I was asked, “Do you know how to do this?” I said, “Well sure I do!”
Another person that taught me a couple of things I use all the time was Rhoda. I was not as nice to her as I could have been. She wasn’t the most pleasant person all the time, but her love for gardening was apparent. I told her I had these little white things on my plant at home. She said they were called scale. She told me to use a little horticultural oil with water and it will take care of ’em. She was right! Rhoda also told me that when I water ferns in hanging baskets, make sure to wait until it begins to drain from the holes on the bottom of the pot to ensure it has received enough water. Unfortunately Rhoda has passed on now, but I do think of her each time I’m waiting for the water to drain from my hanging baskets.
The last person I must mention is my first nursery manager Jude. What didn’t Jude teach me? She eventually became the person who got me the job at UF and led me to the horticultural program in Milton, Fl. Without her I would have never known it was there. When I first started to consider a career in horticulture, it was because of the joy I could see from her even though she had been working with plants for many years. I knew that whatever career path I chose, I wanted it be in something I knew I would love forever.
There are way too many things she taught me to write them all here. Several of them I probably don’t even know she taught me because of how much time we spent together working. I can tell you she advised me on what kind of soil to use when I started my business. Still use it and it works great as I knew it would. I even mentioned her in my speech on the night I graduated from UF because of how much knowledge she gave me. Her graduation gift to me was a pair of great gardening gloves (the first pair I didn’t put holes in the first week) and her favorite movie, “Out of Africa.” Now it’s one of my favorite movies. She knew I would appreciate the idea of a woman living in Africa growing coffee.
I went off to school and learned why to do these things they taught me. However, it made college a breeze for me because unlike everyone else I got to focus more on the “why” than the “what”. It made me a better student. Now I am fortunate enough to pass it on to others. People sometimes are timid to ask me for advice, but I tell them I really don’t mind. I actually love that what I can share has the possibility of giving them the opportunity to enjoy their garden more.