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Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.


Memorial Garden to my Father

This is a week with lots going on in the world and right here at home. We have elections behind us, so I guess the campaigning for the next presidential election starts tomorrow. Another huge event this week is that daylight saving time ended this past Sunday, so our internal clocks are still getting accustomed to the new rhythm. Kids are heading to school in the dark, drowsy and confused. People whose workday starts early are beginning their day in darkness. There are just as many people who love the time change as those who don’t. It depends on what your lifestyle is about. Daylight saving time starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November. This past March began the search for federal approval to end daylight saving altogether, so this could be our last time to have to deal with it. That is pretty historical. One day we will be reminiscing to anyone born after 2021, about this crazy concept. I can just see the glazed over look on their faces as we drone on and on about how we went through this time change, year after year, for some reason that most of us never really understood anyway. As a matter of fact, we will have a lot of explaining to do about a lot of things that happened in the world to people born after 2021. It’s hard to explain something that we don’t understand in the first place.

One thing I do understand, no matter what time it is. November is a great time to dive into planting projects that you’ve been planning for. I have two big projects that I’ve been mulling over for a while. Mimi and Max and I have been planning and preparing an area on the Garden Works property to add a memorial garden for my father, Billy Martinson. So many people’s lives were affected by my father, whether they got a start in the agriculture field inspired by working for him or they are owners of one of the thousands of yards in Jackson that he landscaped. It seems like at least three or four times a week someone finds me to tell me how much they miss him or appreciate something he did for them over the last 65 years that he was in the green industry. My father graduated from Central high School in 1953. Apparently, that was a huge class, because it seems like hundreds from that class have come by to tell me a tale about their days together. They have all been characters that remind me of him with their sense of humor and ethics.

The nurseries themselves (Green Oak in Jackson and Garden Works ) are solid reminders of his life. The12 Martinsons that are directly involved in the green industry is another example of his successful legacy. Obviously, this lifestyle looked good enough to us to make a life of it for ourselves.

My son Max kickstarted the memorial garden idea by building a beautiful fence around the area that will become the garden. He improved the area by grading it smooth and gave attention to the turf grass there until it has become the healthiest looking turf on the property. Part of the garden will includes the turf, which represents the sod farm that my father had as a side endeavor…as if he needed even more to worry about. Max built the fence out of wood in the style of a three rail horse fence and stained it black, so it really shows up against the lush, green grass. The horse fence represents the horses that we grew up with. We were involved in 4-H early on, and that interest eventually grew into involvement in the national horse circuit. It seems like we always had horses, maybe six or eight horses at a time, some nags and some really beautiful show horses. The part of the memorial garden that will happen next will be adding the trees. We plan to use the same varieties of trees that he grew on his tree farm here in Madison. We worked a tree farm on the property where we grew up for 20 years. He grew all kinds of oaks, magnolias and other ornamental trees. The customer could walk around the tree farm and pick out the exact tree they wanted. We would mark the chosen tree and wait for the appropriate time to dig and transplant them with his giant tree spade. The tree spade was set up on a Mack truck and could dig a tree big enough for someone to hang a swing from the day he planted it in their yard. It was so much fun watching the spade in action and the look on customers faces when they saw the instant gratification that planting a tree that size can provide.

The other plants that will represent my father’s favorites will have to be some azaleas. Azaleas are what he “came to the dance with”, to use a common Billy expression. The story I’ve heard is that he started his nursery business by driving his station wagon down to Alabama to squeeze as many azaleas in it as he could, without damaging them, including strapping some to the roof. Or, as he put it so many times, “I filled up the passenger seat and tied your mother to the roof!” I doubt that! If you know my mother, you’ll know that didn’t happen. There will be camellias of all sizes and colors; our place was always covered in camellias. I can remember his mother always had Camellia blooms floating in water around her house on Greymont Street in Jackson. I will boarder the beds in the memorial garden with Mondo grass to represent the first money making opportunity he ever offered me. I don’t know what age I was, I guess around the seventh grade. We smoothed out some ground near Mom’s garden. He and his crew would remove huge clumps of Mondo grass from customers yards and drop it off at the house. He told me he would buy all the 4 inch pots of Mondo grass that I could produce. I would separate the clumps and plant them into thousands of little pots. Then I fertilized and watered them until they were ready to sell back into another landscape job. It’s the type of work I enjoyed even then. Looking back on it now, I think it was designed to keep my idle hands busy.

Max will install the irrigation in the garden to represent the irrigation company that Dad operated to service his 65 years of landscaping. When I was a kid, I remember he often had PVC glue stuck to his fingers that he would peel off at night. Around my high school years, my own hands began to have those telltale blue or purple stains of PVC glue, and now, Max’s hands are stained. The circle keeps on growing.

Other than helping with the design of the garden, Mimi is searching for a great stone bench that will represent the natural stone business that he did for many years. We went through so many 18 wheeler loads of Arkansas fieldstone! I can’t imagine how many pallets of stacking stone he imported to Jackson. I am hoping for some kind of monument to be the center of this space, so anyone who wants to, can come by to spend a moment on a bench and reminisce with him quietly. I will hope for people who never knew him to come meditate there or find out more about how he impacted our hometown, as he is a major part of Jackson’s history.

Our newest upcoming horticultural endeavor, a cut flower farm, will also be a part of this new addition. We will have raised beds for growing cut flowers and experimenting with new varieties for everyone to see on their way into his memorial. The cut flower garden will represent the florist that Dad pioneered into 1960’s in Jackson. That florist still flourishes at Green Oak in Jackson and now also at the Township in Ridgeland, which is run by his granddaughter, Carly McKie, who turns out to be an extremely talented florist. If you haven’t, you should check out her work. She brought a breath of fresh air into the florist with a more modern and free approach to her designs. I believe that the florist, because of all the logistics involved to perfectly time deliveries and installations for weddings, funerals and holidays, is what kept Dad up at night more than any of the other diversified areas of his business. My hat’s off to the people that are in the florist business. I have the utmost respect for anyone that can stay sane and run a florist.

I will let you know as our progress on this meaningful project moves forward. I invite anyone to come spend a quiet moment there for any reason, even to remember someone from your own life. I believe by getting into a quiet, natural setting (leaving your phone in the car), that if you listen really hard, Mother Nature will talk to you, and hopefully, will give you some peace and confidence and hope that there are some things in this crazy world that will stay real forever.

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