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Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.


Scarlet Begonias

MY FAVORITE MONTH of the year has arrived. October is that month the humidity seems to release its grip, the temperatures begin to fluctuate in the right direction and the feeling of hope returns that for the next seven months won’t be so brutally hot. Last week we got to the day that is 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. From here on the day lengths will be a little shorter, a period that plants wait on to begin their processes and for some plants, they will begin to end some of their processes.

I can tell by how often I am cranking up the blower to keep the falling leaves off the places that Mimi and I like to spend our evenings together when time allows. At work my truck is getting bombarded with pecans falling and pretty soon I expect to begin hearing the acorns hitting the roof of our barn. Sometimes they rain so heavily that I’m not sure someone is not having target practice down there. I have my barn full of this year’s firewood.

I like my wood to sit there in the dry for a full year, I discovered a long time ago that the firewood guy I use has a different definition of “seasoned” wood than mine. We like our fires to start easily in the winter. We like to start big blazers and leave them going until the flames lull us off to La La land. I like to spend time in the woods in the winter and I will often spend a night or two camping out on the weekends. Mimi doesn’t mind as long as the wood is easily lit, fire seems to bring her a lot of comfort and light during the shorter days.

Of course the fall colors are the dealio all around the state and we plant our yard very much with fall in mind. It amazes me every year how fast the process of a little yellow and bronzes can turn into a full-blown technicolor show (the reason for so many types of maples in our yard). Before I know it there isn’t leaf on a tree. The speed that the process happens seems to be connected to the amount of rainfall we have received leading up to fall.

A few articles back I mentioned the plant swap Mimi and the crew put together. We had so much fun that day, like magic the temperatures dropped comfortably, we had the popcorn machine popping (run by Mimi’s mother who is always great for a beautiful smile and some friendly conversation). We offer mimosas, soft drinks, cool water and snacks, something for everybody. We had a sign-up table at the entrance that allowed folks to enter their name and email address to enter a couple of giveaways and so we can keep in touch with them so they’ll know when our next events will be. We also gave away $10 as each person signed up to spend on anything in the store that day. That got people excited.

Watching people walk around figuring out what to spend their money on reminded me of a tradition our family had. When we, six of us or more if we had friends, would leave Gulf Shores where we spent most of our vacations, my mother and father would give us all a $10 bill to walk in that iconic store with the giant shark mouth you have to walk through to enter. My parents would give us a time to be back in the camper or, in their words, they would pick us up next year when they came back through.

Back in those days that would be enough for a t-shirt or a pooka shell necklace or a coconut carved in the shape of a face. I never could decide what to spend that money on and usually in the last few minutes would decide on some nutty thing, or sometimes I would just hang on to the $10. That never went over well when we all got back in the bus to compare our bounty. I realize now it gave my parents about a half hour of peace and quiet, probably worth the money.

People at the plant swap seemed to know just what to do. They either went to the tables that had been set up for them to use or they brought their own. They set up the plants they had rooted well in advance in whatever they had that would hold a little water, anything from pretty little colored glass bottles to Dixie cups. This plant swap was all about indoor plants. I was amazed at the range of ages that are into this hobby. I saw people setting up who were in their 20s all the way up to a man who I believe said he was 86 years old.

There were groups of people and there were people who came alone knowing that they would meet fellow plant nerds. I remember when our children moved off to places where they didn’t know people, they would join groups like running clubs, wall climbing groups, kickball teams or whatever groups they wanted in order to meet likeminded people. I saw some of that going on, people who wanted to meet fellow indoor plant collectors. It was such a fun scene and there was lots of excitement in the air. Everyone was so well prepared I figured they had all done it before.

As I introduced myself around, I found out this was most people’s first time and that Mimi had spelled it out so well for everyone that they knew just what to do to be ready for our first plant swap. Of course, everyone had their own rendition of what that would look like. I loved the idea one lady had. She got out of her car with a covered cupcake holder with a plastic tote with a handle with six or eight plants in the places the cupcakes would have gone. I thought she must be a professional plant swapper, turns out it was her first, she was just very creative.

There was much hub bub going on with 15 or 20 tables set up for people to peruse around and ask questions and make deals. Some attendees were there to sell their plants, and some were there to give away their plants. Some were there with very odd and hard to find plants. Some were there just happy that they had hydroponically gotten roots on their babies.

Mimi is friends with Dakota, the leader of this plant group. I think they’ve been playing around with the idea of Garden Works hosting this event for a while, makes sense since we have one of the best indoor plant selections that I’ve seen. Dakota did a presentation about getting plants rooted, the materials required and where to find the materials. There was a huge crowd for that presentation. Apparently, he is well known in the plant community and he does a wonderful job of making people feel comfortable in what could be an intimidating environment.

We thank Dakota and all the attendees for such a fun day. We will be more than happy to give you the number to call if you are interested in becoming a part of this group, just call or come by so we can get you connected. The staff at our place had so much fun putting this one on that we continued on into the evening after work to celebrate the success but mainly to celebrate Caesar’s birthday. Most everyone who shops regularly with us knows Cesar and he received lots of warm wishes and some great gifts.

AMONGST ALL THIS plant swap excitement we were also having a big Saturday with our regular customers since the weather had gotten right and the place was fully stocked with a new truckload of pottery, our crazy pumpkin and gourd selection was in and displayed. Ben brought in three truckloads of fresh shrubs and trees. John’s fall plants were planted and showing color. The day couldn’t have been better set up for a crowd. There were people everywhere.

It was fun for me to walk around offering help to anyone who had questions. I ran into so many people who shop there regularly and so many new faces, young people and their dogs, young families who were there to get their homes decorated or to get some pictures in the pumpkin patch with their children. I should have dressed up as a clown, that’s about all that was missing. I’ll do that on Halloween, I know Mark is planning a shindig with costumes on the Saturday before Halloween, I believe that is the 29th of October. I’ll either be a Mexican wrestler (Luchador) or Mimi will make me wear a costume that matches hers which if I were to tell what that is, I would be dressed up as a guy in the doghouse.

In the past most of our customers and their children or their pets come in costume, it’s really a blast. It cracks me up to be standing there with a customer explaining how to use a product or discussing a landscape idea while dressed up as some nutty character. These events are fun, and people tell us how much they appreciate our hosting these things. We love it and it breaks up the monotony of just another day at a garden center.

I get a lot of feedback from readers of this article. People are so nice to tell me they enjoy reading my weird style of writing, basically my stream of consciousness, pretty much whatever is on my mind. Those conversations egg me on to write another article, as long as I hear that I’ll always be able to come up with another one. (I guess that it’s like Mulligan The Steam Shovel).

One person on this past Saturday especially rang that bell. This was a man who showed up for the plant swap with some aloe vera to give away to anyone who needed some. He also had a sign that he gives away tadpoles of tree frogs. He raises them in his back yard and wants everyone to have more tree frogs for their benefits. He told me an interesting fact about them. He said that at the final stage of the pollywog they eat their own tail which provides them with something that turns them into a full-blown frog at that moment. They jump in the water never looking back. I guess from there they join the endless cycle of producing more tree frogs. Anyone interested can come up to Garden Works or call and we will give you his number. I think I’m going to get some, anything that consumes mosquitoes is a friend of mine.

This man went to Central High with my late father and had a few growing up in Jackson in the 1940s stories which I love to hear. He was thanking me for my stories and telling me how lucky I am to have lived such a rich life, which I am fully aware. The more I learned about his life we realized he had lived a life that someone could write a great book about. We agreed that everyone has lived a life worth writing about. It’s really just how you look at it. Every day is an adventure, just getting the kids to school or your workday every day and everything that happens in between.

Our work days however mundane they may seem, are stories that, told right, can be hilarious stories. I think this man and I will become friends as I learn more about the fascinating things he lived through in our hometown.

One of our very regular customers was being very complimentary of my musings (she’s lived quite an interesting life herself) insisted that Mimi and I take her up on her offering her vacation home in Vermont. I told her not to offer unless she meant it because we will take her up on it, she said she would be disappointed if we didn’t. That is overwhelmingly kind and I know she meant it. We are already looking up Vermont and studying the hikes that are near her second home on a lake in a state we’ve never been too. We are excited. I wish we could get up there for the big fall color show that I imagine is happening right now. I can’t find an available three days any time soon.

Every day of my life is worth writing about, whether it’s about an agriculture related event that happens to me on a daily basis or just seeing everyday life stuff from a comedic angle. I believe the Grateful Dead lyrics from the song Scarlet Begonias “that once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right” applies to us all, we just have to keep our eyes open wide.

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