I’m almost finished putting my garden together for the summer. This year I’ve found many of the plants I want at Vandula Farms. They sell fruits and veggies and a few dairy products but they have large greenhouses and they stock a wide variety of plants – anything from ginkgo trees to alyssum. Their hanging baskets and long planters and moss baskets are exquisite.
I bought a few last annuals to plug the last holes in my garden and started talking to the grey-haired lady at the till. She told me that she makes many of the hanging baskets.
“I live alone,” she said “And I often get to work early so I go into the greenhouse and put a few baskets together before I start work. It’s a good way to start the day.”
She chatted on, telling me how working around the plants had brought her through the death of her husband four years earlier. Later the plants helped her again when she was forced to move from her big old house to a much smaller condo and sell many of her treasured belongings, all full of memories, “Even my piano”.
“I’d come to work and they could see I was hurting and they’d say ‘Never mind the shop, go work in the greenhouse.’ The plants were all that brought me through.”
I thought of the times I had been wandering through their greenhouses and watched her deadheading some of the plants so they looked fresh for the customers. Her hands worked fast enough – she wasted no time – but she worked as if making each plant more beautiful was a job worthy of her full attention, care and concern.
Deadheading is a routine task for a gardener, we tend to do it almost mindlessly as we pass a bloom that has ‘gone over’. She was not working mindlessly, she was tending her flock of plants. Not even her flock – they belong to the owner.
But she is the one who puts the beautiful baskets together and she is proud of that. She tells me with pride that they sell almost all they produce. “People ask me, ‘How are you going to get rid of all those baskets?’ But we go through hundreds of them. Six hundred of them go up to Whistler, that’s how far people come for our baskets.”
Her fingers showed the swelling of arthritis and her back was slightly stooped as she rang the plants through the till. Almost imperceptibly she touched each plant and deadheaded a couple of flowers that she must have missed earlier. Did she do it for my benefit so that as the customer I would get home with perfect-looking plants? Or was she doing it for the plants, giving them the last loving touch before sending them out into the world?
Do plants and people have a relationship – a mutual giving and caring? As I drove home with my plants I found myself believing that they do.