“Ask every person if he’s heard the story and tell it strong and clear if he has not. That once there was a fleeting wisp of glory called Camelot.”
Well, I don’t know about Camelot, but to many of my grieving customers, Rising Sun Nursery was a magical place. I just closed my nursery and liquidated everything.
People have been coming in with tears in their eyes. It’s as if a dear friend died. One lady told me she couldn’t come to our closing party because she would start sobbing uncontrollably and she didn’t want to make others uncomfortable.
Of course, a nursery filled with plants is sort of a living thing. There are all manner of plants and flowers and trees. And along with that is a whole ecosystem of little bugs, snails, frogs, lizards and birds, as well as a few rabbits, squirrels, snakes and an occasional deer. Plus, there were the trees and shrubs and perennials planted in the ground bordering and among the potted plants. And there was an orchard where many a bird has pecked on fruit.
So, I get the whole “the nursery died” thing. And I do feel bad for the little frogs that my daughter was desperately trying to save after we removed the concrete blocks and boards that all the bedding plants sat on. But from my perspective, I just sent all those plants out into the world to be given (hopefully) loving care by their new owners. The nursery will live on in homes scattered all over California.
But people ask me, “Why?” Why did I close the nursery?
I tried to get someone else to take it over, but if you haven’t noticed, nurseries are closing all over the country. A wholesale nursery that sold bareroot trees in the western United States just went out of business a year ago after 73 years. The owner told me it was losing about one nursery a week since the recession. I barely made it through the recession myself. Plus, mom and pop nurseries don’t have anyone to pass their nurseries to, and big box stores, supermarkets and even Amazon cut into their sales.
Did I mention I paid off my pickup and my mortgage and now my house is free and clear? Also, I wanted more time to write and sort of, like, enjoy life, and not work every weekend.
A nursery is a lot of hard work. I’m not sure if you noticed, but I was the labor and the manager of the nursery. I potted almost all the 5- and 15-gallon trees, shrubs, fruit trees and roses on the property. If you needed soil or mulch loaded, quite often I did that, too.
A customer was musing about taking over the nursery. Since he was older (older than me anyway), I reminded him that there was a lot of lifting involved. He told me, “Well, I’d have the yard guy do all that.” What yard guy? I’m the yard guy. Either that or the ladies loaded your vehicle.
Not that I’m complaining, but I am 64. For my age, I am very healthy. My blood pressure and cholesterol are perfect. I don’t take any medications. But my right knee gives me problems and when I start limping, my left ankle starts hurting. My left hand goes numb when I sleep sometimes, and that has to do with my neck. My right thumb has a ruptured tendon, which I assume is from pruning thousands of plants, although the doctors couldn’t tell me why it happened. In any case, you won’t see me hitchhiking my way out of Calaveras with my right hand because I can’t stick my thumb back.
Probably I am healthier because of the nursery. You get lots of fresh air, and I think getting dirty all the time has a way of bolstering your immune system. Anyway, that’s my theory why I rarely get sick. It sounds as good as any, but there is a tradeoff. You do get beat up. I have nicks and cuts on my hands, arms and legs all the time.
But I am sad that my customers are sad. I know that I’ve given them everything I had and then some, but now I feel like I’ve taken something away. It was always about service for me and trying to make my customers succeed. After all, you were taking my babies out into the world. I started a lot of them from seeds or cuttings. Why wouldn’t I want you to be successful?
I want to say thank you to all my customers over the years. The closing sale was amazing, beyond all expectations. I brought the unsold plants back to my house in my pickup – five trees, three bushes and a handful of assorted one-gallon plants.
So, think back on how wonderful the nursery was. Remember it as you watch your trees grow. And if I got a fleeting wisp of glory for being voted the best nursery in the Mother Lode many years in a row, that’s about as much as anyone can ask for. But even more, knowing that the nursery lives on in your hearts means so much more. Meanwhile, I am going to use it as a backdrop for some books I’m going to write.