It’s natural, I guess, to consider the impact of choices made at different points in life. I found myself doing that recently, when a landmark in my hometown was torn down.
When my son was very young, I looked into a landscape architecture program in North Carolina. The lab time would have required more time from home than I wanted to devote, so I went on to a career in philanthropy and non-profit work. Twenty years ago, I decided to become a non-traditional (older) student and take horticulture and landscape design classes in Tennessee. As I neared the end of my studies, I made plans to start a design business of my own.
Every time I returned to the home place near Asheville, I’d pass a little log cabin sitting empty on the side of the road. It had a warmth and quirky appeal I couldn’t get off my mind; it seemed like just the right place for a little nursery or garden shop. I fantasized about how I would decorate the cabin and set up the plant displays.
Ultimately, the timing (and motivation) for retail was not right for me, but it was for a local woman named Carol. She rented the cabin and established a florist and nursery business, offering garden-related gifts and a limited range of exterior plants. Over the years she expanded the nursery portion and carried a good selection of herbs, perennials, shrubs, and trees, many of them out-of-the ordinary. I liked to stop by and see the latest inventory on my way home. Despite the cabin’s aging, weather-beaten structure, I assumed it would always be there, bursting at the seams with pots and statuary and plants.
The garden shop is just a memory now. The cabin was torn down recently and the site is being prepared for a coffee shop — at least that’s the buzz in the community. The nursery owner said she was ready to go on to other things, adding that it had become a challenge to keep everything watered and cared for. She said she was never able to totally relax in the evenings or on week-ends, wondering if the plants were dried out, knocked over by the wind, or taken by a dishonest passer-by. I’ve worked at a nursery and know that overseeing an inventory of living, breathing things is a challenge. It’s never far from the owner’s mind.
Maybe I’ll stop by for a cup of coffee when the new building is finished. Most likely, the place will be landscaped with the generic hollies and junipers that are displacing plants native to the area. Maybe they’ll get Carol to come back and help them go in a different direction. Either way, I’ll try to go with an open mind. But I’ll always be nostalgic for that sweet little garden shop and the dream I once had to have it for my own.