Southern Indiana Living

MAR-APR 2018

Southern Indiana Living magazine is the exclusive publication of the region, offering readers a wide range of coverage on the people, places and events that make our area unlike any other. In SIL readers will find beautiful photography, encouraging s

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Mar/Apr 2018 • 11 D espite a few million essays, lectures, classes and self-help books on the subject, the truth of human existence almost al- ways comes down to one fact: "Life is what happens while you're making other plans." If someone had told me 60 years ago I would end up enjoying a fulfilling life as a writer and media crank, live that good life in Southern Indiana and create an 8-acre nursery, arboretum and sculpture garden around my home over 40 years, I would have considered them absolutely baĴy. My future, my destiny — not to tread too much on the word "baĴy" — was to be center field for the New York Yankees. Anything beyond that was much too far in the distance to contemplate. But writer it was. Hidden Hill Nurs- ery & Sculpture Garden in Utica it has become. I don't even like the Yankees anymore. I'm now mostly with the once- again-doomed-to-failure Chicago Cubs. But just in case any one of you might wind up owning a plant geek nurs- ery and sculpture garden someday — and no one to my knowledge has ever wriĴen a decent self-help tome on that — I offer the following truths on the realities of our business: 1 Yes, we are now into early spring 2018. What are you doing reading this nonsense? You should be armpit-deep in catalogs, brochures, wholesale nurs- ery offerings, harassing phone calls from bankers, second-mortgage possibilities and biĴer memories of previous plant- selection failures such as Hardy Hoosier Avocados. 2 Never — and I mean never — visit the garden department of a big box store whose name rhymes with "toes" or "tires." You will quickly learn they sell plants at lower costs than you can buy them, said plants will be stacked 15 feet high in all directions and there are two more huge trucks out there in the parking lot waiting to be unloaded. As you look around, you will notice their plant offerings are mostly very unin- spired, but there will be a couple of plants you don't have and want to take home to try. That, in certain personal cases, will require a trip home to don a disguise and mustache to purchase them. To do other- wise is to stand there in the big box store checkout line emotionally naked and vul- nerable as someone will recognize you and say "Hey, aren't you the guy that used to write for the newspaper, and don't you own a rare-plant nursery up in Utica, and what the hell are you doing buying plants here?" History has taught me there are no good answers to those questions. 3 If as a rare-plant nursery owner with a perhaps more defined plant paleĴe and customer base, never — and I mean never — go plant shopping at a big box store on a Saturday morning when its hundreds of customers are backed up 20- deep with shopping carts filled with mun- dane offerings, many in full bloom. To see that many teeming people in a big box store while an eager dozen or so may be enjoying the fruits of your nursery labor back home is to resist the temptation to grab a megaphone, stand up in a shop- ping cart of your own and scream at that long line of fake gardeners: "Hey, you idiots, why are you buying plants already in full bloom, their show-lives already half over? Buy them as hopeful babies, smaller plugs with all their blooming lives still ahead of them. "I know just the place to buy those, with a much beĴer and more interesting selection to boot. Follow me home and I shall lead you into a whole new and exciting way of gardening." Then, as big box-store security guards rush forward armed with pruning shears and 6-foot rakes, make one final heroic speech to those garden-impaired shoppers before being dragged off to the manager's office. "My friends, I implore you, for the good of those plants, for the good of your garden, do not plant fully blooming daisies in early spring. They have lived all their lives in cli- mate-controlled greenhouses owned by corpo- rate czars who know nothing of leaky hoses and faulty gaskets. They know nothing of the harsh realities of our midwestern spring weather. "I beseech you. The very lives of your plants could be at risk. Let them breath. Give them a life of their own. Let them be free. It's the American way." It might be best to wear a disguise in that mode of operation, too. 4 Do not become angry with those many young people working in the garden shop areas of big box stores. Yes, many would prefer to be home spend- ing eight to 10 hours a day playing video games. Yes, many have not seemed to mas- ter the fine art of watering plants packed too tightly on pallets on a cement floor in stifling summer heat. Yes, many do not know an osmanthus from an ostrich. But they are all somebody's children, even grandchildren. They have abso- lutely no intention of owning a nursery and sculpture garden someday, so why should they invest any interest now? Some may even root for the New York Yankees. Plus, many of the department man- agers are plant geeks themselves, dedicat- ed gardeners caught up in the corporate world with kids to feed and bills to pay and conifers to push. They might even love the Chicago Cubs. 5 At season's end, when you can close the nursery gates in early October and enjoy the fall colors all your own, and not have to sell Christmas trees, or deal with another customer seeking a plant that blooms all year, never requires wa- tering or deadheading and will remain hardy at 40 below zero, you are a much beĴer person — and gardener — for the experience. • Hidden Hill Nursery & Sculpture Garden in Utica, Indiana, will open its 19th season Friday, March 30, with a rare-plant sale. The Annual Kite Flying Festival will be Saturday, April 7. See for details. Bob Hill owns Hidden Hill Nursery and can be reached at farmerbob@ For more information, including nursery hours and event information, go to www.hiddenhillnursery. com About the Author As you look around, you will notice their plant offerings are mostly very uninspired, but there will be a couple of plants you don't have and want to take home to try. That, in certain personal cases, will require a trip home to don a disguise and mustache to purchase them.

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