The year is 1956 and I am ten years old, My parents have moved to a new house in the suburbs. We are landscaping as everyone did in the 1950’s – a few shrubs along the front of the house and that is about it. I go along for the ride out to a nursery in Chesterland, Ohio, owned by a nurseryman named Julian Potts. While my parents are looking at Yews and Japanese Boxwood, Mr. Potts notices me eyeing some plants on a stand. He asks me if I like to garden and I say “I would if I had a plant.” He hands me a plant as a gift that he called a “Cup Plant” (Silphium perfoliatum) – an American native prairie plant that is all the rage today, but unheard of in those days.
With that act of kindness, a gardener was born. I cherished that plant as it grew to six feet tall and had yellow flowers that the bees loved. The leaves formed cups that collected water and birds drank out of them. (I just noticed that some Cup Plant seeds I planted are sprouting! More for next spring.)
My parents had a copy of the Better Homes and Gardens Garden Book, copyright 1951, and I poured through it. I found the perfect garden pond photo on one page and begged my parents to let me use a little plot of land to work my miracles. They gave me permission to do anything I wanted in the field behind our house. The original photo and my reality was not exactly close, but I had fun setting an old half oil drum in the ground and filling it with water. - that was my "pond." Mr. Potts continued to gift me with little plants and I dug violets and small trees out of the woods across the street from our house. My garden wasn’t much, but at age of ten until I hit High School and discovered boys and parties, this garden was my special spot.
I googled Julian Potts and discovered that there is conifer credited to him. “Hal’s Fraser Fir” was propagated by Mr. Potts in 1975 and later named after a man who lived near the old Potts nursery and found seedlings that he sent to a collector. So Julian Potts’ memory lives on among Conifer collectors and certainly with me. I have to admit that a few tears were shed when I read his name.
The moral of this story is that a single act of kindness has given me a life long love of gardening and so much pleasure. Think about that with your children and grandchildren. A child’s size set of garden tools, some seeds, gardening books, and maybe a plant would make a wonderful Christmas gift and who knows, you could be encouraging a new Comya Gardener.