Dig A $10 Hole For A 10¢ Plant [opinion]

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UGA Honors Armitage With Prestigious Award

I know I am not really becoming older, and I know I am certainly not growing wiser. Yet every now and then I learn that something I’ve said in the past has taken root in the minds of many people, and it reappears in the most extraordinary ways. I often tell my students that what you say and what you write may not seem especially profound to you, but it might be especially meaningful to others.

Celebrating Allan’s Career At The University Of Georgia

Allan Armitage isn’t leaving the industry. He actually may become more involved in some areas than ever before. However, he is retiring from the University of Georgia, where he has prepared countless students for careers in horticulture during the last few decades. He was also responsible for beginning the University of Georgia’s Trial Gardens, where he has developed many outstanding plants of his own and evaluated thousands more.

On June 19, 2013, the staff at the UGA Trial Gardens hosted a celebration open house for Allan at the Gardens. Here’s what a few of his friends, family and colleagues had to say:

“I want to point out how dedicated Allan is and how much his students mean to him. He maintains relationships with them [after graduation], he encourages them and he pushes them. Some of them don’t want to be pushed. But he does it for their own good. I appreciate not only what he does for the garden, but also his contribution year after year in the classroom.” — Doug Bailey, Department Head, University of Georgia Horticulture Department

“When I think of Allan, I think of his passion for gardening and what he brings to the whole industry. Allan is our treasure here in Georgia, and really for our whole industry. Anywhere you go, if you say, ‘Dr. A,’ people know him.” — Steve Jarahian, Oldcastle Lawn and Garden

“Because of Allan’s love for perennials, this group has exploded onto the scene in the last 20 years and is still one of the fastest growing categories in garden centers today. Allan is one of those responsible for bringing perennials to the attention of the gardening public. The dollar impact of some the work he has done is immeasurable.” — Steve Cofer, Cofer’s Home and Garden

“It’s not the recognition that keeps this man going.
It’s the sharing of his love of the dirt, flowers and seeds,
The stories he can tell to make a connection with these.

It’s the smiles, the jokes and the laughter that let my dad know there’s more to his legacy than happily ever after.” —Excerpt of a poem by Laura Yarbrough, Allan’s daughter

Recently I was honored by friends and colleagues for my efforts in the Trial Gardens at the University of Georgia. The Gardens have come a long way in the thirty years since we turned the first spadeful of soil. It meant a great deal to me that people came up to the microphone and spoke fondly of me and the Gardens. There is no doubt that what was created there has positively influenced hundreds of people. I was proud and humbled. And surprised.

A special treat was seeing my wonderful and beautiful daughter Laura come up and speak. I hadn’t known she was going to be there, and she had her two children, Mary Grace and Hampton, in tow.

I loved that she came, and was especially touched by her statement — a poem, of all things. Near the end of her remarks, with everyone absolutely rapt, she stated that one of the credos in her life was something I told her many years ago, “Dig a ten-dollar hole for a ten-cent plant.” She then mentioned how those words helped her by saying, “You never know how things will work out, and being ready for anything keeps small problems small.

It was a marvelous way to end her presentation, but I hardly remembered saying this, and I certainly did not know that it had stuck with her. Such is the way of life; often the comment uttered in passing is far more important that the statement offered in a serious conversation. Kids, clients, students, friends and family — everyone hears things a little differently. If we only knew which ones stuck, perhaps we would become a little wiser after all.   GG

Allan Armitage was a professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia for 30 years. He recently retired and remains an active consultant, author and lecturer.

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One comment on “Dig A $10 Hole For A 10¢ Plant [opinion]

  1. Dennis Kromer

    Allan, wow I just read the article that you are retiring…It's hard to believe that it was a mere 30 years that you had started the trials. I think that it was 25 years ago that I hired Tom Linwick as the Daehnfeldt tech rep (surprised that I could still spell that silly Danish name, when back then I could rattle off with no sweat), and he set up samples for you. To me it was a great idea, as anything that could send us to Atlanta was a deal maker for both Tom and I. Turns out that You were the real meal deal, and pretty much the voice of the garden God for your neck of the woods, and you always gave our fibrous Begonias great ratings. You were a great friend during my tenure at the big "D", and when I left them in 1998, I made certain that i was hooked up through GG magazine from then till today and beyond to listen to all your advice. Digging in the dirt is something that you are born with??? I ask that question often, as one of life's little mysteries. Best regards, Dennis