‘There Is Too Much Of You Left Behind’

'There Is Too Much Of You Left Behind'

If he was your major professor, you are either very good or very bad!

This statement was uttered during a job interview of a young man upon graduation from Michigan State University. The young man was me. The major professor was Dr. Will Carlson. That was a few decades ago. In January, Will Carlson passed away.
I am sure every one of you reading this remembers someone who played a positive role in your life. Parents and family aside, if you were lucky, you found yourself in the shadow of a mentor or friend who helped you climb a stair or two toward the stage for which you were striving. I was fortunate Will Carlson was there for me.
In 1980, I had just graduated from the University of Guelph and had accepted a job in Ottawa. With my wife Susan and two children, we needed to get on with life. This miserly existence was getting old. For many reasons, however, we decided not to take the job and in July of that year, we were without a home or a job. We considered our options carefully, and although we were broke, the idea of continuing for a Ph.D. actually made sense. The problem was I had no place to go and application deadlines to graduate school had passed months ago. 
I had read a number of research papers during my master’s work at Guelph and had cited a couple by a W. Carlson at MSU. So I picked up the phone and asked if he was in the market for a grad student. No other place and no other person would have even seen me at that late date, but Will invited me to East Lansing and, as they say, “the rest is history.” 

A caricature of Allan, left, with his mentor, whom Allan
describes as an industry mover and shaker. 
I have always been thankful for his willingness to take that risk. It surely changed my life. It was certainly not a picnic, and being with him at that time was like being in a windstorm, a tsunami and an earthquake all rolled into one. Earning my doctorate was the easy part; surviving Will Carlson was far more challenging. But because of him, my horizons were broadened, and I learned there was nothing I could not do. So, like my mentor, I did it.
Will was a mover and a shaker. He moved people to give for projects like research greenhouses and the MSU Gardens. He moved the present forward by thinking of the future. He saw the future more clearly than anyone I met, including the future importance of these wimpy things called bedding plants.
Make no bones about it: Will’s foresight changed the landscape of the floriculture industry. In the late 1970s, he started a tiny grower organization called Bedding Plants Incorporated that soon became the cheerleader, the fundraiser and the research arm of the bedding plant industry. The early days were heady and I was indeed fortunate to see its rise–those people who worked with Will still talk about those days in almost spiritual terms.
Will was also a shaker–and although he had many attributes, learning when to stop shaking was not one of them. He was so focused he sometimes made unpopular decisions and without doubt upset some people and made others uncomfortable at times. I guess that is why people greeted me as they did during my memorable job interview. But what great leaders have not ruffled feathers along the way?
I was so fortunate to have visited Will in his home in East Lansing a few weeks before his death. He was certainly ill, but what a time we had. When his wife Barbara walked in on us, we were like little kids, eating one of Will’s prized lemons, juice running down our chins and laughing like all was right with the world. I wish you could have been perched atop my shoulder; you would have loved the view. 
He could relate stories, tell a joke, and oh my, could he write a column. We have all been the richer for Will’s thoughts in the magazine alone, and his overall contributions to the industry are priceless. He was a giant of a man and he shall be missed. However, as I attended his funeral, I looked over to him and thought: “You are not going anywhere, old friend. There is too much of you left behind in all of us.”

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Women To Seek Volunteer Leadership Opportunities

When Cheryl Longtin came to the horticulture business in 1994, she applied her experience in the automotive industry to promote the adoption of more technology in greenhouse production. Longtin says horticulture, with its rich family tradition, has long promoted women in the industry compared to other industries, but women in horticulture must continue to seek out opportunities to provide volunteer leadership in organizations that shape the future of the business.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and Suppliers Together in San Diego This October

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s New

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 4, 2015

California Spring Trials Preview: 32 New Perennials For…

Perennials are hot and if this preview of the 2015 California Spring Trials is any indication, there are going to be some great new perennial introductions for 2016. We contacted the breeders who will be displaying their new varieties in California in April, and they gave us a sneak peek. Check out the slideshow to see some of the new perennials making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Lavandula 'Meerlo' (Sunset Western Garden Collection)

March 3, 2015

Why You Will Still Grow Today’s Big Perennial 10 Years …

What will be the next big perennial? Breeders say it takes more than a splashy plant to distinguish itself in the market. Therefore, the question is not what will be the next big perennial, but rather what perennial performs well enough in the garden to have staying power in the market for years to come.

Read More
Heuch Pink Fizz_featured

March 2, 2015

Intergeneric Crosses Are A New Perennial Trend

Intergeneric crosses, oddities some botanists say are an impossibility, have made serious inroads in the perennial world.

Read More
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

February 25, 2015

National Garden Bureau Designates 2015 As Year Of The G…

Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and a long-blooming pollinator plant. It is fitting that the National Garden Bureau has specified 2015 as The Year of the Gaillardia.

Read More

February 18, 2015

California Spring Trials Sneak Peek: New Annuals For 20…

If you're like us and you can't wait until the 2015 California Spring Trials to see some of the new genetics that will be hitting the market in 2016, never fear. We contacted the breeders who will be displaying their new varieties in California in April, and they gave us a sneak peek. Check out our slideshow to see some of the new annuals making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Athena Brazil Salvia 'Brazilian Purple'

February 18, 2015

ForemostCo And Athena Brazil Unite To Supply Unrooted P…

ForemostCo, Inc. and Athena Brazil have forged a working relationship to support each other in the unrooted perennial cuttings market for North America. The partnership, geared toward accommodating increasing demand for unrooted perennial cuttings in North America, adds diversity to a recently consolidated market.

Read More

February 17, 2015

Poinsettias Had Their Best Year In Many In 2014

Poinsettia growers report a strong year in 2014, thanks to a few conditions. Growers were encouraged by high plant quality, enthusiastic shoppers and a stronger, less saturated market for poinsettias throughout the selling season. Seasonal cold at just the right time put consumers in a festive mood to buy early and often, and with no big snowstorms to hold up shipments and a reduction of supply available in the market, the season was strong from start to finish.

Read More
Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'

February 17, 2015

Geranium Hybrid ‘Biokovo’ Dubbed 2015 Peren…

Geranium xcantabrigiense ‘Biokovo,' a naturally occurring hybrid of G. dalmaticum and G. macrorrhizum, is the Perennial Plant Association's top pick for 2015 Perennial of the Year. Learn why this tough, landscape geranium took home the prize.

Read More
Costa Farms' Season Premier 2015

February 4, 2015

Costa Farms’ 2015 Season Premier Reveals Newest V…

The annual Season Premier at Costa Farms in Miami, Fla., is the industry's very first peek at new varieties for debut the following year, even before the California Spring Trials, heralded widely as the jumping off point for new varieties. This year's event revealed breeders' best and brightest new varieties for 2016, shown in field trials, landscape trials and containers at Costa Farms tropical trial gardens. Plant breeders presented their new varieties to buyers and members of Lowe’s grower panel. Growers, brokers and other allied industry members, including Home Depot growers and buyers, were also able to peruse the grounds to see how the new varieties fared in the winter trials. Later this season, the hot and humid conditions at Costa’s summer trials will help identify the true performers.

Read More

January 28, 2015

All-America Selections Introduces Additional 2015 Winne…

All-America Selections has announced more 2015 AAS Winners, bringing the grand total of introductions for the 2015 gardening year to 25. The seven winners join the 12 announced last November and six announced last July. This year, AAS has had the most winners in one year since 1939.

Read More

January 28, 2015

Holiday Plant Trends And New Varieties

Growers had mixed feelings about the 2014 poinsettia season according to Greenhouse Grower's 2014 Poinsettia Survey. Read about their plans for 2015 and stay up to date on 14 of the newest cyclamen and poinsettia varieties on the market.

Read More

January 21, 2015

Pantone Marsala Plants To Grow In 2015 [Slideshow]

Marsala, an earthy wine-red color, is the Pantone Color of the Year for 2015, and it presents a great marketing opportunity to showcase Marsala-colored plants for outdoor and indoor decorating. Enjoy this round-up of plants with Marsala hues.

Read More

January 14, 2015

Liven Up Indoor And Outdoor Living With 24 New Tropical…

Uniquely colored foliage and vivid blooms are just two of the great features new tropicals and foliage plants add to energize indoor and outdoor spaces.

Read More

January 13, 2015

Take Purdue University’s Survey On Vegetatively P…

Do you have problems callusing or rooting vegetatively propagated perennials? The Purdue University Floriculture Lab would like to help you with these problems, but first the research team there needs your help.

Read More
Poinsettia 'Charon Red'

January 6, 2015

Dan Schantz Farm 2014 Poinsettia Trial Recap And 2015 D…

The 2014 Dan Schantz Poinsettia trials featured more than 170 poinsettia varieties. Here's a summary of the event, as well as a 2015 date for your calendar.

Read More

December 31, 2014

Engage Busy Consumers With Modern-Day Tropical And Foli…

Contemporary tropical and foliage plants fit right in with the hustle and bustle of the twenty-first century. Their versatility lends itself to countless uses both inside the house and out on the patio.

Read More

December 30, 2014

2015 California Spring Trials Are Just Around The Corn…

Are the California Spring Trials on your schedule for 2015? Before the busy growing season sidelines your plans, use this handy resource to get a jumpstart on registering for your trip.

Read More

December 29, 2014

Top 5 Slideshows Of 2014

These popular slideshows from 2014 highlight everything from new perennials, to new veggies, to California Spring Trials.

Read More