‘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...
Coleus Fancy Feathers Pink (Terra Nova Nurseries)

May 23, 2016

Take A Sneak Peek at Terra Nova Nurseries’ New Coleus Fancy Feather Series

A brand-new collection of Terra Nova Nurseries coleus varieties called the Fancy Feathers Series is now available to growers for online orders. The series produces narrow, feather-like leaves and offers a mounded habit.

Read More
Rotary Botanical Gardens, Wisconsin

May 16, 2016

All-America Selections Summer Summit In Madison, WI, Will Offer Display Garden Tours And Much More

Registration is now open for the 2016 Summer Summit, which takes place in August and features a focus on the locally grown movement.

Read More

May 10, 2016

13 New Native Plants And Nativars For Going Green [Slideshow]

Native plants are becoming a bigger part of living green, as consumers become more aware of the role regional native plants play in promoting biodiversity in the garden, in urban landscapes, and in habitat restoration. Here are 13 new native plants breeders are offering to consider for your product mix.

Read More
Latest Stories
Coleus Fancy Feathers Pink (Terra Nova Nurseries)

May 23, 2016

Take A Sneak Peek at Terra Nova Nurseries’ New Coleus F…

A brand-new collection of Terra Nova Nurseries coleus varieties called the Fancy Feathers Series is now available to growers for online orders. The series produces narrow, feather-like leaves and offers a mounded habit.

Read More
Rotary Botanical Gardens, Wisconsin

May 16, 2016

All-America Selections Summer Summit In Madison, WI, Wi…

Registration is now open for the 2016 Summer Summit, which takes place in August and features a focus on the locally grown movement.

Read More

May 10, 2016

13 New Native Plants And Nativars For Going Green [Slid…

Native plants are becoming a bigger part of living green, as consumers become more aware of the role regional native plants play in promoting biodiversity in the garden, in urban landscapes, and in habitat restoration. Here are 13 new native plants breeders are offering to consider for your product mix.

Read More
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Ginger Love’ (Aris Greenleaf Plants)

May 10, 2016

12 New Ornamental Grasses For Low Maintenance Garden Ap…

Nothing says low maintenance like ornamental grasses. They add texture, movement, and all-season color to the garden. Check out 12 new ornamental grasses and grass-like varieties for growing in your greenhouse or the garden.

Read More
Blueberry ‘BrazelBerries Perpetua’ (Fall Creek Farm & Nursery)

May 9, 2016

Why Star Roses And Plants Is Buying The BrazelBerries P…

The purchase includes the brand, variety portfolio, and grower network, and allows Star Roses to capitalize on increased berry consumption among consumers.

Read More
Wave Petunias Team

May 3, 2016

Hot Pink Wave-Rave Van Making Its Way To The Big Apple …

Imagine driving down the road, minding your own business, when you’re passed by two smiling, waving, happy women driving a hot-pink van that’s adorned with petunia and pansy flowers. That’s not something you see every day, but motorists in the Midwest and Northeast may catch a glimpse of the Wave-Rave van this week as Ball Horticultural Co.’s Claire Watson, Product Marketing Manager, and Katie Rotella, Marketing Communications Manager, make their way to a media tour and plant giveaway in New York City. Watson and Rotella visited Cleveland’s WOIO Channel 19 news on Tuesday morning to tell consumers about Wave Petunias and Wave Pansies, and remind them to visit their local garden centers to purchase gifts for Mother’s Day this weekend. Check out this clip on Periscope. After the morning news, the ladies stopped by to visit the Greenhouse Grower staff at Meister Media Worldwide in Willoughby, OH. Next stop: Chelsea Garden Center in Brooklyn, NY, where […]

Read More
National Garden Bureau CAST 2016 Bloggers

May 3, 2016

5 Things Gardens Bloggers And Writers Learned At Califo…

For the second year in a row, the National Garden Bureau hosted five popular garden bloggers and writers on a trip to California Spring Trials. Here’s what each of them had to say about their experience.

Read More
Chick Charms

April 29, 2016

Kelly Norris: Why The Plant Collector Market Is Set To …

In his latest column for Greenhouse Grower magazine, Kelly Norris says there are more plant collectors out there than we think, which opens the way for the gift plant market to explode.

Read More
Pennisetum Fireworks

April 28, 2016

Why Ornamental Grasses Are Great For People In Condos A…

Allan Armitage says breeders need to do a better job of making growers, brokers, and garden centers aware of better ornamental grass cultivars for the increasingly shrinking garden space.

Read More
Andropogon gerardii Blackhawks (Intrinsic Perennial Gardens)

April 27, 2016

Know Your Market When Choosing Ornamental Grasses

Growers have no shortage of choices in the ornamental grass market. Narrowing down the selection comes down to finding the right plant for the right purpose.

Read More
Bee on Bidens

April 25, 2016

Breeders Go The Distance To Bring New Plant Varieties T…

Breeders are meeting the demand for new varieties that perform and sell well by extending trialing to engage the grower community, using advanced technology, and encouraging international collaboration.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

April 20, 2016

Growers And Breeders Are Always Looking For A Better To…

While edibles become more diverse, there's one goal that hard-core gardeners and urban foodscapers share.

Read More
Syngenta Pentas

April 20, 2016

Syngenta Flowers Opens Its Perennial Genetics To The Ma…

California Spring Trials 2016 visitors to Syngenta Flowers found the breeder company and its employees happy and excited for the future, in the wake of the announcement of its acquisition by ChemChina. Now Syngenta Flowers is ready to move forward with its breeding efforts in geraniums, pentas, and other crops, and it is opening its perennials offerings to the whole supply chain for a better chance to get those plants to retail.     Syngenta Wants To Revolutionize Geranium Breeding The big news in this year’s trial, says Karl Trellinger, Technical Services Representative at Syngenta, is the change in Syngenta’s breeding efforts in geraniums and pentas. The Calliope geranium series, long considered a premium line in the market, is getting a makeover. Growers have told the breeder that they love the colors available in the Calliope series, but the plants are just too vigorous for smaller containers and combinations. As […]

Read More
Petunia Vista Bubblegum (Proven Winners)

April 20, 2016

Proven Winners Funds Gardening “It Couple,” Names Plant…

Since 1992, Proven Winners has been changing the gardening game, and it’s not stopping now. With new plants, improved series, and interesting retail customers, the brand aims to make planning easier for growers, and make gardening easier and more fun for consumers. At its new 2016 California Spring Trials location at Kirigin Cellars in Gilroy, Proven Winners had the space and a beautiful setting to lay all of its offerings out, from new and improved varieties in annuals, perennials, and shrubs, to marketing and retail programs. Check out the slideshow below for highlights.   Proven Winners Is Flexing Its Marketing Muscle One of the ways Proven Winners is working toward better use of its products and gardening in general, is by supporting the gardening authorities that gardeners of all ages trust on social media. Director of Marketing Marshall Dirks says while searching for influential gardeners, he came across a young […]

Read More
Scaevola 'Purple Haze' (Danziger 2016)

April 19, 2016

Allan Armitage Picks His Favorites From Proven Winners,…

From “crazy” petunias to container pentas, there was plenty that caught Allan’s eye during the final day of 2016 California Spring Trials.

Read More
CallaFornia Red

April 19, 2016

Golden State Bulb Company Shows Off New Concepts In Cal…

There’s no question that Golden State Bulb Company’s specialty is in breeding virtually any color of Calla Lily, available in about any habit — cut flower, bouquet pot, upright pot type — the list goes on. But now, the bulb specialist is focusing on making calla lilies more accessible to the masses, for use in combination planters and the landscape, with calla six-packs. Calla breeder Peter Beckman showed us the shrunken-down version of these beauties, and they’re certainly perfect for patio pots, planting along paths or at the front of the garden, or en masse for an elegant statement. This presentation makes it easy for consumers to pick up and use callas, without the intimidation they might feel from a bulb crop, says Dr. Allan Armitage.   They’re also versatile for growers to plant in early to mid-February to add to finished containers in the spring, or to sell in […]

Read More
Disney Trial Garden

April 17, 2016

Mark Your Calendars For Florida Flower Trials In May

The two-day event, which takes place in Orlando, is held in conjunction with the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival and offers educational seminars, tours, and open houses.

Read More
Dianthus Paint the Town Fuchsia_CJW14 (2)

April 16, 2016

Proven Winners Focuses On A Better Consumer Garden Expe…

Excellent, long-lasting performance, and easy maintenance are at the core of Proven Winners’ introductions.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]