‘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...

September 24, 2016

Plantarium 2016 Honors Winning Novelty Varieties

Novelties at Plantarium 2016 were judged by an expert committee from the Royal Boskoop Horticultural Society.

Read More
mukgenia-nova-flame-terra-nova-nurseries-feature

September 23, 2016

Growers Offer Advice On How To Grow Mukgenia ‘Nova Flame’

‘Nova Flame’ is best brought in as a summer or fall crop and bulked over the winter.

Read More
deutzia-yuki-snowflake

September 22, 2016

Allan Armitage Suggests Plants That “Even My Neighbors Will Try”

When the urge to garden strikes, every homeowner needs a few plants like these for their yard.

Read More
Latest Stories

September 24, 2016

Plantarium 2016 Honors Winning Novelty Varieties

Novelties at Plantarium 2016 were judged by an expert committee from the Royal Boskoop Horticultural Society.

Read More
mukgenia-nova-flame-terra-nova-nurseries-feature

September 23, 2016

Growers Offer Advice On How To Grow Mukgenia ‘Nova Flam…

‘Nova Flame’ is best brought in as a summer or fall crop and bulked over the winter.

Read More
deutzia-yuki-snowflake

September 22, 2016

Allan Armitage Suggests Plants That “Even My Neig…

When the urge to garden strikes, every homeowner needs a few plants like these for their yard.

Read More
Phlox 'Pink Profusion' (Green Leaf Plants)

September 13, 2016

Aris Horticulture Names Blair Hoey As Managing Director…

Hoey brings more than 20 years of greenhouse production and management experience to Green Leaf Plants, a young plant supplier of perennials serving the U.S. and Canadian markets.

Read More
hibiscus-hollywood-hot-shot

September 12, 2016

New Variety Award Winners Announced At Farwest 2016

A panel of industry experts, as well as show attendees, selected a thornless blackberry and a hydrangea for the top honors.

Read More

September 7, 2016

Check Out The Best Annuals For Attracting Bees And Butt…

Public interest in protecting bees and other pollinators has initiated a new market for flowers that are good food plants for pollinators. Here's a list of annuals Michigan State University Extension recommends that are attractive to bees and other pollinators.

Read More

September 6, 2016

10 Colorful Spring Plants For Sales In 2017

Trends with plants come and go, but color always sells. These spring crops for 2017 offer color choices ranging from bold and vibrant hues to understated, softer tones, and they’re versatile enough to be used in baskets, containers, beds, and borders.

Read More

September 5, 2016

7 New Shrubs And Foliage Plants For Spring Interest

Perennials and annuals aren’t the only plants that supply spring color to the garden. Shrubs and foliage plants also add color and interest and are a great way to round out your spring product mix.

Read More
Janikia Eckert

September 4, 2016

All-America Selections Presents Achievement Awards At I…

Jim Nau of Ball Horticultural received the AAS Medallion of Honor, while Janika Eckert of Johnny’s Selected Seeds took home the Breeders Cup.

Read More
Phlox 'Pink Profusion' (Green Leaf Plants)

August 30, 2016

14 Cool Season Plants To Kick Off The Spring Season

These new cultivar introductions for 2016 are spring bloomers that can take the cold for early-season sales.

Read More
Penn State University Trial Day

August 26, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Broaden Their Horizons

Allan Armitage says you can learn new ideas to help your business when you get out to visit plant trials and other growers.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Kick Spring Sales Up A Notch With 20 New Plant Introduc…

It’s time to look forward to the spring season and what plants will get your business off to the right start. These 18 new cultivars have all the traits of good breeding — uniform habits, bold colors, showy blooms, good vigor, and excellent branching.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Gardens Alive! Parent Company Buys Zelenka Farms

  Zelenka Farms, which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, says LM Farms, which owns Gardens Alive!, has purchased the company and all of its assets. BFN Operations LLC and its affiliated entities, d/b/a Zelenka Farms, operated one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the U.S. Its products include shrubs, trees, perennials, roses, and groundcovers. The owners of Gardens Alive! have successfully purchased several other companies from bankruptcy and are experienced nursery managers. Niles Kinerk, Chairman of LM Farms, stated that “the opportunity to purchase Zelenka Farms assets and to continue the turnaround that is well underway is exactly the kind of opportunity that we look for. We understand the efforts of the management team led by Eric Ek and others have been successful, and we will support the management team in the coming months and years.” Zelenka Farms operates its six facilities across the key growing regions in the […]

Read More
Coreopsis-UpTickCream-19793-DarwinPerennials

August 20, 2016

Growing Tips On Coreopsis UpTick Series From John Wilso…

Editor’s Note: In this new feature, the Greenhouse Grower varieties team will choose one noteworthy variety each month we think is worth bringing to your attention. Then we’ll share growers’ and breeders’ perspectives on the best ways to produce it successfully at your operation. This month we focus on the hardy Coreopsis UpTick series, winner of Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Industry’s Choice Medal of Excellence for Breeding. Growing Tips From John Wilson, Seville Farms When asked about producing Coreopsis UpTick, John Wilson says he doesn’t have much to say because it was so easy to grow. Wilson, a Corporate Grower for Seville Farms, says based on the new series’ strong performance during the trialing he has done so far, the nursery ordered a large quantity of the plants for future growing. “If breeders were looking to come up with something that says ‘wow,’ they have done it with the UpTick Series,” […]

Read More
Eucomis arrangement from Golden State Bulb

August 19, 2016

What’s New With Blooming Potted Plants

From exotic orchids and lilies to flashy red cyclamen and jaunty gerberas, new blooming potted plants come in every shape, size, and color.

Read More
Craspedia Golf Ball Beauty (Danziger)

August 19, 2016

Learn How Unconventional Plants Can Be Hidden Gems

According to Kelly Norris, plant breeding inspired by consumer motivations and interests restores our connection with consumers thirsty for out-of-the-ordinary plants.

Read More
Petunia 'Moonstruck' (2015 Welby Gardens Field Trials)

August 9, 2016

Welby Gardens Names Top Selections From Its Trial Garde…

Welby Gardens, an exclusive grower of Hardy Boy Plants, tested more than 900 varieties this year in its field and container trials. Find out which varieties were the cream of the crop.

Read More

August 6, 2016

Growing Tips On Petunia ‘Night Sky’ From Da…

Production tips for Petunia ‘Night Sky’ from Dan Chaney, Vice President of Production, at Ivy Acres.

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