Allan Armitage on How Passion for Plants Can Pop up in the Weirdest Places

You never know where you’ll find connections between people and plants. In my life, I’ve come across plant enthusiasts in some of the most unusual settings. We can’t always determine who the plant-lovers are by their appearance or profession. It’s best to keep an open mind and be pleasantly surprised when we come across someone who shares our passion for plants. These four stories illustrate my point.

The Speaking Circuit
I attended a lecture recently on planning and investing given by the CEO of a highly successful firm. He acknowledged the “Golden Rule,” which is to treat people as you would like to be treated, not only in life but also at work. He pointed out that treating competitors with respect was more satisfying than treating them with lawyers.


During the question and answer period, the speaker was asked, “What do you wish you could do better?” His response made people laugh, even though he was not joking. “I wish I could grow a better tomato,” he said.

Then he went on with palpable passion about the pleasure his vegetables gave him, and how working in the dirt made him a better businessman. He even sheepishly told the audience he talked to his tomatoes. I understood perfectly. I wander around my garden when I need a little calm and inspiration. Don’t you?

The Hospital
Susan went to the hospital for a total knee replacement. While talking to the anesthesiologist about some of her concerns, plants and gardening somehow came up. Once home, Susan told me that the anesthesiologist said she loves to garden and had went part-time for a year so she could become a certified Master Gardener. I was surprised at the anesthesiologist’s dedication, but not her resolve. Plant lovers, gardeners, and vegetable creators are everywhere.

The Emergency Room
Many years ago, I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle. I was rushed to the emergency room and checked for broken bones and trauma. However, the most amazing thing happened on the way to the x-ray department.

As the head nurse wheeled me toward the x-ray unit, she detoured to a display of African violets. She then asked why her violets were not flowering. I had told the admitting nurse I was a horticulturist, and that sealed my fate. There we were, the true horticulturist asking me about light levels and nitrogen applications and the groggy, slumped-over young fellow mumbling agreement. Once again, it became obvious that what we do may be our vocation, but it is others’ avocation.

The Gravesite
When I was young, I worked as a gravedigger. The attendant feelings of those who visited their loved ones never affected me — until one day.

The cemetery offered full-care maintenance, which meant that not only was the grass cut, but the gravesite was planted with low-growing, colorful plants. One day I noticed a grieving family walking to a recently planted gravesite. The most amazing thing happened. The family viewed the gravesite, saw the plants, and smiled. Their overwhelming grief magically evolved into a few moments of pleasure. Nothing would bring back their son, but those plants changed their demeanor.

I even I realized there was something bigger going on than just a bunch of plants in dirt. In fact, many years later, it was one of my reasons for choosing my own path in horticulture. Who knew?