Greenhouses were great places to play hide-and-seek. My favorite place to hide as a child was under the wooden benches. I would walk between rows of benches and when nobody was looking, drop to my hands and knees scooching underneath into the tunnel-like structure. I could crawl along the length of the bench, about the width of a city block, but usually I stopped mid way. Lying on my side against the cool, hard-packed ground, I would look around under the wavy black ceiling of the benches. The surreal scene of distant legs and feet slowly moving to and fro as workers tended the crop made me giggle.
My family’s business was greenhousing, having been located a mile and a half outside
Detroit in . The store front was on Ferndale Hilton Road. On Orchard St. there was about an acre under glass, three city lots of creosote-covered cold frames and two more lots of open field for planting-out. At the back of all this, on Lewiston Ave., was a garage as big as a pole barn and a cement pad for the numerous semi trucks that arrived from late autumn through early summer.
I was a child then and loved the benches of colorful flowers. There was the winter crop of gold toned cutting mums for floral shops, next came vibrant reds, pinks, and white geraniums. The rainbow myriad of annual flats ended the growing season.
Years later while living with my grandmother I learned that my father had sold the business, more precisely the land. Neither of his sons had wanted to follow in his footsteps, and asking a daughter would never have occurred to him. The greenhouses, family homes and all the structures were leveled. My heart broke as I watched the tons of brick and glass rubble bulldozed to the center of the property.
Several decades passed and when the economy plummeted, I lost my job and retuned to my first love, greenhousing. Nothing compares to the clean, humid, oxygenated air found in a plant-filled greenhouse. There is a sense of accomplishment at the end of a growing season when the thousands of flats seeded up in February are sold. The customers, grateful for flats of flowers and vegetables, shared their stories about future gardens as they shopped and waited in line to pay.
One customer was having problems with plants and asked for my expertise, inviting me to her home. The single glass-framed hothouse was attached off the dining room. Her beautiful collection of common and exotic plants showed minor fungal infections and mites. I made suggestions for resolving these issues, marveled at her collection and complimented her on her skills. And that was that.
Driving home I realized that the plants she grew were not intended to ever leave the hothouse. They were there for her pleasure and those whom she chose to invite in. I thought about the difference between her and me on the view of the purpose of plants. Each of our collections was no less beautiful than the other’s. The difference is that hers were held close and what I grew went out.
Sharing our faith can be expressed in much the same way; a greenhouse versus a hothouse. In both there is growth and sharing, but one, the greenhouse, releases that beauty into the community. We can share our faith with only those whom we invite in or we can release it and let it go and grow in our world.
I no longer work greenhouses but fondly remember those years working at Beck’s Flowers in
and growing plants that were shared with a clan of gardeners. I like the idea of sharing what I love with others, beginners or otherwise. Jackson