Thanks Dad

Ray Tower, age 92, passed away 10/13/14.  His support helped make the nursery what it is.  Thank you, Dad.

Ray Tower, age 92, passed away 10/13/14. His support helped make the nursery what it is. Thank you, Dad.

Many gardeners have supporters–people who are not really into plants, but tolerate our passions and help us achieve our dreams.  I had two big supporters that made it possible:

1. My ex-wife Susan who after a bout with cancer learned that life is short and money is not everything:  we decided to open a nursery rather than for me to continue corporate life as a practicing clinical psychologist and administrator.

2. My parents.

Of course my parents supported me in the obvious ways growing up by providing a stable and happy home life rarely achieved today.  My dad passed away 10/13/14 after 67 years of marriage. He was a WWII veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, so upon coming home it was child’s play to teach a boy scout troop about camping and outdoor activities.  I learned to love the outdoors and was introduced to gardening both through the large vegetable garden we had on our farm but also through the care of the 1 acre yard at our house, the beds of which had been planted by the outgoing president of the rose society in Tulsa.  I certainly didn’t learn plants in my youth, but I noticed the beautiful flowers and appreciated them in the garden.

My parents also valued education, and supported my education at Vanderbilt University.  Eventually I was given grant and scholarship support (which has essentially disappeared from modern education, leaving student loan debt in its wake) and completed my doctorate.  I learned how to learn.  Though I’ve lectured around the country on plants, have introduced many new plants to the trade, and have run a small nursery for over 25 years, I never took a horticulture class.  I’ve been fortunate to meet many of the leading people in our field, form friendships, and to join the circle of those who influence the botanical world through a variety of botanic gardens and organizations.  My education made it easy enough for me to learn botanical Latin and plant nomenclature.

My first nursery was located at my parents’ lake cabin in a back lot.  There I grew hostas and mailed them across the country.  My Dad was drawn to lakes and we had lake cabins everywhere we lived.  At Loon Lake I got my first experience with a mail order catalog nursery.  Without that land it would not have been feasible.  We still had time to boat and BBQ, but the nursery was born and I did that business a number of years prior to the opening of the current nursery in 1997.

The inside of the barn was sided with cedar by my dad up on his scaffolding.  Here hangs their shovel collection.

The inside of the barn was sided with cedar by my dad up on his scaffolding. Here hangs their shovel collection.

After Susan survived cancer, I began looking for property with the idea of a half time retail nursery that would be larger and in Spokane, and able to offer a greater variety of plants.  I had sold hostas mail order because they were new and popular and shipped easily bare root, but I was interested in many more plants.  Of the 2000 species and cultivars in my home garden, only 750 were hostas.  I’ve had wide ranging plant interests for many decades.

Shortly after I purchased the property for the nursery, my parents announced they were selling their home on Manito Blvd to move to the home at my new nursery.  Let me tell you, this was a home that was ready for a good bulldozing.  It was a shambles.  But they were determined.  They thought it would be good to have someone to live there and they love remodel projects, having restored several large homes where they had lived previously.  This seemed like a crazy and self sacrificing decision at the time, leaving a large comfortable home for this small old farmhouse.  But in their style, they added on to it, gave it new windows, siding, roof, wiring, plumbing, heating, cooling and so on.  The home I now use as an office for the nursery became very cozy, comfortable and serviceable.  I would never have put that much into the facility…I was busy building greenhouses, buying plants, installing irrigation and all the crucial aspects of a nursery.

Here's a photo taken on my Mom's 90th birthday.  They not only helped me, but also served as volunteers for many organizations and their church.

Here’s a photo taken on my Mom’s 90th birthday. They not only helped me, but also served as volunteers for many organizations and their church.

They not only fixed up the house, my Dad began helping with clearing and cleaning the property.  He rode his John Deere riding mower and used his line trimmer for many hours every week.  In the 8 years they lived at the nursery from 1997 to 2005 he kept it tidy.  Weeds had no chance under his thumb.

The mini barn was built by my parents in order to preserve the style building they had seen in the Palouse nearby.

The mini barn was built by my parents in order to preserve the style building they had seen in the Palouse nearby.

Once the home remodel projects were done, they had no projects, and one day they announced they were going to make a copy of the stone building in the field where the new Target store is now located.  While that piece of history was erased by the progress of commerce, they built its copy, a lovely stone building we refer to as the mini barn.  It was built to last and is often admired by the nursery visitors.  If they knew my parents made it working in the summer heat at the age of 80, wouldn’t that be something?  But I knew not to argue with them.  Maybe the barn provided plenty of storage space, but they knew that they wanted this building and up it went.  It is a beautiful landmark at the nursery.  My Dad mixed mortar and they hauled rocks and built those walls.

My Dad also decided to spruce up the big barn, or should I say, he “cedared ” it.  The complete interior of the barn is sided with rough cedar, making a lovely space.  He also hung their antique tool collection and pan collection in the barn.  Take a peek next time you are there.  They are visible from the photo gallery at the nursery.

My Mom’s cookies are legendary at our events, but even the time for that contribution has passed.  They may not be directly involved in the nursery now, and they were never a part of the staff, greenhouse or plant management, but they definitely helped make the nursery a better place and nurtured it in the formative years.  So thanks to my Dad, as well as my Mom who survives him, for a contribution that is much appreciated.

For a copy of the eulogy from his service click here, Eulogy for Dad.

To see the video played at the service, click below.  Remember, Dad was a huge Mariner fan, not to mention the Sooners and Cowboys.

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