Spotlight: Debbie Corrington (rcn48)By Nancy Polanski (nap) on February 13, 2012
|Meet someone who calls herself a "Learnaholic." That sounds like someone who is addicted to learning new things, and Debbie has an impressive track record. She and her husband own a successful Nursery, she is an avid gardener and an accomplished crafter. Please meet Debbie Corrington.|
I have been seeing posts from rcn48, mostly in the MidAtlantic Musings cubit, for a long time now. Recently she has been talking about being laid up for some extended R&R after foot surgery. So I thought she would have plenty of time to chat with me and tell me about herself for the Spotlight. I was delighted that she said yes! She warned me that I may be getting more than I bargained for. She said she likes to ramble. I said, "Go for it!"
When Nancy first contacted me about an interview for the “Spotlight”, I accepted with an enthusiastic “Yes”! I warned her that I love to talk but I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be not to get carried away. Nancy didn't give me any restrictions so I’ll try my best to stay on track and not to lose you in the midst of all my babbling!
For those of you who haven’t met me on the forums over the years, I’ve been an avid gardener for over 20 years. Guilty as charged. I’m considered by most a Plantaholic who loves to talk about plants and gardening. I discovered Dave’s Garden in 2004 when, like most of you, I was doing some research for plants on the Internet and I eagerly joined the ranks of zealous gardeners. Most of my time was spent sharing gardening experience with members from the Mid Atlantic and Northeast regions but I also found specific interests I shared with other members. I was a frequent visitor to Shade Gardening, Hostas, Ferns, Heucheras, Perennials, and Trees and Shrubs to name a few. When I began to recognize a desire to be a little more creative in my pursuits I soon found myself wandering to Garden Art, Hypertufa and Concrete, and even Trash to Treasure! But I digress, I’ve read Who’s Who Spotlights so I’m assuming you’re interested in knowing a little more about me before I start rambling on about my creative interests?
However, I’m a Yankee at heart, born and raised in Bangor, Maine. My parents were both hard working individuals, my father worked all his life at the local paper mill, following in his father’s footsteps with a lifelong career in the same mill, and my mother worked in a large department store. My poor father grew up with seven sisters and wasn’t blessed with any sons, only two daughters
My sister and I were never involved in sports during our youth but my father was a true outdoorsman, and although neither of us ever had any interest in hunting, we did enjoy joining him for brook fishing and ice fishing during the winters. It’s not difficult to see where my father inherited his love of the outdoors – although the photo shows my grandfather it could just have easily been a photo of my father – breakfast was often served with brook trout from early morning visits to his favorite brooks.
I became the proud mother of three children, two sons and a daughter, all of whom were delivered at home with the assistance of a Midwife. With the arrival of our first son, I became a “stay at home Mom” and we grew a lot of our own food, canned and froze vegetables from our garden and spent a few years raising pigs, chickens, turkeys and rabbits. We heated our home with wood and cut our own firewood from the property with the help of Dick, a feisty Belgian workhorse. I have so many fond memories of over 25 years spent on those 96 acres including the aromas of homemade bread rising on the antique cook stove and traditional Saturday night dinners of baked beans. My early morning walks in the woods were an inspiration, identifying the numerous wildflowers and spotting the first Ladyslippers every spring. Much to our delight, beavers discovered Thurlow Brook on the property in later years. Their hard work created a small pond which provided entertainment for us, whether we were watching the amusing antics of the beavers or spotting wildlife attracted by the new pond – elusive Wood Ducks and even a moose!
Now that we’ve heard about your early years as a “stay at home Mom”, have you held other jobs outside the home?
I worked for the Auditing Department of local bank after high school graduation and then worked for several Attorneys until my children were born. After the birth of my first son, I reluctantly accepted a position with an insurance claims office when it became apparent a supplemental income was necessary. However, my contacts through this position proved fruitful when I started my home-based business, “ExecuType”, with the arrival of my daughter. I was able to work from home as a transcriptionist, typing for insurance companies and medical offices. After the birth of my second son, my business expanded and I continued to work from home as well as hold part-time office positions that allowed me the flexibility of making my own hours and arriving home in time for the school bus. Another plus was, if I was really, really organized, I could squeeze in a couple of hours for gardening in the early morning hours and even started a small landscaping business, “Not Just Shrubs”, to introduce clients to the possibilities perennials offered.
I began sharing my gardening experiences with friends whose children played sports with my children. After years of having an annual tour of each other’s gardens we organized an official public garden tour to raise funds for the local hockey team. The garden tour was a huge success and after the encouraging compliments I received from visitors to my gardens I embarked on my dream of developing a small nursery on my property.
My father had recently retired and was enthusiastic to help me in my endeavor. We built raised beds for growing perennials and every weekend he would arrive with his chain saw to help carve paths through the adjoining woodlands, which would enable visitors to view the wildflowers. Unfortunately most of these gardening years were ‘pre-digital’ and very few of the many photos documenting these years have found their way to my computer.
Both nature lovers we were married in a small church nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains about an hour from our home. When trying to choose the location for our wedding I was immediately drawn to this quaint little church where a small stream across from the church r eve aled never-ending patches of my father’s favorite flowers, Forget Me Nots.
In 2002, Rick’s back surgery forced us to switch gears at the nursery. Originally a wholesale operation, growing perennials in 25 hoop houses and shipping them to garden centers all over the Mid Atlantic area, we downsized to a 4-5 hoop operation and now sell our plants via mail order, botanical plant sales in Virginia and our annual Open Houses.
And let’s not forget the scary run-in with the doe one summer. She was suspicious of my activities and charged me when she thought I was too close to her young fawns! I even had a rare opportunity last spring when I witnessed a doe giving birth in one of the abandoned hoop houses! There are also cattle occasionally breaking through the fences at the nursery from the adjacent property. Although we’ve had “words” over the years with the cattle farmer, she was very appreciative once when I recognized a problem with one of her cattle when he “blindly” stumbled INTO our hoop houses! The health issue was quickly diagnosed as an eye infection that might have resulted in loss of sight but was avoided after my report of his weird activities to the owner. There’s never a dull moment around here!
In addition to our nursery responsibilities we’ve spent long hours creating our display gardens. After sharing our gardening photos on forums several years ago I created a history of our gardens documenting the progress on the Photo Galley which is linked to our website. Although we’ve continued with major expansions of the gardens, the photos haven’t been updated for a few years but you can view our past progress at "Our Landscape...a Journey through the years."
Alhough I have no formal training in landscape design, I utilize my hands-on experience with the plants we grow and strive for pleasing combinations in the gardens and in containers. A few years ago I entered what I hoped would be a winning combo for Fine Gardening’s Container contest. Even though my combo didn’t receive first prize, it did rank in the top ten and was published in their magazine. I continued to create more container combos and while none have received any honors they do provide a colorful display by our front entry.
This method was also extremely useful a few years ago when I was able to help my daughter with the landscaping of their new home. I arrived in Maine with the design I had been planning for six months, a van full of plants, trees and shrubs from our nursery and a list of additional plants needed to purchase at her local nursery. A week later the bare landscape had been transformed with new plantings surrounding their home!
It was a miserable summer in Maine that year with extensive rain causing flooding throughout the Northeast. The rain plagued our planting efforts for the first few days but we were able to keep ourselves busy constructing a fire pit while we waited for the rains to subside.
Phoebe is a beautiful dog! Have you other pets, Debbie?
Two years later Lucy joined our crew, an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix, who loves the water! This is where I often find her cooling off after a romp through the field with Phoebe!
The nursery is a short drive from our home and both dogs used to spend every day there with us. Unfortunately, they’re not allowed to join us anymore after we’re forced to leave them at home with the scary sighting of regular visits from a large bobcat there last spring!
What would you consider your favorite plants to grow?
Euphorbias are another favorite which prompted the article I wrote for Dave’s Garden: 'Hardy Euphorbias in the Garden – An Untamed Passion for 'Shrubby Spurges'
The nursery obviously keeps you busy – do you ever find time to travel?
One of our most memorable trips was our honeymoon with a weeklong cruise down the Columbia River commemorating the bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. It was a fascinating cruise on National Geographic’s Sea Lion with incredible scenery and excellent food as we followed the historical trail of Lewis & Clark.
Undoubtedly my favorite trip was our unforgettable two-weeks in Belize in 2005. We’ll continue to share the cherished memories of this trip with the group of friends we traveled with for years!
I’m content to stay a little closer to home these days with the exception of trips to visit my family. With a two-“man” operation it’s difficult for both of us to leave the nursery at the same time and unfortunately Rick is unable to join me on most of these visits. I’ve flown to Phoenix several times to visit my oldest son and plan at least one long drive to Maine every summer to visit family. In 2010 I was able to join my family on a trip to Prince Edward Island to visit my grandmother’s birthplace.
And last, but definitely not LEAST, was last summer’s visit when I was able to arrive in Maine just in time to witness the birth of my first grandchild!
I was even able to squeeze in a second trip to Maine this year to surprise my mother on Christmas, and of course get smooches from my adorable grandson.
You mentioned your “creative interests." What are your specific hobbies?
Several years ago I started searching forums and blogs to collect ideas for creative projects to keep me busy during the winter months when the nursery didn’t require as much of my time. A desire for more ‘objects’ in the garden persuaded me to attempt creating my own art and my first ‘object’ was a new address plaque for the end of our driveway. I completed the plaque in April, but with our busy schedule it was November before I had the structure built to display it!
For years I had admired concrete sculptures for the garden but their price tags were always staggering. I decided to try making my own and equipped with the numerous notes I had collected, I created my first hollow concrete sphere for the gardens. You might be surprised how easy they are to make if you read the tutorial I wrote last summer for All Things Plants.
About the same time I became interested in working with concrete, I started developing an interest in mosaics. I was making a concrete post to support a metal sculpture I had recently purchased. When I was discouraged with the post’s boring design I decided to add a little humor. The design was altered and now supports the ‘Birds in Flight’ sculpture as well as my first mosaic, a cat clinging to the post!
I have several WIP (work in progress) concrete projects whose completion was interrupted when I suffered an ankle injury last July and I won’t have an opportunity to finish them until after my surgery in March. However, in October I did manage to create a sculpture as a birthday gift for my husband to celebrate his 30 years in the nursery business. Customers are always asking him if he has any helpful advice for planting when they purchase plants from us. His response is always the same and prompted the theme – “Plant it green side up”! Unfortunately we had a little accident when we moved the sculpture from the workshop to our front deck but once I’m back on my feet the broken leaf will be re-attached.
In addition to my “crete-activity” I’ve continued to explore mosaics, making a lot of Christmas gifts this year. I’m currently working on mosaic birdhouses that I hope to get installed this spring along a border of the gardens I’m going to call my Birdhouse Alley. Unfortunately I'm running out of time, and space, to post photos of all them !
My other hobbies include knitting and I’ve had knitting fever since my injury forced me off my feet. I’ve been knitting for my grandson and most are things I chose to knit for him (sweaters, hats, etc.). However, when my daughter indicated she’d like me to knit a sock monkey for him I had a plan of my own. Since my daughter and son-in-law are ‘Soxaholics’ (Red Sox) I designed a special sock monkey for Chase.
If you’re interested I posted some of the other items I’ve knit and some of my mosaics. You can see them on this thread in the MAM Cubit (Mid Atlantic Musings).
I hope you are as impressed with this woman's talents as I am. I can't wait to see what projects she completes during her recovery from foot surgery. Maybe I can talk her into keeping us updated on new threads with this interview. So be sure to click "Watch This Article" so you'll know when she posts something.
Thank you, Debbie. It's been a pleasure.
|I live in Western New York. I'm retired, after working for 30 years in the Microbiology Labs at our county hospital. My time now is spent mostly with the Karen refugee population in Buffalo, advocating for them, teaching, helping and enjoying them. I've twice traveled to their camps in Thailand and experienced their culture. It seems they have taught me more about life than I have taught them.|
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Comments and discussion:
|Subject||Thread Starter||Last Reply||Replies|
|Great read~~||kaglic||Apr 1, 2012 6:59 PM||2|
|Hey Deb!!||Sharon||Feb 17, 2012 12:39 AM||23|
|a fellow Virginian!||Lance||Feb 13, 2012 12:02 PM||2|