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Imagetapla
Feb 3, 2010 8:14 PM CST
Name: Al
5b-6a MI
To say I have an old friend is a double entendre. He is an old friend in the sense that he will soon be 95 years old and entering his 96th year of life. He is also an old friend by virtue of the fact that we've often been in each other's company for a good number of years.
Fred is a short man, slight of build and a little more than slightly bent. He used to have one leg shorter than the other ..... because he wouldn't stay off the garden spade, and so, messed up his second hip replacement. Fortunately, they fixed it last year when they did his third hip, and his legs are all evened up again. Fred is one of those people, though I've known him for many years, who I've never heard say a bad word about anyone under any circumstances. He is a truly a very gentle man.

Fred is still very active, he swims most mornings & though he no longer drives (the kids wrenched his keys away a couple of years ago ...... for pretty good reason as I think back on it now), he manages to stay active in many, many clubs and social circles.

I'm sorry - I should get to the story. You can probably tell I think the world of Fred. He lives now in an assisted living high rise. His apartment is more like a jungle than a dwelling. There are plants everywhere, as he rotates them to & from windows to maximize the number he can keep flourishing. He is remarkably adept at propagation and just plain coaxing plants to flourish. He's been a bonsai practitioner for longer than I've been alive, and I'm soon to be 58! He called last weekend to ask if I'd bring him some soil for plants he wanted to repot. I did - I took him about 10 lbs of bonsai soil on Thu. While I was there, he pointed out a Boston Fern and asked me to guess its age. I had no idea.

Fred's father, and then Fred were greenhousemen and florists by profession. His life has been an accumulation of facts and knowledge about practically every plant we might imagine. He knows plant material like no one else I know, and I know some pretty impressive plantsmen. Sorry - I can't help myself - I tend to get bogged down in detail when I talk about the man.

"How old do you think?" he asked about the fern. I knew it was old, so I wasn't going to bite. He told me that his father had sold the fern to a customer in 1909! The lady was a friend Fred's father, and eventually with Fred, too. When she died, she passed the fern to her daughter, and her daughter, also a friend of Fred's, thought it would be nice if Fred got it back when she moved into a care facility, so she gave it back to him. Fred has tended it for the last couple of years and is now going to donate it to a Lutheran charity so it can be auctioned - a 100 year old fern! Amazing.

Lest you think it cold that someone could so easily give up a plant like that .... please remember that Fred is very old - would like to see the plant used for some advantage if possible; he has few years left to tend it; and that he has always been in the business of selling plants. Besides, he'll just take a piece of the one he's donating and make another before it's auctioned - I'm sure. He doesn't think of plant material like most of us would. He asked me a short time ago if he could have one of my bonsai to auction at another charity, and I had to explain that he might as well be asking for one of my kids - it's a foreign concept that I should be attached to a plant.

Now, about the 'greenthumb' part: A while back, when he was talking about 'back in the day', he mentioned how the term 'green thumb' came to be. He said that all the greenhouse growers grew all their own material. Most of it had to be pinched by hand to keep it full & presentable/salable. All the growers would use their thumb against the forefinger to pinch the plants, and the thumb became so permanently stained green that the greenhousemen were refereed to as 'the old greenthumb', 'Mr. Greenthumb', or something similar - you get the picture. From there the descriptive term 'green thumb' evolved to mean someone who was skilled at growing things.

Al

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