Loretta would tell you that her husband has never met a greenhouse he didn’t love and he has yet to make it out to Shell’s, the mother of all greenhouses, located on 52 halfway between Paint Lick and Lancaster. But my buddy, Lynn Embaugh, went to Shell’s last Sunday (they open at 1 p.m. on Sundays with normal hours the rest of the week). Lynn promptly emailed me as soon as she got home.
“They’ve outdone theirselves again!!!”, according to Lynn. She has a fuller than full-size pickup which she “loaded to the gills.”
“They stopped adding stuff up when they got to $300, but I got way more than that and they just threw it in.”
So I’m sitting here imagining a big pickup going 20 mph down the highway in 55 mph zones with huge pots of exotic flowers strapped down on the roof and hood and I’d bet that I’m not too far off.
Shell’s is actually half a dozen greenhouses, side by side, and each one feels like a football field under roof.
They aren’t actually as large as football fields but they are cavernous and it’s worth the drive just to see and smell inside them.
In the meantime I’m wondering why anybody buys plants at the big box stores. Last night, after feeling ill over plant prices at one of them, we stopped at Granny’s Treasures on Stanford Street in Lancaster where I scored four pink Brandywine tomato plants for $1.50. Same price for four banana peppers, less than half what the usual suspects charge.
Early last week we stopped at Jennings Home Supply on 21 just west of I-75 Berea exit 76. Patty Jennings had a vast array of hard-to-find tomato plants but no pink Brandywines. The rest of her plants are reasonably priced.
Ditto for Debbie’s Greenhouse on Short Road in Paint Lick where you can find several varieties of both flowers and vegetables not available elsewhere.
That’s what we also found at Williams’ Greenhouse about a mile out North Dogwood Drive in Berea. North Dogwood is about 200 yards past exit 76 on the west side of I-75. We went there explicitly looking for pink Brandywines. They didn’t have them but we wound up spending $31.50 on over a dozen varieties we’d never heard of and decided we couldn’t live without.
I have raised three varieties of tomatoes from seed, giant Syrian, Molly Helton sunburst and mountain man.
I didn’t raise pink Brandywines because I hadn’t saved seeds and the company I ordered from put me on back order, promising I’d have them soon. That was in February. I’m still waiting. I had promised myself and my wife that those four varieties would be it but Mr. Williams has talked me into trying three more and I am anxiously anticipating what an Anna Russian tomato will look and taste like. I’ve never tried them.
In the meantime, old friend and distant cousin John Holbrook drove up from Renfro Valley and dropped off 15 or so tomato cages he had constructed from concrete rebar mesh, the same stuff on which I have been growing beans since 1986. The bean hoops are 32 years old and still sturdy. John’s tomato cages will surely outlive me.
In other news that needs mentioning, from 5 until 8 p.m. on Monday, May 25, Apollo Pizza located at 3325 Colonel Road in downtown Richmond, will be hosting a special reception and fundraiser for Team TKO’s participation in the upcoming diabetes Tour de Cure. Apollo will donate 20 percent of its sales during that time period to Team TKO. Last year the event raised more than $300 for our team while our visitors enjoyed what Richmond Register readers have voted the best pizza in town. If you’re in Richmond come Monday, stop by and eat with us.