Kerry Sprinks and her daughter Daphne have filled a wagon full of pansies to put in planters for the fall season. Scott Sutherland tells her that if the pot is large enough they could go dormant and come back in the spring with even stronger roots.
Photo by Shirley Ruhe/The Connection
A spurt of water cascades over pots of lenten roses as Scott Sutherland walks down the rows of plants at Greenstreet Gardens on King Street. He says, “There is lots of watering to be done, once or twice a day depending on the plant and the size of the pot. That lettuce right over there could probably use a dunk." He passes by lacy astilbe, another shade plant. "These can take a while to take hold and grow large."
Sutherland usually works the late shift coming in at 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. and working until the nursery closes at 7 p.m. He says the flow of customers is hard to predict mid-week but there is usually a bump around lunchtime and again after work from 5-7 p.m. And landscapers are in and out all day long.
Sutherland points to a tall tree-like plant with large pinkish ball blossoms. It is a hydrangea but, "when they trim up like that, they are called standard." He spots a woman wandering over by the evergreens and heads over to help her and answer her questions. She is looking for an evergreen of some kind to plant in large pots by the front door. "How much sun do you get? Half a day? Maybe four hours?" They decide on boxwoods, and he pulls out several plants for her to inspect. She tilts her head and walks around, finally choosing two plants that seem to match. "I'll check you out," Sutherland said, "and maybe even load you. I'm full service." He hands her the receipt announcing, "You have 254 points of free money to use next time."
Sutherland heads back outside to continue watering and passes by Ricky Camacho, also armed with a large green hose and watering in another aisle. "Ricky has been working here the longest of anyone, for over 20 years since this was the Apple House." Sutherland has been working at Greenstreet since mid-March. He completed a master gardener's course last year since leaving his "real job in politics downtown." He said he had worked in the White House for two Presidents and then been a lobbyist as head of Governmental Affairs for Ducks Unlimited.
Kerry Sprinks is pushing a stroller while two-year old Daphne piles rocks into her new lavender watering bucket tucked in the back of the wagon full of pansies. They are looking for assistance in choosing soil. Sutherland jokes, "Dirt and water is what we do." He compares two organic soils for her, one garden soil with more peat moss and spongy and the other garden soil that you don't have to water as much, "I have it myself." Sprinks stretches her arms to describe her three planters, and they decide on a cubic foot of soil. Sprinks asks if her pansies will last all fall and he answers if they are in a big enough pot, they will go dormant and come back with a stronger root system in the spring. "Sounds good to me."
He says, "A lot of what I do is help people be successful." As Sprinks is checking out, Sutherland asks if Daphne can have a l-o-l-l-i-p-o-p, spelling it out but not fooling Daphne.
The nursery is open all year round and in the winter people come to buy indoor plants. Sutherland said they have a huge Christmas business with trees, wreaths and poinsettias. "I think December is the biggest month of the year." He said the nursery grows most of its bedding from seed and recently he saw at least 1,000 poinsettias in the greenhouse getting ready for Christmas.
Although Sutherland has been at the nursery for only six months, he says he has been gardening since he started with his grandma in Alaska when he was 10-years-old. "We grew a lot of cold weather stuff like broccoli, cauliflower and radishes and with the really long days, things grew well. It was a different kind of gardening." Now he participates in a cooperative garden in Arlington and has a large garden at home with a lot of native plants such as milkweed known to attract butterflies. "I saw a lot of Monarchs and Admirals before I came to work today." He says he used to be a customer at the nursery “which is a family-run friendly place.” One day after he retired he just came in and asked if they needed people and, "the rest is history."