Like everything else, writing has been difficult during this extraordinary time. Words don’t flow as easily as they normally do, and the things I might write about this time of year – timing of planting annuals, perennial offerings, how to amend your soil – seem trivial.
Our little garden shop is celebrating its 30th year in the middle of a pandemic of epic proportion. In Alabama, garden shops are considered (rightly so) an essential business, so every day I get up, don my cloth mask, and come to work.
Work days are spent doing what I call the “Corona Dance”, stepping around, and back, then forward again, usually having to reroute, going the long way around to get where I was originally needing to be. Distancing myself from customers and fellow employees. So odd.
Most people are accommodating and have also begun wearing their own masks and gloves. I find myself being a field marshall of sorts most days: Directing people as they arrive to gather plants by their car, telling them we’ll get a credit card number there when they’re finished. The social distancing maneuvering would be a strange sight to an outsider if it wasn’t so apparent what was happening.
Some people are coming in now because they’re bored with being at home. They’re looking for yard plantings to do with the kids, or they need to tackle long put off projects – pine strawing that overgrown natural area or building the raised bed they’ve thought about but never quite made the time for.
There also seem to be an unusual number of large piles of brush by the road, the probable result of many housebound homeowners armed with chainsaws.
Others that come in are the ones I consider the real gardeners. At some point they usually say something like, “Thank you for being here. I don’t know what I’d do without my garden.”
They wander slowly through the nursery. It’s an outing for them away from being quarantined but also a release – they gather plants by their car and go back for more. This is their therapy, a respite from everything that’s wrong with the world. I understand and leave them to think and plan.
I, of course, think that gardening is an essential art and that garden shops are essential businesses. At face value, we carry items that people can use to provide for themselves: Vegetable and herb plants for food, food items to eat. But, even more than that, we are essential for peace of mind, for calm.
I know this is true for me. Especially now. My days are spent each week dancing around, unable to help people in the comfortable way I have for years.
I separate and work distantly from fellow employees and find what was once easy has become so complicated simply from not being able to work in close proximity to others. It is exhausting.
My garden is a complete release from everything. It is where I go to lose myself – to work hard, get sweaty and dirty, and, yes, to sit and daydream as well.
The truth is my garden is essential to my sense of normalcy during an unnatural time. I know the snapdragons I planted last fall will bloom as they do every spring, the roses will bud, some plants will thrive, others will not. It’s a comfort to know that no matter what, the natural order of things will continue.
I hope your garden gives you peace now too.
By Kris Blevons
Guidelines for shopping at Oak Street Garden Shop:
1. Wear a mask or other face covering. Even if you feel well, you may be asymptomatic and unknowingly pass on this extremely contagious virus. Do this for others – including employees who must interact with a lot of people all day, every day.
2. Maintain social distance of 6’ – Yes, this is weird, it doesn’t come naturally, but it is very, very important. Don’t let your guard down – we’ve seen people casually walking by each other. Social Distance!
3. Please don’t congregate in one spot – you might not notice other people wanting to look at plants near you.
4. Leave your pets at home. Much as we love to see them, it adds to the difficulty of moving through the nursery. Trust us, they’ll get extra treats after this virus is past us!
5. Leave children at home. Even in the best of times it’s hard to keep track of a little one while you’re trying to shop, and they may even be an innocent carrier of the virus.
6. Limit your party to no more than 2 people. Remember, others will also be trying to shop and social distance in the area.
7. Be aware of others around you, and shop efficiently. Put all plants by your car, or if you’re parked on the side in an open area on that end of the nursery. We will get your credit card information there when you’re ready.
🌻🌿🌿We value all of you and want to make your shopping experience with us a safe one. Thank you for your help and cooperation!🌿🌿🌻