Every year for four years, a group of men and women from Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee mark their calendars for one Saturday in April, and agree to meet up at Rita Randolph's greenhouses in Jackson, Tennessee. We do our best to clean out her inventory (don't worry - she's got plenty more where that came from...we think!), and we giggle and gossip and snatch plants left and right. After we all tally up our bills (we usually don't compare notes on spending. What happens at Rita's stays at Rita's), we head over to Casey Jones restaurant to continue the fellowship over a leisurely lunch before reluctantly parting ways.
You may be wondering, WHY? We all have nurseries and garden centers much closer to our homes - we probably all drove past one or more on our way. So why drive for hours to this one nursery? Is it that special? It's true that Rita has some of the most fabulous container ideas around. But more than that, it's an excuse to visit and catch up with each other. Some of the travelers make plans to stay overnight and visit several more nurseries before heading home. (I've been known to haul unsuspecting passengers through extremely rural parts of Dickson on our way back from Jackson, in search of Marianna's tomato plants.)
You may also be wondering how we know each other. High school or college? Nope. Work? Nope. Sports? Still nope. Church? And no again.. Give up?
What brought us together was a website called Dave's Garden. Over the years, we've shared gardening tips and tricks, recipes, ideas, and recommendations. We've also shared stories about our lives, weathered many storms, from Katrina to last year's Tennessee floods, and more tornadoes than we can count. Always, there's someone in this group making sure everyone in an affected area is okay. What started out as online acquaintances has deepened into abiding real-life friendships. I rarely mention my day job here because I try to keep work and blog separate, but I've been privileged to be able to work for this website for several years, as well as be part of this vast but tight-knit community. What a treat it is to work with and for such a great group. And get to see some of them at least once a year, and ooh and ahh over gorgeous plants all ready to be tucked into containers to welcome visitors to our homes and greet us on our decks and back porches.
This year's trip is tomorrow. And it has an added benefit: it gives me an opportunity to get away for a day before we start moving next week. I have already vowed to not buy as many plants as usual, since we're going to be betwixt and between over the week. But those plants have a siren's call that is difficult to ignore. So I will probably come home with plants a-plenty, as always. The containers are ready and waiting at the new house. An advanced thank-you to Rita for her graciousness in letting us use her site for our annual soiree.