“Coaching Plants”

“Coaching Plants”

© Eddie Rhoades

(click here por Espanol)

plant_coachI’m not a big football fan but I had heard of Vince Dooley, famous football coach from the University of Georgia. As I drove down to Callaway Gardens I wondered what kind of gardening program he would give. He was scheduled to be our featured speaker at the dinner banquet for an audience of several hundred professional gardeners, landscape architects, designers, writers and nurserymen. Dooley had retired as coach and now was Athletic Director for the university and he had only been gardening for five years.

As it turned out he gave a wonderful presentation – as good as any I have heard. Of course he had a lot of speaking experience so he came across as relaxed and down-to-earth. Coach Dooley seems to have successfully transferred his passion for football to gardening as he spoke from the heart. He didn’t show any slides but he took us all on an imaginary tour of his garden. Since he has been taking classes from Michael Dirr and Alan Armitage his garden shows their influence with perennials and lots of viburnums. He was probably paraphrasing Will Rogers when he said “I never met a Japanese maple I didn’t like.” His long term plan is to have one of every plant in the world.

Like many of us Dooley’s garden has filled up fast so he has convinced one of his neighbors into letting him plant things in her yard.

Dooley has been appointed Chairman of the Campus Arboretum. That’s what happens when you hang around people like Michael Dirr. This arboretum will be a tree walk of 150 outstanding trees but I doubt if there will be a pawpaw or seedless American persimmon among them.

Football did enter into his talk a few times as he told about the famous hedges having to be dug up. (They were just common invasive privet ligustrum.)

Behind every good man is a good woman and this is true of Vince Dooley as he gave his beautiful wife Barbara credit for always being supportive, mostly when times were toughest. Once when they were in line to break the national records for fumbles Barbara suggested Vince have his players line up at scrimmage with their rears facing the opposing team. That way they would be in better position to recover the inevitable fumble.

Barbara Dooley is author of “Put Me In Coach” so I asked her was it true about the story of her standing in front of the television and opening her robe to reveal she was wearing nothing underneath and saying “play me or trade me?” She said “yes, and it was also true that Vince said “move out of the way Barbara, I can’t see the game on TV.” Barbara’s favorite in their garden is the mulberry and this makes me glad as I am partial to edibles in the landscape.

With Dirr and Armitage at hand Vince Dooley doesn’t need any gardening advice from me so I will just say to him “welcome to the green world of gardening, we can always use another intelligent, enthusiastic gardener.”

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