As the sun comes up over the acres of plant material arranged in neat rectangles off in the distance, Forest Green is just arriving at work and takes a quick look into the fields to see if anything is in obvious need of watering. Before the crews start to arrive, he runs out to open a valve which will give the photinia trees a few extra minutes of water. He wonders how there can be so much parched dust and mucky mud within such a short walking distance.
As the crew arrives, the production manager sends them off to the respective chores. Some go to can (transplant) overgrown plants into larger sizes. Others go to pull orders for retail nurseries. Still others pull smaller orders for landscapers, both for delivery and pick up.
Forest only works with the production crews when they need his help (like that never happens) and when he is not busy with other work (like that ever happens). He really only watered the photinias because it is easier to just do it than to wait for a crew member to notice it and do something about it. His main job is sales... not the simple, big sales to other nurseries, but dealing with landscapers who think they actually know a thing or two about horticulture.
Landscapers are their own weird breed. Do they really think that they look presentable in those khaki shorts with all those pockets, and those wide, floppy straw hats? What are they – on safari? What is in all those pockets anyway? They could at least tuck in their “Made in Pakistan” Hawaiian shirts while at work. The crews at the nursery do not have a uniform, but do have certain safety standards. Sandals!? Really? Landscapers are so full of themselves.
His first customer is no exception - Mr. Puffenstuff of “Shady Landscapes.” Apparently, Mr. Puffenstuff has been doing exactly that – being shady. Predictably, he wants London plane trees and crepe myrtles. He does not know many other trees. Besides, why should he select better trees that are appropriate to the landscape but are a bit less resilient? London plane trees are the most likely to survive the idiocy of the landscapers who install them.
Then, Mr. Puffenstuff says he wants to add a Japanese maple. (Ooh – he knows another one! Maybe Forest can stump him with “oak.” Pun on the word “stump” intended.) He thinks that it will show his client that he knows how to landscape. He does not know where to put it yet (Forest has one suggestion), but he knows he will put it somewhere; probably out at the curb as a street tree where it will roast from complete exposure and warm weather before the end of the day. Again predictably, he selects the laciest Japanese maple that is both the trendiest and also the most sensitive to exposure. When it dies in a few hours, Mr. Puffenstuff will simply blame it on the nursery that sold it to him.
There is no plan. No landscape designers were involved here. Mr. Puffenstuff just ties orange plastic tape on the plants that look good to him at the time. Crews will be by later to load them onto a delivery truck. Mr. Puffenstuff is far too vain with his jacked up Ford to actually put dirty plants into it.
Wanda B. is his next client. She pulls in as Mr. P. drives out. No one seems to know what the “B” is for, but a few have a shared theory. Contrary to Mr. P., she gets out in the mud and dust and tries to cram as much of the seemingly filthiest plant material into her tired Mercedes Benz station wagon before agreeing to get larger items delivered to her job site.
She actually knows a bit about landscaping, and comes in with a good landscape plan and a plant pallet that needs to be filled for it. She knows what she is there for and only needs to be pointed in the right direction to select some of her more distinctive trees that will be prominent in the landscape, and tag them for delivery. Yet, most of her plants are those that the crews can select for her as they collect them for pick up or delivery. Yeah, she uses a lot of tree “alees” (which is a fancy word for “alleys”), pleaches (“alees” of the eighteenth century), water features, and many of the trendy features, but she at least uses them properly instead of forcing them onto her clients to make a buck.
Wanda B. only takes a bit more than an hour, but Mr. P took most of the morning! By now, most customers have been at work for a while and don't drop by after noon. Forest tries to get into his office to return phone calls to confirm availability of more Japanese maples, London planes and crepe myrtles, and arrange for deliveries. Most of his clients rarely come in, but call in their orders by telephone or e-mail. Boring, yes... but a good excuse to get out of the heat and into an almost imperceptibly cooler trailer under a big tree.
It doesn't last long. It’s just too hot today. The customers will need to wait as the sales staff goes out to help the production crews catch up on irrigation. Deliveries will be a bit late tomorrow, but that can happen when working with such a dynamic commodity.
Forest enjoys the low paying work (in spite of the low pay, not because of it), but is often frustrated by how those who make a mockery of the horticultural industries earn the most money. Many of his clients had short careers in other, more stressful industries before getting into landscaping because it was so “easy.”
He cannot remember how often he hears his clients say, “I used to be a _______(fill in the blank), but got tired of all the _________(fill in the blank again), so decided to do landscaping because it is so fun and natural and full of Zen and butterflies and happy unicorns and rainbows and let's go occupy Denver!” Forest earned his BS in horticulture, but never gave any thought of using his credentials to become an attorney or doctor or rocket scientist or anything else that pays better. He just didn’t want to deal with all the BS.