L'amour, Gardening Style

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love, American Style is playing out in many American homes across the country today. There's nothing like "Valentine's Day" to bring out the lover in all of us -- although for some it's a little easier than others.

I will explain.

For some reason -- I had a strange fascination as a kid with a short-lived ABC series called "Love, American Style." It was -- well -- different. It was hip. It was campy. It was also kind of dumb, which is why it only lasted four seasons before hitting the trash heap.

Some years later, legendary producer Aaron Spelling came up with this brilliant idea to put "Love, American Style" on a cruise ship and BINGO! The Love Boat was born. Spelling made millions. The original creators of "Love, American Style" meanwhile, got heartburn.

Which just goes to show that LOVE is never easy.

It can be the same way with celebrating the holiday that is Valentine's Day at the Bird Compound in North Natomas. The wife can't be bought off with a dozen roses. Nope -- not gonna happen. A heart-shaped box of See's Candy? That will just sit in a kitchen cupboard for years as a small reminder to the husband that "he blew it big time."

The wife considers the purchase of roses that are produced outside the country to be a waste of money that can be better spent on cheap gin that comes in a plastic bottle. Chocolate -- meanwhile -- is just something that goes straight to the hips. Even though the wife is razor thin and slender -- she will suggest otherwise.

Arguing is pointless. You -- as the husband -- are just digging a deeper hole for her to bury you in.

Who said Love was easy?

But -- I have discovered through the years -- years of failure I might add -- that there are ways to please the wife that is Venus on Valentine's Day. A single daffodil plucked from the front yard in a single rose vase is "thoughtful" and does earn a limited amount of points.

Taking the wife to a seed store that features a GIANT HEART LOCK to buy vegetable and flower seeds on Valentine's Weekend? Ding, ding, ding. Winner, Winner -- Chicken Dinner! And so -- this past Friday -- the wife and I made our way to the romantic Port of Stockton to gaze at the ageless wonder that is Lockhart Seed in downtown Stockton.

I profiled this operation last year after reading Debbie Arrington's fine expose in the Sacramento Bee. Not much has changed since our last visit. I doubt much will change during our lifetimes. Lockhart Seed is a monument to the small commercial farmer and backyard gardener movement.

Let's just say they have everything under the sun and more and leave it at that.

Row after endless row of every gardening seed under the sun? Check

Enough seeds to plant an acre or two of your favorite bell pepper? Carrot? Pumpkin? Squash? Corn? Potatoes? Radishes? Bok Choy? TOMATOES?

Check, check, check -- and more check. You can't fool these people with gardening questions. They knew all the answers before you planted your first radish seed as a young boy or girl.

Lockhart Seed -- with it's dusty old wood floors and 1930's storefront appearance -- sort of traps you in nostalgia the moment you step inside those big double doors. From the trophy heads of long-gone animals high up on the walls -- to the old tin gardening signs -- any gardener worth his or her salt gives thought to moving in and never leaving.

Why leave Paradise? And who thought Paradise was in downtown Stockton of all places?

It can also mean trouble with a capital "T."

Case in point?

When Venus and I arrived, we found the store clerks busy collecting and bundling some short of strange vine -- that they would cut after bundling then put into a small bag for sale. When Venus inquired what they were packaging -- the reply was "asparagas roots."

Uh-oh. Guess what comes next.

"Honey -- I want to plant asparagas," the wife that is Venus excitedly told me.

"But, we're not ready for that yet," I patiently explained -- knowing the whole time that this argument was similar to digging yet another deep, deep hole.

"I don't care," she said in an urgent voice. "I want asparagas!"

Most people are taken in by impulse purchases of gum or the National Enquirer at the checkout counter. Those don't phase the wife a bit. They stay in racks where they are. But the train comes off the tracks when it comes to asparagas roots.

How did this end? Well -- I can tell you that we lightened the wallet by about $60.00 worth -- but that purchase did not include asparagas roots. However -- I have been given my marching orders. And asparagas roots WILL be on the menu for Valentine's Day 2011.

Otherwise -- she's going to fill in that hole I dug with quick-dry cement.

Lockhart Seeds is located at 3 North Wilson Way in downtown Stockton -- about a 45 minute drive south from Sacramento. Here's the kicker: If you try to visit during the weekend, you're going to find the front doors closed and locked. This place isn't open on the weekends. If you're serious about seeds -- you find time to visit during the week.

They are old enough and popular enough to set the mark and stick by it. This is one of the few companies that didn't need a website. Word of mouth provided all the traffic they needed and more.

However -- it does appear that Lockhard Seeds is about the join the digital age. A domain name has been purchased -- but there's precious little there except for the words "coming soon."


Daffodil Planter said...

What a find! I missed your first post about them and am fascinated to read all this.

Bill Bird said...

You should see the daffodil show outside the house right now. Incredible. Nearly all have popped. It's a bright yellow show out front.