1. Waking up in the morning will be olfacto-licious…
In ocean-absent, oil and gas-present Alberta, I don’t really smell any natural aromas from October to April (exceptions: our scorched Hallowe’en Jack-o-lantern right after I blow out its candle , and our unfashionable live Christmas tree before it dries up and becomes a fire hazard). So every time I step into Arch Greenhouses, my favorite place in Edmonton to buy bedding plants, I close my eyes, and inhale the richness of warm, damp earth. As I wander the aisles, I savor regional wafts of tomato plant spiciness, geranium sharpness, petunia sweetness. I could get used to that on a daily basis.
2. …and also ocula-scrumptious.
After the leaves blow off the poplars in October, prairie living means staring out at a black and white photograph for the next six months. This year, winter kicked us around longer than usual, and I craved color. When I move into Arch Greenhouses, I’ll open my eyes every morning to a rainbow buffet breakfast.
3. People who visit are happy…
I’ve never seen a genuinely sad-looking person at Arch or overheard an argument. People are mostly pretty quiet. Their eyes narrow a little as they hold up a marigold and try to visualize it in their south-facing window box. They put their head to one side as they consider how many white begonias they need for that shady space by the front steps. And their faces light up as they unhook the perfect hanging basket of flame-orange million bells and settle it into their cart.
4. …and polite too.
It takes more than a little finesse to manoeuvre those cucumbersome plant trolleys up and down Arch’s aisles. Edging past a person pushing one in the opposite direction is almost impossible. But I’ve never experienced an incident of aisle rage. “Wait, you come through first,” a woman told me cheerfully last weekend. “I think if we’re both careful, we might have just enough room to both get by,” smiled another. Sometimes, I opt to park my trolley, and explore less accessible corners on foot, so to speak. When I return, my plants are always just as I left them: I’ve never had anyone help themselves to one of my meticulously selected collection.
5. I’ll be surrounded by teachers.
Arch employees know and love plants, and are pleased to share their expertise, even when I give them a vague description of what I want. This year, I hesitantly approached a woman in the midst of her morning watering. “Um…I’m looking for a plant you’ve had here before, it’s got really dark blue flowers, and it’s name has the word ‘tiger’ or ‘lion’ or something in it.” Without a pause, she responded, “Do you mean “Wildcat Blue Anagallis?” Yes, absolutely.
Every year, Arch displays a massive campanula globe, gushing over the edge of its pot like a violet waterfall. It is never for sale. People smile and point, gently lift its fronds, stand back and admire its lush roundness. “Ooh, I just want to HUG it!” I overheard a woman say. Many of us will buy our two or three, 4″ campanulas for our own containers, accepting that the grandmother of all campanulas is out of reach – this year, at least.
So, if you’re the last Arch employee to leave at the end of the day, please try to ignore the contented little sigh you hear coming from underneath one of the bedding plant benches. Pretend you don’t notice the yellow pup tent, illuminated by a small reading lamp, or the corner of a blue sleeping bag caught in the tent zipper. Switch off the lights, lock the main doors, and rest assured the place will be in good hands after you leave.