A Call to Remember

I first shopped at North Haven Gardens in October 1970. I had just started working for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service (now Texas AgriLife Extension Service) of Texas A&M University.

Folks in College Station had told me what an incredible place it was and what a dominant force Ralph Pinkus was in the Texas nursery industry. He and his wife Muriel had begun (1951) a 9-acre nursery where most new plants found their first roots in Texas. They were right. I soon discovered that Ralph was the best plant man I had known.

I spent cumulative weeks of my life photographing plants for my books, newspaper articles, magazine stories, gardening talks, television programs and other uses there at North Haven Gardens. They always made me feel welcome. And I almost always came home with a load of new plants to try.

Within 96 hours of the tornado, this was the North Haven promise that they would be back!

And then, last October 20, that awful tornado plowed across miles of North Dallas. As it neared North Central Expressway it hit North Haven Gardens dead center. By 8 the next morning my email was filled with photographs friends and employees had sent me of the devastation. My heart sank, but somehow I knew that Jon Pinkus and all those around him would bring life back to those precious acres. Within hours signs to that effect were up on the property.

Continued Below

Jon’s call came as I sat in my recliner last Saturday afternoon. I had been discharged from Baylor Scott and White Plano 42 hours earlier after four days of trying to track down the reason for extreme double vision. They put you through a lot, and when you come home from two MRIs and one each CT scan and spinal tap, you’re sore and you’re tired.

Jon didn’t know any of that. He was just calling to invite me to be one of the first customers of their very soft reopening now that their rebuilding is within sight of completion. I told him I would let him know Sunday if I thought I’d be able to make it.

That call really moved me. I hung up the phone. I took off my eye patch to wipe a few tears from my eyes. Within 30 minutes I texted Jon and said, “If Lynn has to push me in in a wheelbarrow, I’m coming.” I told Jon how much his call meant to me and that I absolutely had to be there.

Lillian, Aaron and Jon Pinkus, Neil and Lynn Sperry last Monday morning. (Eye patch is my means of coping with what I hope is temporary double vision.)

And to make it all better, Jon’s wife Lillian and their son Aaron were waiting to join us for the walking tour. Jon shared with me how Aaron has taken command of many parts of this reconstruction. A rebuild that had to be started from the ground up – literally.

The main building up on the west side of the property (probably about where the junipers and Japanese maples used to be) is finished and operational.

Already stocked, the greenhouse has always been a favorite of customers.

The greenhouse is finished and the unusual plants for which North Haven is famous are returning.

The restaurant is a month or two from being ready. They were bringing in the water heater as we toured and Jon told us of a couple of finishing touches they want to put in.

The gift shop and boutique are still empty as I write this, but their space is finishing out.

The classroom for their meetings and lectures is almost ready.

This will be the prime sales area for nursery stock and bedding plants. Note the rusty beams that survived the tornado intact.

And the big outdoor sales area that we’ve all grown to love is almost ready. Christmas trees will be arriving in just a few weeks. Jon pointed out that overhead, still unpainted and rusty, are iron beams that were some of the lone survivors of the storm. I hope that somewhere, on a back side out of sight, they leave at least one of those beams unpainted forever, as testimonial to the enduring miracles of this wonderful nursery.

And, in closing, please forgive this personal note to Jon, Lillian and Aaron… (written with Ralph and Muriel in mind)
It was so wonderful to spend that hour with you. You are a beautiful family filled with love, determination and grace.
And friendship. Thank you for being friends to Lynn and me.
May this beautiful new facility begin many more decades of legacy leadership in the Texas nursery industry, Aaron, for you and your generations yet to come.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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