Native Son: Christmas In July

Hopped on a plane and went to Columbus, Ohio to attend North America’s largest horticultural trade show, Cultivate. It was like Walt Disney and Luther Burbank got together and threw a party. Saw lots of old friends, met some new friends. Some were young and flashy; others were old and dependable. Some of my old friends had lost weight and were sporting new colors. An amazing number of them had changed their names; some even found new families! It was like a giant reunion of friends from across the world. Oh, yeah…and there were people there, too!

Talk of faster automation, better propagation, quicker germination, new generation, need for education, market domination. Grumpy old men, cheerful young men, men with million-dollar ideas. Women with power and insight, women entrusted with the family business, women with working hands and high heels. First-timers, old-timers, time-keepers, power speakers. English, Spanish, Swedish, Yiddish. Stories of sudden luck, fast buck, new truck, 8-point buck, tow truck, outta luck, whatta schmuck. Eager eyes, honest eyes, tired eyes, eyes that tell a thousand stories without speaking a word.

And while my own mind is still reeling with thoughts of the near miracle it took to assemble this four-day horticultural metropolis, I do realize that for most of you reading this, it’s all about the plants. Allons!

Is science out of control? Semi-reliable fasciation makes trippy flowers.
The incredible Plant Lion!

Continued Below

I got my real present as I was leaving the hotel one evening. A couple with two kids was checking in. Mom, Dad, and big brother were at the counter; little sister was behind them, dancing her own brand of ballet across the linoleum. She was about four years old, with strawberry-blonde pigtails and a few freckles. When she saw me, the dance stopped, her eyes widened…and she quietly uttered, “Santa…?”

Not breaking stride, I smiled, brought my finger to my lips, and gave her a “Shhhh…” and a quick wink as I passed by.

She understood immediately. With big, trusting eyes and cheerful smile, she did her own “Shhhh…” back at me.

Curious how the air up here can make my eyes water…


Just so you know… the Longview Arboretum & Nature Center is OPEN! Hours are 10am-5pm, Wednesday through Saturday; Sunday 12 noon-5pm. Come out and see us! And bring your own brand of Zen! 903-212-2181

I need a road trip! Let me know if you’d like me to come and speak to your group sometime. I’m low maintenance, flexible, and you know I like to go just about anywhere. No city too big; no town to small. Just send me an e-mail at and we’ll work something out.

Posted by Steven Chamblee
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