Business is blooming year-round at EvergreenIn the dead of winter, when most of us can only dream of spring, Larry Hindle '78 is at work in his warm, humid greenhouse, getting the rhododendrons to bloom. That's right, rhododendrons in winter - and azaleas and roses, too.
As owner of Evergreen Tree & Landscape Service in Seekonk, Mass., Hindle stages an exhibit every February at the Rhode Island Spring Flower and Garden Show. But the process of forcing plants to bloom ahead of schedule begins in mid-December.
Increased moisture and warmth can fool flowering plants into into thinking it's mid-May, Hindle explains, taking time out to chat during one of January's blizzards. Roses are particularly tricky to force, because they require extra daylight as well. "At t his time of year we're not doing a heck of a lot, so it keeps me busy," he says.
This year's exhibit, titled "Nature's Backyard," placed in the top five in a public poll of garden show visitors. Using flowers, trees and shrubs, Hindle transformed a 1,000-square-foot section of the Rhode Island Convention Center into a backyard scene c omplete with a pool, waterfall, brick patio and cedar arbor. His hope was to drum up business for his retail nursery and to plant some ideas in the minds of potential clients of his custom landscape design service.
Hindle made the transition from structural engineer to nurseryman gradually, starting with a few night courses at the University of Rhode Island get to his feet wet. After a few semesters he quit his job at General Dynamics/Electric Boat to enroll as a fu ll-time horticulture student. He earned a bachelor's degree in plant sciences in 1986, and went to work for the previous owner of Evergreen Tree & Landscape, from whom he bought the business and residence in 1991. His former hobby is now his profession.
Although his current work doesn't call for engineering skills, Hindle says he treasures his memories of the years he spent at WPI. "The close friends I made there have remained my closest friends. We keep in touch and get together with our families as oft en as time allows." His construction projects are limited to an occasional patio, staircase or brick walkway for one of his landscaping clients, but "I don't sit down and calculate stresses or anything like that anymore," he remarks.
"Naturalistic" is the word Hindle chooses to describe his personal style in landscape design. He favors native and indigenous plants. "When you're in this business you have lots of favorites," he says, "but I'll accommodate anyone." He encourages his cust omers to create an environment with year-round interest, asserting that even in New England, a garden is not really dead in winter.
"I always tell people not to select a plant just for its flower, because it's only in bloom for a short period. They should look at a plant's other attributes." These can include trees with an interesting bark texture, or bushes with colorful berries. For those who are really desperate for some color, he prescribes early blooming bushes, such as some varieties of witch hazel that bloom in late fall and late winter. Their delicate yellow flowers are sometimes mistaken for forsythia. "People don't realize y ou can plant shrubs that bloom from February through October," Hindle says.
Several times a year, Hindle's customers receive a newsletter filled with his gardening tips, answers to commonly asked questions, and profiles of a featured flower and shrub. Gardening activities appropriate to the season are outlined. Hindle also cultiv ates a small Christmas tree farm in Rhode Island. Newsletter subscribers are invited to tag a tree in November, which he will cut and transport to the store for pickup during the holiday season. He also sells wreaths and centerpieces that he fashions from spare boughs.
Hindle's industry and creativity have earned him acclaim. In 1991 he was named Young Nurseryman of the Year by the New England Nurserymen's Association. He served as president of the Rhode Island Nurserymen's Association in 1995, and is a Rhode Island Cer tified Nurseryman and a Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist.
Larry Hindle keeps busy four seasons out of the year. He believes that all gardeners can.
-- Joan Killough-Miller
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