By Beth David, Editor
That was the word Jane Howland used to describe how she felt on her last day running Howland Greenhouses on Alden Road in Fairhaven, on 6/30/18.
“Really sad,” she added, with her signature assuredness.
No mixed, bittersweetness here, although she did say that they have been planning it for three years, because that’s how long it takes for perennials to be ready to for sale.
In 1950, 68 years ago, the business started as a roadside stand by Jane’s father, who was a “milkman,” she said.
The business eventually spread out on the 10+ acre property that is an icon in Fairhaven. She bought if from her parents in 1985, leaving behind a career in computers. She has a Bachelor’s and two Master’s degrees, and was a vice president at a company where she traveled the world. And had fun doing it, she said. Then her parents could not keep up with the business, and her brothers did not want it.
The greenhouse business is more than full time, 365 days a year.
“There are never not any babies,” she said, referring to her seedlings.
In winter it is poinsettias and holiday wreaths. In spring the annuals and perennials. As the warm weather moves in, the vegetables are added to the flower offerings.
Then there are the lawn ornaments, cement statuary, potting soil, and all manner of other supplies needed by the home gardener; the most important of those being the friendly and trustworthy advice offered by the resident expert.
“We will miss it very much. It’s very unique,” said Celeste Gauthier, who said she was lucky enough, one year, to be the recipient of the large poster with all the flowers identified on it, and that she hung up in her classroom. Ms. Howland gives away a new one every year.
Elizabeth Buckles said she has been a customer for years, and she will miss the place.
“I’ll miss picking her brain,” said Ms. Buckles. “I should’ve picked more.”
“She’s been really helpful over the years,” said Damien Girard, who has bought annuals and perennials for years.
“Oh, I’m going to miss this place,: said Danielle Vasconcellos with passion. “I love the fact that it’s a local shop and not a big-box company. She’s always very helpful.”
At times, the eagle-eyed reporter caught the down-to-earth, matter-of-fact Jane getting downright emotional with more than one customer that day.
“I’m ready,” said Jane’s husband Chuck Martin. “If you can remove the emotions from it, it’s a logical decision and the right time. I don’t have the emotional attachment Jane has, but I understand it.”
He said it might be time for some traveling. He hopes they will visit all the National Parks. They both like baseball, he said, and the only professional field he has ever seen a game in, is Fenway. He wants to see ball game at Wrigley Field.
“I’m ready to move on to another chapter,” he said. “I don’t like to think about how close we are to the end of the book. I have my National Park pass.”
“We’ll miss all of the great people,” he said.
Jane did have a parting message.
“I’d like to thank them for all their business over the decades,” she said of her customers, whom she will truly miss. “Gardeners are the nicest people. They don’t bounce checks, they are always smiling. They’re just the nicest. That has been the fun part of it.”
It’s a sentiment that Chuck independently echoed.
“People who garden are their own special kind of people,” said Chuck. “People who have the patience to nurture a garden are just nice people. I am well aware that is a sweeping generalization, but it’s true.” •••
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