Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Caution: Gardeners at Work

..::As published on the William Allen White Website 7.20.07::..

The black leather seat of the forklift stuck to her pants as she stood up to help a customer in the worst of the three digit weather.

Scurrying across the garden center lot, she wiped off a fresh patch of sweat from her face with her forearm and sighed before she entered the greenhouse smiling where the heat intensified and the breeze dissolved.

To most, it was one of the hottest days of the year, but for Becky Kearns, the seasonal manager of Hyvee on Clinton Parkway, it was just another ordinary summer day. And that's how she likes it.

"I never get tired of it," Kearns said. "I come out early in the morning so it gradually gets hotter. I know its hot, but I spend time in the shade, then get out and work, and...hose my feet off."

Geraniums and hydrangeas sit on barrels and colorful pots, dried in the sun, even after being watered for the third time. And Kearns, clad in her bright orange shirt reading, "Caution: Gardeners at work" quickly carries bags of mulch to load off the forklift.

The garden center, which is much smaller in July because of the heat, includes one functioning greenhouse and two shaded sections for some of the late-blooming plants.

Kearns said throughout the year, the heat affects not only the people who come to the garden center, but also the kinds of products they buy.

"Early in the spring they're planting all their pots and all the annuals. Then once that's done they start buying the perennials, shrubs, trees -- and they buy mulch now that it's hot, hoses, that kind of stuff," Kearns said. "And then we do a fall shrub program, then pansies and mums to work our way through fall."

And Kearns says Hyvee isn't exhaustive about the heat.

"They always tell us, if you're too hot come in. They would never never say that we have to stay out here," she said.

"The employees, they're here because they want to be. They're happy about it. You don't have somebody that's grumpy because they have to be out here loading dirt," she added. "They're loading dirt because they want to be loading dirt. And I think that makes a huge difference. It wouldn't be a fun job if you didn't like what you were doing."

Still, being in the sun all day at work doesn't discourage Kearns from keeping a big garden at home, too.

"I've got a grandma garden," she said. "I'm a big hosta person, I have a lot of shade, so a lot of hostas, a lot of ferns ... everything really."

Kearns added her advice for staying cool this summer: "Drink lots of water and Gatorade.....and hose off your feet," she said laughing.


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