Posted on: November 13, 2015 | Written By: Doug Oster |
Rocky Franciscus of Carrick has the back of his old red Bronco full of red twig dogwood and curly willow starts. He met me on the South Side to share the plants. The dogwoods are potted up in soil and the curly willow are just pushing out green sprouts as they sit in a white plastic bucket filled with water. He also has some asclepias (milkweed) seeds for me.
Rocky uses the cuttings and sells them to florists for a little extra money. It all started with a chance meeting with the late Walt Vernau, from Kline’s Flower Shop in Brentwood, who asked him, “do you like to cut grass?” “Not really,” Rocky answered honestly, ‘then get rid of that bottom of you’re yard and plant some of this,’ Walt said about some of the plants he used at the shop.
Rocky planted pussy willow, curly willow, forsythia, “and anything else I can cut and sell to the flower shops,” he said. “If you don’t make a lot of money out of it, Walt said, you’ll at least make your gas money out of it.”
I met Rocky two years ago at my annual plant swap in North Park, where he brought me my first red twig dogwood, he loves to share what he grows, and brought lots of plants there to trade too. One of his favorite things is when fellow swappers see what he has to offer. They want to know how big the plants get and what they will look like. When they waver, Rocky encourages them to take a leap of faith, “try it, take it home and try it,” he says.
Like many gardeners, he was introduced to the hobby as a child. “When I was eight years old my mother bought me three strawberry plants and I’ve had a garden ever since,” he said with a smile.
As the weather cools, he brings in lots of his beloved plants inside to grow on the windowsill and even though his wife says, “it’s like living in a jungle,” she accepts his passion for growing. Jan Hicks adds, “I do have to water them, the leaves and the dirts, that’s what I don’t like.”
Looking down at the sprouting plants, he says, “I love whenever they take like that, when you see new growth.”