Confessions of a Plant Nazi — Bulgarian Leeks

Taken at Boncheff Greenhouses, photo by Mary Armstrong.

Some years ago, while finishing up my degree in Horticulture, I worked for a local greenhouse.

The owners were Bulgarian. This greenhouse and the adjoining home had been in place since the late 50’s.

The original owner had emigrated to Canada just prior to WW2 and after working at a construction job, had saved enough to buy a piece of land and build a tiny modest house (probably more like a shack from the description I was given). He sent away to Bulgaria for a bride and together they worked the land as a huge vegetable plot. Eventually they sold the original plot to Ontario Hydro for a healthy chunk of change and bought the piece of land they were on when I met them. They progressed to growing annuals, which were lucrative at the time (no Walmart or Loblaws to compete with).

There were actually 6 greenhouses, most of which were adjoined, so one could pass easily through from one to the other.

The main greenhouse, relatively safe to walk through, unless a pane of glass fell from the roof.

The secondary greenhouses had dirt floors and over the years various bits of broken lumber left over from bench construction, had been left as well as broken panes of glass and construction nails. In short, these greenhouses were only relatively safe if one was wearing steel toed safety boots.

George did not wear safety boots and got a large nail through his foot one day.

My boss, George, was a big bear of a man that was usually friendly and helpful. He like I, suffered from acid reflux and between us, we went through 2 boxes of baking soda weekly.

George giving a flower arranging demonstration

In the early Spring, one of my jobs there was to go through the greenhouses twice a day and spray the seedlings. The family continued to grow some of the summer annuals (to spite the growing competition from big box stores), as well as a much sought after plant called a Bulgarian Leek.

In April, way before it was deemed safe to plant anything outdoors, and way before any of the seedlings, including the Leeks, were large enough to transplant, hoards of gruff Eastern Europeans would show up at the greenhouse.

They would march into the main greenhouse, collars turned up against the cold and loudly demand the Leeks. They would harass George in various languages, and if I was alone there, they would holler at me in a thick accent “ Where are Bulgarian leeks?”

Leeks on the left — not Bulgarian but look very similar. Photo courtesy Peter Wendt Unplash.com

After a while, I found myself yelling right back, with a similar accent. “No Bulgarian Leeks” I would respond gruffly, hands on hips and head lowered belligerently. It’s hard to look menacing at 5 foot 3.

Too bad I didn’t have the 4-pronged tool of death (as we call this tool) at the greenhouse.

As April progressed, they became more insistent. They would sneak around the place peering into the various greenhouses in search of the hot item. George, however, was way ahead of them and had the Leeks hidden, He wouldn’t even tell me where they were. There was a concern that while blundering around the other greenhouses, one of them might slip and fall or step on some greenhouse glass and get hurt.

Since I was frequently in the seedling area, spraying, I was the person that would most often be in the greenhouse when these characters came in. George had given strict instructions that they were not supposed to be in these greenhouses. So I would threaten them with the hose and tell them to get out. Usually finishing up my instructions to them with a snarled “No plants for you”.

One day, unbeknownst to me, George was in the next greenhouse when one of these confrontations was going on. After I got rid of the group of Leek seekers, George broke up laughing, and said that from now on my nickname would be “The Plant Nazi”. It stuck.

I was also known as the Plant Commando, but I preferred the Plant Nazi handle.
Variegated Impatiens George and his Mum, Stella were so proud of these.
Hanging baskets of Impatiens filled the greenhouses in May

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Louise Peacock is a writer, garden designer, Reiki practitioner, singer-songwriter & animal activist. Favorite insult “Eat cake & choke” On Medium since 2016.

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Louise Peacock

Louise Peacock

Louise Peacock is a writer, garden designer, Reiki practitioner, singer-songwriter & animal activist. Favorite insult “Eat cake & choke” On Medium since 2016.

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