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Times - News Article

Burlington, North Carolina
Sunday, June 25, 2006

Always a gardener
by Brandee Hayhurst

Picture caption: Dick Annand of Gibsonville holds some of the specialty tools he makes to battle the clay soils of North Carolina's Piedmont region.

GIBSONVILLE -- There's no mistaking this as the home of a gardener, but a gardener can be so many things. Dick Annand, former estate gardener, groundskeeper, and commercial grower extraordinaire, is overly modest about his little 2-acre backyard haven. He says he hasn't worked in the garden all year. He's been too busy traveling to garden shows to sell his Longnecker tools and planning a show he plans to hold on his Gibsonville property this fall. Annand is often telling his customers that making a garden doesn't have to be a major undertaking. When older people tell him they have to give up gardening, he says, "No you don't." Planting a couple of pots on the back porch is gardening, Annand says. "Gardening is not supposed to be a chore -- it's fun," Annand says. "Enjoy it." Annand designed a trowel and weeder in 1988 to defeat the infamous central North Carolina clay, or at least remove it from the equation. The idea came to him while he was sweating over planting 600 liriope in Greensboro. His Longnecker weeder bypasses dirt altogether -- simply scrape along the soil and cut the weeds off at the base. The blade of his trowel points sideways to give more leverage for pounding it into the ground, then pulling the soil to the side to put a plant in the ground. So what's in his garden? A small tangerine tree snaking out of a pot. Japanese maples that screen the brick patio from neighbors. A collection of dormant orchids hanging outside the greenhouse where he builds his tools. Enormous stag ferns, one which earns him a prize at the North Carolina State Fair each year. A birdbath handmade by a former neighbor that looks like a tree stump. Weeping spruce. Asiatic lilies, daylilies, herbs, carrots and beans shooting high in a bed hidden behind a garden gate. But there's one thing you won't find in that garden -- tomatoes. Annand doesn't bother with them because he finds them to be too much work. Besides, his father-in-law is much better at growing them. Annand is a little shocked when asked what his favorite plant is, because a gardener couldn't possibly name one. But he is fond of his clivia, a South African flower with gorgeous orange and yellow clusters that beckon in business at flower shows, where he sells some 1,000 tools a year. "Nobody walks by my clivias," Annand said. The garden is a haven for other life too, hung with feeders and birdhouses. This morning, we are visited by woodpeckers, mourning doves, wrens, goldfinches and, perhaps unfortunately for the others, hawks. "You like to see movement in the garden," he said.

ANNAND COMES from a line of estate gardeners. His grandfather was recruited from Banff, Scotland, to work on Sam Riddle's estate in Media, Pa. Riddle's name is pretty well-known around there, but even more famous is the name of his long-dead racehorse, Man O'War. Annand's father and three uncles were estate gardeners in Delaware, where he grew up. After attending college, Annand took a job in Pennsylvania at Longwood Gardens, a DuPont family property. He believes the 1,000-acre estate is the "premier horticultural garden" in the country. Nowadays, almost 1 million people visit Longwood each year to see its fountains, fireworks and 11,000 types of plants. Annand worked a variety of jobs later on, maintaining bridges and tunnels in Long Island, and working at a nursery in Charlotte. In the late 1970s, he took a job as grounds foreman at the Biltmore Estate, where he helped renew the commercial and house grounds. He loved the feel of that place. "I'd get up there an hour ahead of work and walk around the grounds," Annand said. Annand also was the superintendent of grounds at N.C. State University. He eventually started his own grounds maintenance business and grew and sold groundcover and herbs. He'll remind you to pronounce the "h." Annand, now 70, and wife Patricia have three daughters. He has given up commercial growing, though the signs remain. A field of daylilies blooms behind skeletons of greenhouses. Black plastic pots are stacked by the hundreds, too. Nowadays, Annand is busy inviting vendors to his show scheduled for the first weekend in October. He bought a couple more acres in the adjacent two properties that he's in the process of clearing. Annand is also on the Gibsonville planning board and spends a lot of time thinking about how they can beautify downtown. "There's a lot of plants in the world, and thank God they don't all bloom on the same day," Annand said.

Brandee Hayhurst can be reached at brandee_hayhurst@link.freedom.com.

Brent Lancaster City editor (Burlington)Times-News

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