2254Back in 1973, the local couple (Whrelda and Harry Pittman) whose garden we’d been buying irises from thought I’d be a good candidate to continue  their business. I’m not sure why they thought this, but maybe the fact that our own iris beds had pretty much taken over my yard and were starting to overrun our vegetable garden gave them a little hint.

My wife says that, considering all the toil and sweat I put in, from daylight til dark many days, I must’ve completely lost my mind when I agreed to continue it. Maybe she’s right. But I’d gladly do it all over again, because I love the flowers and spending time working in the garden.

It is astounding to see a barren field in February miraculously burst into 2 acres filled with the kaleidoscope of colors and breathtaking aroma of nearly 1,000 varieties of bearded iris each May.

I love hearing all the oohs and aahs from people – even people from as far away as Connecticut and California – as they walk through the garden.

I love seeing a new variety and thinking to myself, “I just gotta see what that one would look like in my garden.”

I love seeing with my own eyes one of God’s springtime miracles.

I love hearing with my own ears about the magnificent memories of visitors whose lives have touched mine over the years.

And I love the big, beaming smiles on little girls’ and senior ladies’ faces as I give them a flower before they leave the garden. (You’d think it was hundred-dollar bill, not just free flowers, they’d gotten.)

The garden’s never been about making piles of money – just enough to support my iris habit. So if someone ever comes back to me and says, “Jim, this iris didn’t make it through the winter,” I’ll replace it, no questions asked – even though I had no control over it once it was planted.

That’s because I firmly believe that the key to a successful business and personal life is having a good product and treating people the way you’d like to be treated yourself.

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Jim Exline