Ed Mues - A Historical Look

What follows is my attempt to provide a little personal history that will focus on my passion for plants and how it evolved. I hope it will explain why my favorite bumper sticker reads, "I Dig Plants".

I grew up in Queens, N.Y. My dad liked growing things. We had a nice size yard, good soils, and he grew grapes, peaches, lots of flowers and especially many different kinds of roses. He tried to get me interested, but in nice weather, once chores were done, stick ball beckoned. Eventually, I did manage to pick up a bit of knowledge here and a bit of appreciation there. It was my first schooling in aesthetics and horticulture, and I was probably nine years old. It was not very sophisticated. My dad was nothing close to a 4-H parent. He was self taught.

I had just become a teenager when he died at a young age. Tempus fugit.

Two days after I received my Bachelor's degree, I received my mandatory draft notice. And, so there came two years of service (U.S. Army), followed by a marriage and a divorce and then a NYC apartment. The seed is germinating.

My mom visited with me and brought me a plant. I was young, single and within a couple of years, right at the blossoming of the green revolution. African violets were no longer only found in florists. Plant stores started to spring up in neighborhoods. In Manhattan there were only a handful until dumbfounded florists wised up and started to expand.

Early on, on the Upper East Side, there were only three: Kings, Terrestris, and Mother Nature. Every well to do New Yorker had to have what his decorator insisted on: live plants, the bigger the better. After leaving the publishing business behind, I was hired by Mother Nature.

It was a four block walk from my apartment. I began as a helper with a nod to learning how to sell if I proved myself. I devoured every ounce of this new love and it nourished me at the same time. I began to read everything I could get my hands on. I signed up for classes at the New York Botanical Gardens. Meanwhile, the plant my mom gave me, the venerable snake plant, the "can't kill" plant, flowered in my apartment with a knock out fragrance and it lasted for weeks. I was hooked. Within six months I was top sales person and managing the store.

Being manager, I was privy to taking home any plants no longer deemed salable. My top floor, southern exposure apartment became a virtual solarium. Coincidentally, one of my co-workers was Dan Hedaya, struggling actor. Within a couple of years I opened my own plant store; smaller, lower key, more personable, with plant care service available. I registered the name "Family Tree" with New York State and the IRS in late 1973. I closed my store after a few years and immediately launched a houseplant consulting service offering care, pest i.d. and control recommendations. I consulted with decorators and designers whose knowledge of their particular expertise was awesome, but their knowledge of "what" plant would live "where" was poor, at best. I continued to call my business "Family Tree". This remained the focus of my business for several years and I continued to seek out and grow many plants.

The city's "plasticity" began to get to me. My longing for more open space and cleaner air took over. I migrated to Samsonville in Ulster County in fall '76. The following summer I closed in a front porch with used storm windows, insulated it, put in two skylights, created a few innovative devices to move cool air to be warmed, and I had my first real greenhouse. I was ecstatic. I now had the ability to grow almost anything I had a whim to try. I still traveled to the city three days a week, and brought more and more exotic plant materials to my clients. I was always looking for new and different plants.

I married again in 1981. We moved twice in the next several years. My wife, Diane, found a house for sale with an attached solar heated greenhouse measuring ten feet by forty feet by eight feet high. We have occupied this house since fall '89. In May 1992 I was employed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Sullivan County as an assistant horticultural educator. I had the good fortune to interact with, interview, and meet other plant people and growers, and to help train such like minded spirits. Best part of all. I had the opportunity to assist the public three days a week in an area I was passionate about -- growing plants. I was ecstatic again! I remained in this job for more than ten years. I am retired from Cornell now.

After growing plants, I enjoy writing most. If you'll bear with me, I'll be happy to share more about why my best bumper sticker reads "I Dig Plants". From time to time, I hope to write about growing all kinds of plant materials and keeping them thriving. Stay tuned, okay?

© 2005 Ed Mues. All Rights Reserved.