An Old Highway 61 Blog & Photos by Gail Gates

I like gardening — it’s a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself.— Alice Sebold

“I have 20/20 vision,” is a happy statement that implies health and clarity. At least when it comes to visual things. The year 2020, however, has been a whole lot fuzzier on pretty much every level.

Included in 2020’s “what the @#$???” list is the great toilet paper shortage. I did NOT see that one coming, but as my mom used to say, “Everything worked out in the end.”

There were/are also shortages of hand sanitizer, paper towels, face masks, and bean seeds. 
Wait.
What?
Bean seeds?
Yes. Bean seeds.

My daughter and son-in-law moved in June and wanted to put in at least a small garden. Beans grow fast, so I thought I’d grab a few packets and get to work. Except I couldn’t find bean seeds anywhere.

It got so I felt I needed a secret password, a trench coat, and dark glasses to whisper, “Ya got any bean seeds?” when visiting a garden center. 

The answer was always the same. “No. We sold out immediately and are not expecting any new shipments.” Then they would look at me with pity in their eyes. Obviously, I was still living in the past, say, 2019. 

Not one to let go of a goal, I decided to visit one of my favorite garden centers, Wayne’s Nursery & Landscape Greenhouse. It’s located just off of Old Highway 61, a few miles south of North Branch. I figured that even if they didn’t have bean seeds, they might know where I could get some. 

Wayne Haslach, the owner, was there that day, and we had a wonderful conversation. He and his wife have been in the plant business for 45 years, and the craziness of Covid-19, along with people’s desire to have a home garden, equated to one of their best years ever. “We couldn’t keep plants in stock,” he said. “The truck would pull in, and everything was gone in a couple of hours.” We talked about plants in general and trends in specific.

We shared stories and laughs. 
And no, Wayne didn’t have any bean seeds either.

But one of the reasons Wayne’s greenhouse is my favorite is because they grow relationships along with plants. Wayne gave me suggestions instead of a blunt, “No. We don’t have any.”

By the time I headed home, I was in a great mood.  Bean seeds were ultimately found at Bachman’s… and may have been their last two packets. (My apologies to any other late seed sowers!)

Since then, the beans were planted, harvested, and devoured.
The experience with Wayne got me thinking, though.

In the past month alone, I have made the 1 1/2-2 hour journey north to: 

Why drive all that distance?

The small towns along Old Highway 61 are so much more than buildings. In fact, the towns are people and businesses that are a part of me and my history. They are people I trust when I have questions or need advice and service. 2020 has been a year of dramatic changes. It just feels good to drive along Old Highway 61, soak in the familiar, and trust that there is oh-so-much-more right with the world than wrong. 

What are some of your favorite garden centers and businesses along Old Highway 61? Please share!