Greenhouse is a paradise for those who love plants
This story was published in South Post on Thursday, April 18, 2002.

By Clarissa Start

We'd all like to go to heaven when we die, but just what is our idea of heaven? Every time I visit a garden greenhouse, it occurs to me that spending eternity in a greenhouse would be pretty close to heaven.

I thought of this recently when I accepted an invitation to visit the Stuckmeyer garden nurseries at highways 21 and 141, just a short distance from my apartment at Highway 30 and 141. I was a little late, as I'd been unable to visit during a recent open house for visitors, but the surroundings were still beautiful with acres and acres of flowers and plants.

This wasn't my first visit there. I'm a regular customer early in May when the homegrown strawberries are ripe. During World War II, I lived in California for a while, and I will admit that the climate has its attractions, except for the rainy season. Fruits and vegetables are available in abundance at a time of the year that ours are not yet in season, but as for strawberries - well, I don't want to offend any transplanted Californians, but there's just nothing like a homegrown Missouri strawberry in May.

Stuckmeyer's Farm and Market grows a lot more than strawberries and has been doing so for a long time. It's a family business founded by Walter Stuckmeyer, who lived on Pardee Road in Affton and bought the ground to start his business in 1954. His son, Walter, moved to Illinois to go into business there, but the rest of the growing family stayed, and there was room and work for all of them.

Ralph Stuckmeyer and his wife, Jean, are now the owners, aided by their six children, three of them full-time workers and three part-time.

I was mildly apologetic to Jean in explaining that I wrote a lot about the Sappington Garden Shop as I'm a part of their garden talks program.

No problem, Jean said with a laugh. Their oldest son works for the Heimos family, Sappington's owners.

It's a business that keeps a whole family busy, and a walk through the greenhouses gives you only a small idea of its scope. I had brought my camera along with an eye to getting pictures for future garden talks, and there was ample opportunity.

I made notes on some of the plants that were unfamiliar to me, including a beautiful Callibrachoa, and for those of you who say impatiently, "But what's its real name?" it's popularly known as Million Bells.

But my tour around the greenhouse was a case of "You name it; they have it." There were the easily recognizable annuals such as petunias and snapdragon and coleus, flats of them; but there was also nemesia and cuphca, more familiar as Mexican heather, and a luscious rosy pink geranium that looked good enough to eat. Its grower apparently thought so, too, as its name is Raspberry Ice.

The market officially opens in May when the field crops are ready to market. I asked Jean whether she had noticed a great increase in garden interest in recent years, and she said yes, indeed.

"Gardening is a major hobby now," she said. Many people are attracted to it because it's an opportunity to get away from other work and cares.

Aware that there's always work where there are plants, I brought our talk to a reluctant close and slowly walked toward the exit. Another visitor apparently read my mind as she asked, "Don't you wish you could live here?" Yes, indeed, from here through eternity.

Published in the South Post section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Thursday, April 18, 2002.
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