The next recipient of the "Tag … you are it!" feature series may sound familiar to residents in Marshfield.
Evelyn Hampton of Marshfield has a knack for anything flower-related. She's also known as a dirt sister to Blanche Firestone, who nominated her as the seventh candidate for this feature.
"The dirt sister name’s got a funny story behind it," said Hampton. "In 2012, I was battling colon cancer. We had 50 roses coming in to plant in our greenhouse. Members of the church came over to help plant them. Blanche was one of them. She has stayed with me ever since 2012. We’re probably as close if not closer to sisters, maybe sometimes. My sisters were a lot older than I was, so Blanche was just there. She loved flowers and helped me do what I needed to do, so one day we claimed to be dirt sisters."
Hampton's love for flowers started back when she was four years old. She was born on a dairy farm in Fair Grove. In the winter, when they got behind on their cattle feed bills, her father built a porch or roof for people. All of the women set their flowers on a table at the back door, which caught Hampton's attention.
"While Daddy talked to them, I stood there and looked the flowers over," said Hampton. "The woman of the house would come and say, 'Honey, do you have this flower?' I talk nonstop now, but as a child, I didn't talk. I shook my head at the lady to indicate I didn't have the flower, so she asked me if I’d like to have a start and I shook my head yes. She’d break me off starts and Mama helped me root them. Then we'd plant them."
Back then, Hampton said their family didn't have flower pots, so they'd take tin cans and put holes in them. They placed the flowers on the windowsills. Hampton recalls her stock dog getting into her flower beds.
"I had big old tall flowers," said Hampton. "He got in there, broke them and ruined them. I cried and cried, but Mom told me, 'Well, honey, think. That dog is hot and the ground is cool and wet. That’s why he got in them.' She taught me to put rocks around the flowers. I asked her what good that would do, and she said, ‘Would you rather sleep on a feather bed or sleep on rocks?'"
In fourth grade, Hampton’s teacher loved flowers. There was a table full of flowers, and sometimes Hampton brought them home and tended to them.
"One time, I even took rotten cow manure to pot the flowers in," said Hampton. "It embarrassed my sister so much to take them on the bus, but I've always been into flowers."
Although Hampton's Greenhouse, which Evelyn Hampton and her husband Larry own, is a well-known business in Marshfield today, it had a modest start.
Evelyn and Larry started out with a small greenhouse on the side of their house. They put out pumpkins the first year and invited children to come and pick out their own pumpkins in the fall.
"The first year, we did plants and the pumpkin patch," said Evelyn. "I was doing work in the greenhouse. The first we tried the greenhouse, we had patio tomatoes. We had three wagon loads of cabbage and broccoli. People were lined up outside of the highway out there. We didn't have any room to park."
According to Evelyn, the patio tomatoes don't get very tall and they're not too round, but they do well as long as they’re fertilized and watered. She said they produce broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage, pepper plants and cauliflower. While Larry knew more about vegetables, Hampton was more familiar with the flowers.
"Larry knows his soils and where they will grow out," said Evelyn. "My specialty is flowers. If a company has a new plant, I’ll get it because I don’t want to be the one who still has something that was 25-and-a-half years old. I still have some, but I want every new plant that comes in, so I can introduce them to people."
When visitors pull up to the residence, there'll see a 16-inch pot with only one plant of petunias in it. Hampton said she didn't plant them until after the last of July.
"It's already filled out on top and hanging to the side," said Hampton. "That's my daughter's favorite flower ever since she was little."
Hampton has a wide variety of flowers in her greenhouse. The petunias come in a variety of colors.
"We have black petunias," said Hampton. "I'm hoping to get a new yellow color this year. They've had yellow before, but it would fade out and so they're supposed to have one bred up this year that's brighter. We’ve got some that have speckles on them. It’ll be a blue petunia, but the speckles will be white. In the heat, the speckles will go away, but when it starts cooling down, the speckles come back in that petunia."
Both Hampton and her husband agreed that whether it's the greenhouse, the corn maze or the pumpkins, the key is to plant and pray.
"What we do is we plant them and pray," said Hampton. "We pray that they’ll grow. Plus, you gotta know when to water, how much to water and everything comes naturally."
When the greenhouse isn't in use, Hampton and Larry make sure it's cleaned, including pulling out the weeds. If there are leaves, she uses the vacuum sweeper to clear them off the floors and tables.
"We were complimented as the cleanest greenhouse," said Hampton. "We try to take care of it, just like with everything else."
With her love for gardens and people, Hampton said it's her and Larry’s faith that makes them want to serve others.
"We just love people," said Hampton. "The greenhouse, corn maze and pumpkin patch also serve as our ministry to them. We want them to have a good time, but if it's an opportunity to share our faith with them, then that’s fine, too."
Tag, you're it! Evelyn Hampton has nominated Justin Cox for next week feature. Watch this space!