I wrote recently how Peaches often crossed my mind at Christmas, but there was another place in town which had an even stronger holiday association for me. Probably because my mother was a gardner, I spent my share of time at Taylor's Garden Center growing up.
The buildings and yard space have been torn down, but Taylor's Garden Center occupied the pace now held by Forest Lake Fabrics, next to Frans and Forest Lake Park. Like Gaul, the place was divided into three parts. In the front, on the right, was the salesroom. This room was filled with all the paraphernalia of gardening: hoses, nozzles, sprayers, stakes, gloves, clippers, chemicals, you name it. I liked it because it was almost like a hardware store, and all the chemicals gave it a unique smell. I believe that if you had taken me in blindfolded, I still would have been able to identify where I was.
Also in front, but on the left was sort of an auxiliary, room. I think this was more seasonal, and most of the year I recall it having lawn statues, paving stones, fountains and the like.
Behind this room, and also on the left side was the greenhouse. This was where all the actual plants were, and had its own distinctive, loamy smell. You could go out there, and with the warmth, the smell, the sound of the fans running, the sounds of the plastic sheeting walls bowing in and out in the breeze and the rows of green plants, it was like stepping into some other world. Perhaps the "plant ship" from the film Silent Running. We kids liked to wander around out there while our mother was picking things out in the front room.
But here's the best thing about the place. The auxiliary room that I called seasonal? Well winter is a season, and one where a garden center isn't going to have a lot of business -- So each winter they set up a Festival of Christmas Trees there. Now they may have sold live trees, I don't recall (we always got ours at the Optimist lot), but the festival was all artificial trees, and very fancy ones. I can particularly recall trees which had a little pump system which recycled poppy-seed sized grains of "snow" from a catchment basin at the base of the tree to a nozzle at the top, providing a constant "snowfall" over the tree. And of course there were trees with all manner of fancy lights, trees that turned round and round, and even trees that made their own music.
I suppose they did sell some of them each year, but really it was more like an area attraction, to come to the Garden Center and see the trees.
I'm a little fuzzy on why the Garden Center closed. It wasn't part of any chain, so it might just have been a matter of the proprietors wanting to retire, or it could have been the rise of Wal-Mart (though the Forest Drive store was till in the future) or the superstores like Home Depot & Lowes. I think I was already living out of town when it happened. I recall reading an appreciation piece in The State, then the place closed and the building was torn down. I guess you could say they took over from the nursery that was on Trenholm Road behind the Gulf station, and now Forest Lake Gardens has kind of taken over from them. But it doesn't smell the same.
UPDATE 27 Mar 09: Finally fixed the title of this post, changing to to Taylor's Garden Center from the (incorrect) Forest Lake Garden Center.
UPDATE 1 October 2009: Finished changing all the Forest Lake Garden Center references to Taylor's Garden Center. Don't know why I didn't catch them earlier.