Today I was with Garden Club friends; it was our year-end luncheon/business meeting and I was delighted to learn that our guest speaker was Kent Russell, a perennial plant expert and raconteur extraordinaire who hails from Churchville, PA. He was the guest speaker at the annual luncheon a number of years ago; that afternoon, I laughed until my sides hurt.
Kent. — May I call you Kent? – is tall, blonde, dramatic and non-stop. And his voice is unique: like a loud, long blowing horn.
He gathered a couple of hosta, a fern and a flat of impatiens in his large hands as he talked about possible perennials plant combinations for shade.
“Perennial. Shade. Love. Repeat,” he honked.
I could see some people blink as he began to speak; his rapid-fire delivery of spot-on plant information sprinkled among the humorous bits took the newbies by surprise; it took them a few seconds to assimilate.
Perennial. Shade. Love, love, love,” he repeated.
The newbies got it. They realized that Kent repeated himself. The information was shared not once, not twice, but often three times. Everyone could “get it.” Everyone had enough time to catch up to him!
As he spoke about perennials choices to lighten a dark corner, he picked up plants he’d brought for show and sale and carried them around the room so we could get a close look.
We took a look at the hosta Sun Power, the ghost fern, and the double white impatience, as he juggled the pots and flat in his hands. When he noticed some of us taking photos he stopped in mid-flight and honked, “Hold it! Hold it! Steady, steady right there,” making fun of himself as he struggled to keep the plants aloft. People laughed with him.
Occasionally, Kent would digress. “Can you say ‘annual?’ ” he asked.
“Annual. Plectranthus. Vanilla Twist,” he honked.
Then he’d bounce back on track. “Solomon’s Seal. Shade. Spring flower.”
“No, not false Solomon’s Seal,” he replied to a question. “This is the real deal. I don’t bring the fake stuff, as he waved a hand dramatically, nearly upending the potted plants he was carrying.
“Look at this,” he honked as he showed us a new version of an old-fashioned plant called bleeding heart. “Dicentra. Dwarf. Called King of Hearts. It blooms all summer in real shade, fake shade, whatever kind of shade you have around here.” With that the laughter began again.
“I’m kidding! I’m kid ding!” he said, shaking his head. “Your Garden Club. So funny.”
And so it went. Kent had us laughing helplessly as we learned. It was fun. It was entertaining. It was easy.
He’d honk, “Are we all together? Huh?”
Summing up Kent said, “I got the memo from your club. ‘Keep it simple. Keep it light. Easy care. You people don’t want to work too hard.’ ”
And his plants flew off the tables and into people’s hands.