A garden in a very unlikely place

Published 11:28 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2012

John Henry Hunter is an employee at the Chevron on Citizens Parkway who does more than janitorial work. He grows plants at the location that draw lots of attention according to his manager. His secret: he talks to his plants. -- Ashley Johnson

Gas stations are full of sites and smells. The smell of gasoline and fuel, the sound of car engines and the site of dried oil on cement are consistent with gas stations across the region.

But one gas station is becoming popular for something out of the ordinary. Gas stations are not normally home to floral gardens. John Henry Hunter is an employee for the Chevron on Citizens Parkway, and every day when he arrives at work at 6 p.m. he goes through his routine. “From one pot to the other, looking at my plants,” He said.

“Every time I water my flowers, I tell them to grow, every time I water them I say grow and my momma told me to do that — just talk to the plants and your flowers grow,” Hunter said about the flower pots he tends to at the local gas station and mart. “I just love plants.”

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Hunter took over care for the large pots in April and the result, manger Donyeal Smith said, is that customers do not come in without asking about the flowers.

“People just come in and their first question is always where did you get those flowers?” Smith said. “People want to know where they can get flowers that look like that and we tell them we got them at Walmart and they don’t believe it.”

And yes, the marigolds Hunter has tended to were purchased from Walmart, but then died within a week. The secret, Hunter said, is what he did with the dead flowers.

“You see those right there,” Hunter asks as he moves his thumb through the pedals on the underside of the marigolds that have now grown more than a foot high. “Those are the seeds there and I just shred them up and put them back into the ground.”

Hunter replanted the seeds from the dead flowers and turned dead Walmart flowers into marigolds bigger than most have seen.

“People keep asking about these because they have never seen marigolds this big,” Hunter said. “We planted them in April and they should be dead by now, but I think they will last until October right before the cold comes.”

Hunter said his house is just as full of plants and he said his love for growing plants and tending to them came from childhood.

“When I was coming up, my dad had a garden and we ate out of that garden and everything we grew in the garden we ate from there, and so I just love plants,” Hunter said.

He had no idea that the plants would grow this big and become such a topic of conversation at the Chevron, but he still goes from plant to plant each day, waters them and whispers, “Grow…grow.”