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BLOOMING IN RIPON

Dahlias galore grow in Grandpa’s Flower Patch

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BLOOMING IN RIPON

Floyd Cover shows off some of the largest dahlia blossoms in his flower patch. The largest ones are 10 inches in diameter.

ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin


POSTED July 23, 2014 1:08 a.m.

The handmade rustic sign reads: “Grandpa’s Flower Patch. Only God can make a flower. Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Matt 6:29.”

The sign is propped on a rough-hewn tree stump, in front of which nearly wrapped around it like a wreath are bone-dry, chalk-white driftwood that reminds one of a Georgia O’Keefe painting.

In sharp contrast to that arid still-life arrangement are rows of dahlias blooming in profusion behind it standing like a proud backdrop, the motley-colored blossoms seemingly defying the valley’s triple-degree temperatures.

Welcome to Floyd Cover’s garden, a sight for sore eyes that’s hard to miss if you’re driving along West Ripon Road just before this major traffic artery turns into Ripon’s Main Street. The flower patch is two houses past the Park Greenhouse nursery, the business that has been in the Cover family for more than half a century. The house closer to the dahlia garden is where Cover was born. It’s more than a hundred years old. Both houses, plus the garden, are part of the 18-acre family property.

The garden is a smorgasbord of dahlia varieties. But don’t ask Cover for the name of each variety. If you do, he will give you a number. That’s how the plants are classified. Many of them are eye-popping gigantic flowers as big, if not bigger, than dinner plates. The medium-sized ones are like saucers. The smallest ones would just about fit a teacup.

The riot of colors rival that of the rainbow, and some shades in between – from the lily-white ones to delicate and shocking pinks, tender tangerines, vivid purples, an d several in vanishing multiple colors.

Dahlias are no lazy bloomers. Despite their tender stalks, they keep on producing flowers. Covers’ plants are so heavy-laden with flowers they need stakes to support their weight and to them upright so they can proudly display their blossoms for maximum viewing.

The smaller the blossoms, the more flowers the plants produce, noted Cover. The gigantic ones have less flowers, but what they lack in sheer number they make up for size.

Cover planted each one by hand in early spring. You have to plant them early to get the flowers early, he said.

While dahlias thrive best in cold weather, like that of the Mendocino Coast, this showy plant can survive and even thrive in these warmer climes, even in a sunny spot like his garden’s location, said this great-grandfather who was blessed with a green thumb. He drip-irrigates his flower patch only twice a week.

Some of the dahlias were planted as tubers. Others originated as cuttings taken from bulbs that were planted in the nursery’s greenhouse.

Eventually, these varieties in Grandpa’s Flower Patch will find their way into the Park Greenhouse where people can buy them for their gardens.

• • •

Grandpa’s Flower Patch is part of family’s business tradition

Gardening is not just in Cover’s blood. It is a family tradition that go way back to the 1950s when his parents pulled up stakes in Ohio and came to California. They settled in Ripon where his parents bought a house that, Cover guessed, was five to 10 years old. That’s the white house next to his dahlia garden. That’s where he was born. And that’s where he grew up. When he and wife Glenna got married, his parents built them a house next door where the couple still lives.

Cover laughed as he commented, “I never got very far in life.” He’s never lived anywhere else beyond 100 feet of the family property, he said with a chuckle.

His father came to California to farm, he said. They grew walnuts, almonds, and raised geese and chickens mainly for the family’s dining table. They also planted a lot of fruit trees such as peaches and apricots, and plenty of vegetables.

“A little bit of everything,” Cover recalled.

Before his parents opened Park Greenhouse, they had a 10-acre almond orchard behind where the nursery is today. The Covers were “one of the first people” to have an almond orchard in Ripon in the area between Ripon and Austin Road. At that time, there were only three almond orchards that he can recall. One was 13 acres. The third one was also 10 acres.

His father later sold the almond orchard. “It wasn’t big enough to make a living,” he noted. So they started the nursery. It opened as a retail business with a flower shop. His wife Glenna was the florist, and did that for 20 years. Along the way, the business turned into a wholesale operation. They grew plants that were later sold as dried flowers like baby’s breath.

“We shipped all over the United States,” Cover said. 

Later, he was able to buy back the almond orchard that his father sold, and the acreage later became part of the nursery’s wholesale operation.

Today, Park Greenhouse continues as a wholesale business shipping plants all over the country, and as a retail operation at the same time.

“The Lord provided,” smiled the sprite grandfather and great-grandfather whose family are longtime members of Ripon Grace Brethren.

Cover’s son, Gary, now runs the business. Several of Gary’s children – he and his wife have 10 children – also work at the nursery. One grandson, Lee, is married with one child. Two of the grandchildren are getting married in the fall.

The scripture passage he posted on his garden sign is one of his favorites.

“I love the Lord,” he sincerely stated.

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