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Thriving Ripon nursery family business rich heritage
Park Greenhouse founder Floyd Cover greets customer Don Schaapman as he carries a Christmas tree to his car. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

RIPON - The vividly colorful poinsettias at Park Greenhouse are not the only big attractions this Christmas.

Offering stiff competition in the visual department is an 80-year-old beat-up wooden prop that was almost turned into a bonfire a few years ago because of old age. That beat-up prop is a 14-foot boat made by the grandfather of Floyd Cover, the man who started the nursery business on West Ripon Road where it’s still located today on the outskirts of Ripon’s incorporated city limits.

Thanks to the intermediary of some sentimental family members, the boat was saved from a burning fate.

After his grandfather, John Cover, died an uncle took possession of the boat. After he passed away, the boat was passed on to Floyd.  His grandfather and uncle lived in Salida and that’s where the boat stayed the whole time. John Cover, who came to California in 1908 with his wife and five kids, settled in west Salida where they bought a 20-acre swath of land for $2,000 that they farmed.

After Floyd Cover inherited the boat, he took the water craft to various fishing destinations with his own children. Floyd himself has a lot of cherished memories doing the same thing with his father and grandfather on the boat.

“I used to go fishing with my daddy and grandpa. One time we caught a seven-foot sturgeon,” Floyd said, laughing at the memory.

He proudly pointed out that his grandfather built the boat himself in the 1930s  with his bare hands using only hammer, saw “and a lot of screws.

There were no power tools in those days,” he said.

He thinks the wood his grandpa used to build it was either Canadian or Washington spruce.

When the boat had outgrown its use as a watercraft, Floyd Cover did not have the heart to burn it although he was tempted to have the boat give its ghost that way. Instead, “I put it in my yard and put flowers in it,” he said.

After two years, he got tired using the boat as a flower bed.

“We thought about destroying it,” Floyd said, but he was dissuaded by his grandchildren who told him it would be a  pity to destroy something of vintage value, not to mention the excellent workmanship involved in the building of the boat.

Floyd acquiesced, and this holiday season, the boat is very much a focal point of the Christmas decoration inside Park Greenhouse’s retail store. It does double duty as a visual point of attraction and as an interesting back drop to all of the colorful Christmas sale items such as the wide variety of poinsettia selections - from the traditional reds and painted hues to the more exotic yellow, blue and purple painted yuletide blossoms, not to mention the hard-to-find Christmas tree ornaments and life-sized Nativity tableaux.

Three generations of Covers make the nursery a family operation. Nursery founders Floyd and Glenna Cover are still familiar faces everyday helping son Gary and wife Debbie, who now own the business, and the grandchildren do some chores. Three of Gary and Debbie’s children work at the family nursery. Their daughter Michelle who used to help do the bookkeeping quit last year to attend Bible school in Michigan.

“We miss her here, but she’s doing the Lord’s work and that’s good, too,” grandpa Floyd Cover said.

As for his own chores, he laughed and said, “I do the things that nobody else wants to do such as clearing up debris and getting supplies.”

Glenna Cover said the family business has not been immune to what’s been happening with the economy. But, she said with the same positive attitude that kept the business thriving through more than half a century, “We still see our old customers. We’ve been a long time and everybody likes us. Just keep aggressive and don’t let up,” she said, like coming up with new products such as the “painted poinsettias” which have proven to be perennial sell-outs.

“You just got to keep trying new things,” said Floyd Cover.