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D & D Travel the Circuit

Dennis and Donna Gretton are Plant Festival people who travel the circuit. During the spring and fall most of their plant sales are done at plant festivals. This spring they started with the Kumquat Festival in Dade City in January. Look for them at the Greenfest on the University of Tampa campus this weekend, March 24/ 25, at the USF Spring Plant Sale April 14/15, at the Green Thumb Festival in St. Petersburg April 28/29, and the Herb and Butterfly Festival at USF June 9/10. They were scheduled for only two weekends at home between late January and the summer and that pace starts up again in the fall.

Dennis and Donna Gretton at the their home and nursery in Lithia

They have had a nursery on two and a half acres just east of Highway 39 in Lithia since 1993. They are located just 10 minutes south of Fish Hawk Blvd on Tuten Road and the nursery is open by appointment only (call 813-716-5038). But don't call on weekends.

These two people work every day of the week and many a night when bad weather threatens their crops. Plant sellers who depend on festival sales rather than a walk-in nursery drive long miles, set up tables and unload hundreds of plant trays, work long days, and then load up what is left and return home, sometimes late into the night.

Sometimes Dennis and Donna each take plants to a different event on the same weekend. They travel all over the state. When they get home, they have to attend to the many plants they are raising for the next events. This is a job people chose because they are talented and dedicated growers and up to a continuous life of challenge. Unfortunately, it does not make them rich but if they didn't enjoy it, they wouldn't do it.

Donna is also a math teacher at Plant City High School for half of every school day. She taught in the Special Ed department there a few years ago.

Only once, in June of 2003, did they go to an out-of-state event and they won't do that again. They were selling their plants at Pageland Watermelon Festival in South Carolina and it was almost closing time on a Saturday night. They had just strolled over to visit the vendors at the next booth when the sound of gunshots rang out very close. Way too close. The body of one of the victims was lying among their plants just where Dennis had been standing a few minutes before. It was a long time before the man was removed and the Grettons got permission from the police to pack up and head home. They had to leave behind the plants that were covered with DNA.

These annuals were ready for sale in January. Not many people can raise foxgloves in Florida but they were blooming in their nursery rows in January.

A disaster with longer range problems came when quite a few of the large oak trees on their property went down in the 2004 hurricanes and they had a major job getting them removed from the nursery area. While they were doing that, some of the front nursery area got overgrown. It can happen even to professionals. They have the matter well in hand now and Dennis is working with a borrowed bobcat to finish the last bit.

Meanwhile, they always show up at the festivals with well grown and often unusual plants, including many herbs, annuals, perennials, grasses and pitcher plants. Not many people can grow foxgloves in Florida, but they had some blooming in January. Their lisianthus were in beautiful bloom and the one I brought home continues to bloom months later.

Both were always interested in plants. Donna wanted a herb garden that turned into a herb nursery with over 60 kinds.

One of the most colorful plants they grow are the salvias or sages. Some of these are called tropical salvias but Dennis says, "They are hardier than you think, with many able to come through winters in Zones 7 and 8." (We are in Zone 9.) Dennis grows 30 varieties of these now and is always looking for more. He was quoted in the Feb/March issue of Florida Gardening Magazine in an article called Sage Advice by Tom Hewitt.


Not many people can raise foxgloves in Florida
but these were blooming in their nursery rows in January.