Robert Rogers, known as Wormy to his friends, is known for many things - his love of fishing, his worm condos and his giant sunflowers.
But his gardening instincts, for which he is most known, come naturally to the 71-year-old Martinez resident who grew up on a "truck farm," where his family cultivated produce and shipped it out on trucks.
"It just happened," Rogers said of his interest in plants - specifically with azaleas and camellias.
There is no mistaking he tends to them closely as his property on Westmont Drive is bursting with April azalea color just as the spring warmth begins to slow the profusion of camellia blossoms.
When Roger and his wife, Caroline, moved to Martinez from Valdosta, Ga., in 1976, he brought several plants with him including some of his favorite Formosa azaleas, which are now large and the main attraction in the front yard.
Rogers now has more than 150 camellias and 100 azaleas, in addition to roses, Confederate roses, hydrangeas, alphias, herbs and other plants scattered among the tidy lawn.
He can easily explain his love of camellias.
"My wife was from Marshallville, the camellia center of the South," said Rogers, adding that the American Camellia Society's headquarters is at the Massee Lane Gardens there. His brother now works at the gardens.
But Rogers is not afraid to ask a homeowner or business owner for a cutting of an interesting plant on their property. He said he gets more plants, cuttings and seeds from anywhere or anyone who has them.
Growing them is fun, but Rogers said he likes to propagate and multiply his own plants through several methods including growing them from seeds, rooting cuttings, grafting and air-layering.
"Some people say I can plant a fence post in the ground, and it would root," Rogers said jokingly.
On his first round of air-layering 97 camellias last May, 91 lived. Using air-layering to propagate more of the same plant allows the gardener to get blooms from the plant the first year.
The simple process simulates one of Mother Nature's methods by fooling the plant into thinking a branch has hit the ground, where the stem grows roots. Air-layering requires scraping off the bark and green tissue on a small section of a woody stem and packing it with moist sphagnum moss before wrapping it in plastic wrap.
Each plant is carefully tagged, though Rogers said he can identify some by their leaves.
Now Rogers' greenhouse is packed with the new plants waiting to be repotted and put outside later this month. Some he will give to or trade with friends, others will be planted, and a few will be sold to help recoup his costs.
But Rogers is attached to each one.
"It says 'keep' on almost every one of them in (the greenhouse)," Rogers said.
The pride of Rogers' garden is the unique or heirloom plants like the pink and white speckled Herme camellia variety, which dates back to 1859, according to The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Camellias.
The oldest and largest camellia in the yard produces single scarlet blossoms and is called Sweet Caroline, after Rogers' wife, who died in 2002.
The secret to Rogers' garden is organic. He uses as few chemicals as possible and makes the soil for his vegetable garden by mixing in the droppings from his worm farm, sawdust, mulch, peat moss and mushroom compost.
The vegetables won't touch that soil until later this week, Rogers said, because the soil temperature needs to rise and stay constant to not burn the vegetable seeds or their young roots.
Rogers might take lots of pride and time nurturing plants, but the motto he lives by is clearly stated on a bumper sticker on his truck: "Work is made for people who don't know how to fish."
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