The visit was to Bach’s Cactus Nursery. This is a high quality desert garden supplier for wholesalers and hobbyists just north of Tucson, Arizona. We went there to procure a young potted saguaro cactus to bring to work for a colleague. We were referred there by owners of another garden shop located closer to the center of the city.
When we entered the nursery grounds and walked into several of the many greenhouses, I was gobstopped. Fortunately, I met Betsy, 43/100 of my strangers, who is one of the staff horticulturalists at Bach’s. She provided focused guidance as to the layout of the retail areas, as well as care instructions regarding the plant selections we decided to purchase.
In skimming her backstory, I learned that we shared the common experience of transplanting ourselves from New England to the Southwestern United States. She moved from Connecticut to Tucson more than twenty years ago, and could never imagine living anywhere else. Betsy is someone who goes to work and doesn’t feel like it is a job, but rather a passion. Don’t we all wish for that?
Betsy spent quality time with me describing proper plant care. While the specimens were being boxed gently for safe road travel, she instructed each of my children pick out a tiny potted cacti to fit into the package that we were taking home. It was good customer cultivation. I thanked her for that extra; it was a very nice offering.
Betsy wasn’t the least bit surprised that I would want to photograph some of the plants outside on the grounds and in some of the greenhouses. She was surprised, however, that I asked for her to participate in my 100 Strangers project. Despite the lighting being suitable for growing plants, it wasn’t the greatest for producing my best portrait work. I explained that we had made such a nice connection over our mutual admiration of desert plants: Betsy was a natural subject for my photo set. It seemed unusual for her and yet she was happy to oblige.
Even though we were inside a grow-building she had kept on wearing sunglasses until I asked her to remove them for the photo making. The spigot of smile had no shut off valve, and I didn’t want her to be self-conscious. I told her that my goal was to portray her in her element. And so, Betsy is standing at a table of really cute small plants, near one that I decided to purchase for myself and a friend back home. Exactly where we were holding our conversation.
The owners are fortunate to have such an informed and well-spoken individual on staff. She turned what could have been a cold transaction into a memorable and meaningful experience for us both. When she confirmed receipt of the photo, she said our stop into the nursery had been memorable for her, too.