Glenn Martin: A Gardener for All Seasons
This month, during the famous Route 11 Yard Crawl, Virginia’s largest yard sale, you can find EMG Glenn Martin selling his moonflower plants or milkweed from the side of the road. He has the perfect location: the front porch of Middletown’s Log House Antiques & Collectibles, which he owns with his wife, Crystal. He’s quick to point out, however, that the business (except for the plants) is really “all Crystal’s,” and she leaves the gardens to Glenn. “It works well that way,” he said of their partnership. There’s enough to manage both inside and out.
Almost every bit of the property surrounding the Log House is garden, attractively designed with stone paths, seating, a water feature and whimsical garden art. Everything is in balance. The Martins happily share their corn, tomatoes and other vegetables; figs, strawberries (they harvested 25 lbs. this year), peaches and apples with insects, birds, squirrels, frogs, worms, caterpillars, moths, butterflies and a pair of chickens that have tidily rid the garden of snails. An assortment of pollinator-attracting flowers: ironweed, milkweeds, moonflower and Joe Pye weed provide a full habitat for all types of moths and butterflies, especially monarchs, which Glenn tags and releases for Monarch Watch. Of the 50 monarchs he managed to tag last season, 42 were male — an observation that concerns him given the declining monarch population.
Glenn and Crystal moved “to town” three years ago, selling their local 40-acre farm to family. “I was tired of cutting five-acres of grass,” he said. The rest of the farm consisted of a large vegetable garden, hay fields, a black walnut nursery and a habitat for the preservation of wood turtles. He already had a small vested interest in the in-town property, formerly a restaurant called the Civil Cricket. “The owner and I often consulted on the back gardens, where customers dined outside,” he recalled. “I really wanted him to plant moonflowers, which are spectacular and fragrant in the evening, but he never did.” It took 10 truckloads of debris removal before Glenn was able to begin creating the permaculture he had envisioned for the space; moonflowers are predominately featured.
Prior to selling the farm, Glenn, a member of the EMG Class of 2013, also owned a local automotive business for 33 years. He grew up on a farm in Maryland and studied art education and biology in college. A self-described “naturalist by hobby,” Glenn’s diverse background is evidenced in his expressionist approach to gardening: Free-form, vibrant, textured and emotionally inspiring.
Glenn’s passion for gardening is a year-round endeavor. When fall comes, Glenn and Crystal close up shop and move to their condominium home in Lake Wales, Florida, until spring. There, Glenn volunteers at the Bok Tower Gardens – 250-acres of native gardens and a bird sanctuary listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “When I’m not weeding, pruning, planting, labeling, or propagating, I spend a lot of time – probably too much time – just walking through the gardens,” he admits. “When I’m in the garden, I feel like I’m walking with God.”
Always interested in learning something new, Glenn’s volunteer work presents him with opportunities to explore gardening topics more deeply. Plant propagation and soil composition are top on his list. “If I could go back in time, I probably would have studied geology and anthropology,” he said. His challenge at the moment is nursing back to life a night-blooming cereus that has been around since the Civil War. It was given to his parents by an old woman in Harper’s Ferry. His parents kept it for 30 years and passed it on to Glenn, who has been its caretaker for the past 30. In the category of “even master gardeners make mistakes,” Glenn accidentally left it out in the cold, and the plant suffered a major setback. “I’ve been entrusted with keeping this piece of history alive,” he said of the potted plant that he is carefully reviving. “Just imagine! This plant was around when Jackson rode through Harper’s Ferry.” There’s no doubt Glenn’s determination will keep it growing.
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