A small family greenhouse in the middle of nowhere

Around the beginning of May every year, the traffic on the dirt road in front of my parents triples when a small greenhouse in the middle of nowhere opens.  Doan’s Greenhouse is located through a grove of trees and at the bottom a hill a short distance from my parents. It’s been there, cradled between a couple of barns and a cute farmhouse, since 1973 when Bob and Shirley Doan opened it.

I remember many trips to the greenhouse with my dad, often in May, sometimes throughout the rest of the summer, to pick out flowers to plant around our house or vegetables to plant for the garden. We often went there right before Memorial Day to pick up flowers to put on the graves of family members buried in various cemeteries around the county, with the majority buried at the tiny cemetery behind the church down the road from my parents and at the county cemetery 25 miles north.

The sweet smell of flowers, plants, and fresh soil is inextricably tied to my childhood because of Doan’s and my dad’s gardening. I’m sure running a greenhouse was not easy, but I can’t remember one time when I visited the greenhouse that Bob and Shirley weren’t smiling.


I told my kids Saturday that Shirley always had an amazing smile complete with red cheeks that they always draw on older, apron-wearing ladies in cartoons. Her cheeks really looked like round cherries on her cheeks, even though I don’t remember the rest of her being round.

We had to break out of the house this weekend and Doan’s was one of the first places I wanted to hit when the weather warmed up. I’d actually been counting down to their opening day for a couple of weeks. Old memories slammed into me as soon as we pulled into the small, dirt parking lot and looked out over a stream running under a handmade wooden bridge, the greenhouse it’s backdrop.

The greenhouse is now owned by Bob and Shirley’s daughter, Jeannie, and son-in-law, Tom. They live kitty-corner to the greenhouse. Bob and Shirley still live in the house next to the greenhouse but are retired. For various reasons they couldn’t come out to see their customers (many of which are longtime neighbors and friends) this year but their daughter Cindy and granddaughter Hannah, son Dan and other two grandsons (whose name I don’t actually remember!) were busy inside the greenhouse, putting out plants and helping customers. Bob and Shirley have four children, 19 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren (at least according to their website. That number of great-grandchildren could be a little higher now.)

I’ll admit it was hard not to see the familiar Doan’s smiles, with them being hidden behind facemasks mandated by our governor, but I knew they were there because just like Bob and Shirley, their eyes revealed their emotions.

I almost called my dad while I was there, to glean advice for what flowers or herbs I should buy, but Dad knows I kill most plants and I had a feeling he’d discourage me from buying anything when all was said and done.

So, instead, the kids and I picked out what we thought was pretty, deciding to choose floral therapy over planting practicality on this day. I even snatched up (okay, had to ask for it to be lifted down) a hanging basket for Mom for Mother’s Day (knowing I’d better grab it then or I’d forget to do it later this week).  I dropped the hanging basket off on my way back to our house and then tried to decide what to do with our flowers since I haven’t decided where to plant them yet and since a new neighbor reminded me this is Pennsylvania — we could still get another frost before the month is out.

For now I’ve set the flowers and the herbs I picked up in some containers I found in the garage and garden house (my husband calls it the out building. I’m calling it the Garden House.

It sounds more romantic that way, right? ) and placed them on our front porch. I’ll water them and try to keep them alive until I plant them, but I can’t promise anything since I’m a well-known plant killer. I should probably start speaking life over my plant-maintaining skills instead of death and removing my “plant killer” label. I’ll work on that this week.

(Click on the images below to see larger versions and a sliding gallery.)

Written by Lisa R. Howeler

As a writer, photographer and former journalist, Lisa R. Howeler writes a little bit about everything on her blog Boondock Ramblings. She self-published her first novel, A Story to Tell, in September 2019 on Amazon. She's a wife and a mother and enjoys a good John Wayne movie and a cozy Jan Karon book. She's also a freelance writer and photographer who is a contributor to various stock agencies, including Lightstock and Alamy. Her photography work focuses on documentary and photojournalism.

11 comments

  1. Oh thank you for taking us with you on such a fun outing! I miss going to the garden stores, so this was a real treat for me. I could almost smell the beautiful cherry-pie-fragrance of the purple heliotrope, your photo was so pretty! I hope you will have a beautiful garden this year! I’m praying life over your plants with you! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I am just not good at the plant thing and I think I should have waited another week to get them because it’s so cold here this week. I don’t even know the names of the flowers I photographed or bought. That is how “knowledgeable” I am about plants and flowers. Ha! I think you would love the owners and siblings of this little greenhouse. They are sweet, Christian people.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What an awesome looking nursery and family day out!! It’s nice to have a place like that you can go to! I am dreaming of a moment that I can go to a nursery again. πŸ™‚ Enjoy the process and don’t worry about the result. I am sure you will do better than you think!

    Liked by 1 person

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