Lois Eckman is the hand that holds the hose, and grows the rose, and has been for 41 years. She is an interesting woman with an extensive and exciting backstory. She is a force to be reckoned with even as you first meet her. I had the great opportunity to sit with her for a half an hour and learn how she got to where she is.
Lois is 91 years old and has been Ashcombe’s weekend waterer for the past four years. She grew up in Lancaster County farm country before moving to Arizona.
41 years ago, when Lois was 50 years old, she got her first job in horticulture at Witmers Greenhouses in Lancaster. She began watering the plants on the weekends. Before entering the horticulture field, Lois was a stay-at-home mom and housewife.
She moved to Prescott, Arizona and began working at Watters Garden Center as their weekend waterer. She returned to Central Pennsylvania to care for her ex-husband and her son, which led her here to Ashcombe to pick up the hose and water the plants that eventually end up in your homes.
When asked the biggest difference between Arizona and Pennsylvania, she immediately began talking about water. In Arizona, one third of the year there is sometimes rain and the other two thirds is sunny and beautiful, but that leads to drought and lack of water. She made a joke about her friend from “back east” who moved to Arizona and tried to have grass in his yard before giving it up because it used too much water. For a woman with “water” in her job description, she knows a lot about what it takes to grow healthy plants, and water is the basis of everything. Here in Pennsylvania there is no significant lack of water and plants, grass, and trees grow abundantly. In Arizona, she said, many people took to landscaping with colored stones and “dryscaping” to improve the curb appeal of their yards while avoiding the need for water.
Lois loves Ashcombe. As a customer, she said, the quality just can’t be beat. The level of dedication our growers and workers have toward producing high-quality plants leads to even growth and less fading. As an employee of Ashcombe, the other employees are the best part of working here. Everyone is approachable and friendly!
While Lois is our weekend waterer, she doesn’t have a ton of time for her own gardens. She likes perennial plants because every year she gets excited to see what’s coming in. Her garden is primarily flowers with spring bulbs that she says, “come up in different places every year! I think the squirrels are moving them.”
For 41 years she has been watering plants in Arizona and Pennsylvania. I asked her what she thinks is the most important aspect of the growing process. “I had a boss once say, the hand that holds the hose, grows the rose. But every part is important. From the people who put the seedlings in, they have to do it just right. Everything in horticulture is important.”
We continued talking and I asked her what she thinks is the most important thing about gardening. She said, “When people come into the store, even if they have no intention of buying anything, being around the plants soothes the nerves.” There is something about nature that calms the soul.
Outside of her various watering jobs over the years, Lois is an avid outdoorswoman. When she was 78 years old, she and four friends trained to do a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon—that’s 23.5 miles down, across, and back up. They started at 4:30 in the morning and finished around 4:30 in the evening. This was one of her goals as a hiker. She laughed when she said, “Some people go rim-to-rim and back again in one day!”
We started discussing our mutual appreciation of hiking and swapped some stories. I asked if she ever considered a thru hike on the Appalachian Trail. She laughed a little bit and explained to me that she could not have done a thru hike because those types of adventures are best for introverts who are comfortable being alone for months at a time. “I’m an extrovert, I couldn’t have done a thru hike.”
It is clear that Lois misses Arizona, but life’s circumstances brought her back to Pennsylvania. Ashcombe is lucky to have someone in our ranks who is dedicated to her job and loves the work she does.
Check out more of our blogs on the Gardening Guides section of our website.