3810 Whites Creek Pike, Nashville, TN 37207 (615) 876-1014

Archive date:  September 26, 2012

Remembering Miss Mary

She ruled the greenhouse for 28 years

The year was 1974. After having spent the previous 25 years working for Joy’s Greenhouses, Mary Pendleton started her second greenhouse stint: Bates Nursery. Joy’s Greenhouse was a Nashville tradition for decades. They had a reputation as being a quality grower (I have many fond memories of “Mrs. Ruth” Joy Moore). Mary came to us as a result of Joy’s closing their greenhouse operations (now the location of Holtkamp Greenhouses).

Mary started to work for my dad at the beginning of the foliage plant craze. We had not yet built the garden center. The process of expanding into the foliage/tropical plant business had begun and Mary was a day one acquisition: a first-round draft choice.

Mary did not have a green thumb…she had two. There was nothing Mary couldn’t grow. She was the driving force behind everything tropical we sold. From dish-gardens to fern baskets to annuals: Mary did it all. To describe Mary Pendleton as Old School is an understatement. She was Old School before there was an old school. She was hard working, no nonsense, honest-as-the-day-is-long and would not tolerate laziness for 1 minute.

If you were her friend, she was your best. If you crossed her, she would cross you off. I don’t think she was a person who held grudges. She simply had no time for “foolishness” or anything less than absolute dedication to the task at hand. Mary was a WORKER, and if you were supposed to work in the greenhouse…and you didn’t measure up; you were gone! Conversely, she was also fun-loving and a very caring person. Today we would refer to her as, ‘complex’.

There was nothing Mary enjoyed more than working in her own garden and cooking. She was superb at both. I believe she single-handedly is responsible for the widespread use of Bradley tomato plants in the middle Tennessee area (though in later years she switched to Superfantastic as her favorite tomato).

In 2002 Mary Pendleton retired after being diagnosed with then early-stage Alzheimer’s. Mary passed away this past week, just 4 months shy of her 90th birthday. Mary lived life to the fullest. She was quite a treasure… a wonderful friend who left an indelible mark.

David Bates