Heidi Zemach for SCN-
Carol Souza, who operates the area’s biggest greenhouse, Weezingreens, as is “we is in greens” from her home in Camelot By-The Bay subdivision, has opened for business a few weeks earlier than usual. Her customers kept stopping by, eager to begin planting in the unseasonably warm weather. Meanwhile her flats of lettuce and all manner of other vegetables were growing larger, lusher. They were hardened off, and were ready to go.
“You know what happens is people catch you out here and you can’t get away,” she said.
Normally, Souza tries not to open shop until at least Memorial Day Weekend because she doesn’t want people to get excited and plant a lot of things, and then loose them all to a late freeze. But clearly that’s not going to happen this year, she said. So she put out her “open” sign in the driveway.
Past the dusty driveway, behind her rustic log cabin is where one finds the three long tables of plants, but you might have to search for her in one of the greenhouses where she will probably be watering, transplanting, or helping customers find what they need.
What most people seem to appreciate is that there’s a well rounded selection of lettuce, vegetables and flowers, already hardened and ready to go into the ground.
“They also get free advice, which is really good, unless they don’t want it, which is not so good,” she said.
Souza is also a talented painter and sings in the choir and at the weekly senior center sing-alongs. Her music selections are an important part of the Weezengreens experience.
“There’s usually music going. There’s going to be dogs walking around– although none of them belong to me–and the yard’s nice. It’s just very peaceful here,” Sousa said. She’s referring to people’s tendency to leave their dogs with her while they’re at work.
Souza has been gardening in Alaska for about 20 years. She started the business 10-15 years ago when she planted too much for her own use one spring. After giving plants away to friends, the gardening club, and donating them to sales, she decided to let others take the rest off her hands. It became a tradition and eventually blossomed into a business.
She grows all of her starts by seed under grow lights on racks in her basement. When they’re ready, she gently transplants them into larger containers. They go next into the greenhouses, when it gets warmer, and then finally out to her tables. About the only thing Souza hasn’t raised herself are the bags of certified seed potatoes that she brings in from a farm in the Valley, or the plants that other gardeners occasionally bring in to trade. Her late husband Dennis used to help with the business, but he passed away five years ago, so at age 67 she is continuing to run it on her own, with some help from people like fellow gardeners who help with transplanting delicate plants, or her granddaughter who will help with things like watering.
Souza sometimes looks out the expanse of green plants and flowers filling up her tables and greenhouses, and wonders to herself, “How the heck did I do all that?” Her answer, “It’s a lot, but I enjoy doing it. I enjoy the fresh air. I enjoy the people.”
She suggests that customers try to keep within the hours of 9:00 and 6:00 p.m. if possible.
“Once business slows down, I may take a day off, but when you live where you work, you’re pretty much available. I’ve turned off my supper at eight o’ clock at night to wait on a customer,” she said… “When you have a small business, you’ve just got to go with the flow.”