This week marks the end of an era at the Gardens. After 11 years and eight months of dedication and hard work, Dick Zieg is retiring. At his retirement celebration, I did not speak up with a funny story or memory about Dick for fear of an embarrassing display of emotion and tears. I know that Dick knows how I feel about him, but it is important that everyone else understand why he is so special, if they don’t already get it from simply knowing him.
Dick is the reason that I came to work at the Gardens. My first experience with Dick was as a volunteer bulb planter in the Rhododendron Garden, our only major display garden at the time, over ten years ago. Once the smaller bulbs were in the ground and the other few volunteers left, it was down to just three of us. Lacking in manpower, Dick brought out the mattock and we quickly got those larger bulbs in the ground working as a team. He joked about doing the work of ten men, but we all know, as I did then, it is true. Just look at what he has helped to create in his 11 years and eight months at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.
By the next spring, I was lucky enough to be an official part of that team. It is impossible to list all of the things that I have learned from Dick, especially in those early years when I didn’t think I knew everything already. I was taught how to use a chainsaw, drive large machinery, fix whatever needed to be fixed, build whatever needed to be built, plant whatever needed to planted, and still got answers to my endless how and why questions. Unbeknownst to him, these tasks, which may have seemed small or mundane to him, empowered me. In my time here, Dick has been my boss, my coworker, my teacher, my office-mate, my friend, and my family. When I first arrived, I thought I had a good understanding and working knowledge of a strong work ethic, loyalty, and integrity, but I was wrong. Dick expects much of people, but most importantly, he always led, and continues to lead, by example. He is, however, the first to admit that patience may not be his virtue. “What, are you going to make a day of it?” is one of his most frequently used expressions. That, and “wonky.” You know something is not right if Dick says it’s wonky.
So if Dick is one of the main reasons that I came to the Gardens, and this is where I met my partner, with whom I extended my family, I truly owe a lot of my happiness to Dick. And, while I am happy that he is going to be able to take more time for himself and his own family, the Gardens without Dick here will always feel a bit wonky to me.
– Sharmon Provan, Plant Recorder and Horticulturist