Monday, November 18, 2013

Coach Vince Dooley: The Man and the Garden

At this time last year, I'd never heard of Vince Dooley.  In case you haven't either, he was the head football coach at the University of Georgia for 25 years (1964-1988) and  its athletic director from 1979 to 2004.  With Coach Dooley at the helm, the Bulldogs won six Southeastern Conference titles and one National Championship (1980).  He received numerous awards, including being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.

Coach Vince Dooley
You'd think I'd at least know this honored man's name, given that both of our sons-in-law played football, one as the quarterback for his college team. Both of them are mad for the game and have managed to turn both of our daughters into football fans as well. But the fact of the matter is, I don't like football.  I never have, even when I was a high school cheerleader cheering for a team playing a game that I don't think I'll ever completely understand.  I'm more of a baseball and basketball kind of gal.

Then last January, while attending National Green Centre in St. Louis, the Western Landscape & Nursery Association's education and trade show, Coach Dooley was a keynote speaker and I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with him in person.

Why would a football coach be speaking to a bunch of hort heads?  It turns out that football isn't his only passion.  The University of Georgia is also home to some horticultural giants, namely Dr. Michael Dirr and Dr. Allan Armitage.  I'll bet you recognize those names. Curiosity and a desire to learn impelled Coach Dooley to take horticulture classes at U of G and he became a personal friend of both Dirr and Armitage.

In the years since, Coach Dooley has created a world class garden at his home in Athens, Georgia.  He wrote a book about it too.  Because I'd heard Coach speak and shared a little bit of personal conversation with him, I began reading his book with the desire to get to know him a little better and learn more about his gardening adventures.

Coach Dooley is a very down-to-earth, humble, and congenial person who clearly loves gardening and talking to others who love it too.  The journey he's traveled since taking up gardening is fascinating and one that most of us can only dream about.  He shares the details in his book, which also has some beautiful impressionist artwork by his friend, Steve Penley, along with some photos of his own garden.

The friendship he developed with both Dr. Armitage and Dr. Dirr is now legendary and oh what I'd give to be a little mouse in one of their pockets when they've got their heads together!  These men are very serious about their plants, but they know how to have a good time as well.  I learned quite a bit about some behind-the-scenes activities of the plant-obsessed.

The University of Georgia is home to one of the nation's foremost trial gardens.  Dr. Armitage started it in 1982 and many plant introductions have come out of the program.  The university is also home to the 313-acre state botanical garden.  Imagine living with all this green goodness around you!  Despite having all this in his own backyard, Coach Dooley has traveled extensively with Dr. Dirr and Dr. Armitage, along with his lovely wife, Barbara, and in his book, he whet my appetite for seeing some of the places he's been.

If I've got one quibble with the book, it's that there aren't enough photos of his garden.  Guess I'll just have to take Coach Dooley up on his invitation one of these days and go see it for myself:

Maybe I should brush up on my football.  If anyone could lure me into that arena and end up with me actually enjoying it, Coach Dooley could.

Vince Dooley's Garden: The Horticultural Journey of a Football Coach
by Vince Dooley
with paintings by Steve Penley

154 pages, hardcover
Looking Glass Books, 2010
List price:  $35.00

It was a two-fer!  Meeting Dr. Michael Dirr (left) and Coach Vince Dooley (R) was the
highlight of my trip to St. Louis.

When I wanted to purchase a copy of Coach Dooley's book from him, he wouldn't hear of it.  He gave it to me, asking only that I send him a copy of my book when it was published.  Never in a million years would I have expected to be swapping books with a man such as this.  It was an honor to meet you, Coach, and your good friend, too.  ;-)


Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a sweet story. Sounds like it would be a good book to read this winter.

Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

Oh wow! I went to Georgia and am a big VD fan. He's a classic! But I had no idea he was a gardener. I totally know what I am getting my sorority little this year for Cmas as we are both lovers of food and gardens, and of course, huge Georgia Bulldawg fans!!

KK @ Preppy Pink Crocodile

Jan said...

Wow, what an exciting happening in your life Kylee! It's funny, but even I have heard of Vince Dooley...and I'm not a football fan either!! My family lived in the Akron Ohio area for 20 yrs (Hudson) so I suppose that's how I have the name in my head. How interesting that he also has such a passion for gardening! The book looks fantastic. How nice he 'swapped' books with you, that's cool :) Jan

Jan said...

Wait? What?! LOL...did I just write that last comment?! haha!! Anyway, I now realize he was a Georgia coach--somehow I associated everything with Ohio...nevermind that part of the comment!! I had STILL heard of him, but it probably wasn't because we lived in Ohio for 20 years, LOL!! Probably because my dad always watched football and it was just a name engraved in my psyche...just not related to OH!! I think I'm 'thinking' of Ohio because YOU are in Ohio...and my family lived there, and...well, you get it, right? LOL. Jan

Kylee Baumle said...

Lisa ~ I think what amazes me the most is how far Coach Dooley has come in a relatively short time! And you can tell when you read it that he's having the time of his life, too!

KK ~ It amazes me sometimes when I learn that someone is a gardener. It can be the last thing you'd expect from them!

Jan ~ Oh you would have loved hearing him speak and then talking to him one-on-one! What a neat person he is. I don't think I knew that you'd lived in Ohio!

Randall Coleman said...

Just left the 11th annual Vince Dooley awards at the college football hall of fame. My daughter was a finalist. He was nice enough to take a picture. Just a great person. It was inspiring

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