Originally created 02/24/03

Horticulturist has more than a green thumb



Jennie Addie makes the flowers bloom, the butterflies fly and the animals obey.

The Australian-born Mrs. Addie is known to many in the Augusta area for her work as horticulturist at Green Thumb West, where she is in constant demand to help customers.

"When people go into Green Thumb West, they look for her, and they love for her to wait on them," said Sid Mullis, the director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County. "She's very knowledgable, and she'll just do anything to help people."

Horticulture is in her blood. Her grandmother was a horticulturist renowned for her dahlias in the Australian state of Victoria. Her father had a part-time family nursery in Melbourne. She was trained in horticulture and had opened a nursery in Australia when her husband, Graeme, a hydraulic pump engineer, was recruited by Georgia Iron Works in Augusta 31 years ago.

As well known as she is for her gardening knowledge, horticulture is only one of many passions in Mrs. Addie's life.

"I started showing dogs when I was 7 in the ring as a handler," she said.

She became a volunteer at the Augusta Humane Society 28 years ago.

"So every Wednesday night - except we don't run in the summer - I have been there to volunteer to train puppies," she said. "That's my community service."

"She's wonderful," said Delores Robinson, the president of the humane society. "She's good with animals and excellent with people. She's a very kindly person and a good trainer."

Mrs. Addie was devastated seven months ago when her 12-year-old Australian shepherd therapy dog, Aussie, died.

"Aussie did a lot of work with two little cancer children who were very, very sick, and we visited them continually," she said. "They were on ventilators, and Aussie had a little harness, and she would take them around and just walk real slow and kiss them and love them. She was an unbelievable dog, and very soft and gentle."

Her new Australian shepherd, Nell, is being trained as a therapy and rescue dog.

Mrs. Addie also raises butterflies from caterpillars that people bring her.

"Sometimes I have escapees," she said. "One time I couldn't find them, and they made (a) chrysalis up under the kitchen chairs, so we had butterflies all through the house."

She started raising butterflies after hearing that in 10 to 12 years there would be few left in the world.

"The Monarch butterfly had that crisis in South America where they all died with that late freeze," she said. "So what I did the last two years is I've been collecting milkweed seeds, and I just throw it out on the side of the road 48 hours after it explodes."

JENNIFER JONES ADDIE

OCCUPATION: Horticulturist at Green Thumb West nursery

AVOCATION: Training dogs and raising butterflies

QUOTE: "After you've worked with plants so long, it gets to the stage you can smell things. And the good thing is, you can always be humbled. You can't know everything, so there is a lot of learning."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.