Green Up Your Thumb:

Notes from John Batiste

In our constant search for a better work-life balance, many of us find ourselves signing up for meditation, yoga and cooking classes. It may take some time to find that hobby, sport or activity that could really inspire us to the point of making us forget about the stress of work. This is exactly what happened to this month’s “Guy Next Door”— John Batiste or “JB.” One day, after many very long days at work, he realized that he needed to find something to help him regroup, destress, disengage and clear his mind.  

Taking time off and traveling to other countries might be the answer for some of us. When we experience other cultures and learn about different ways to appreciate life, we drink from a cup of never-ending surprises and experiences that show us in a clear way what we were missing in our lives. While on vacation in Belize in 2011, JB found the answer to his quest. He was visiting a friend and driving from Belize City to Hopkins when he kept seeing these orange balls all over the road. 

To his astonishment, JB soon realized they were oranges! It was a gorgeous orange orchard that had air plants and bromeliads by the thousands growing all over them. He describes that moment as being in a botanical garden in the middle of nowhere. Had it not been for the $10,000 fine that you get if you tried to bring exotic plants to the USA, he would have brought them home to his house. 

Now, if you ever get the chance to visit JB’s house and claim witness to his garden, prepare to be amazed! As you walk around, a true oasis shows up and immediately embraces all of your senses. He's even hung a disco ball on the covered patio! Look at some of the incredible photos that he has taken of some of his plants and flowers and you will find, among others, at least 12 different tropical plants, such as the Amazonian elephant’s ear, bird of paradise, bromeliads, cordylines, ficus, peace lilies, orchids, cacti and desert roses. 

JB tells me that the more plants he purchased, the more space he needed. Eventually, his cactus garden took off and is still growing strong. Neighbors come by all the time to see his garden and ask him, “Why so many plants?” and his response is always the same. “The joy I get from seeing my plants grow and bloom is priceless! It's like Christmas day; you'll never know what color is going to bloom.” JB also enjoys sharing his passion with others. There have been a few times when he’s come home and a vehicle is pulled over to the side of the road just to look at the garden. Not only that; he has also had a few people leave plants in his care with a note saying, “I know you will keep them alive.” 

In his own words, “Having a hobby is more than just doing something fun. It’s about giving time and energy to something that brings you joy and lights your passion.” JB is definitely a gardening celebrity on this side of the Grand Mesa community.