Forever Young: Retired Dentist Finds Garden of Youth

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A Half Century Spent Tending his Plot Keeps Valley Gardener Sunny and Spry

  Dr. Earl Young says, “[Gardening] is certainly rejuvenating, and it gives me a good sense of accomplishing something. There’s a lot of excitement raising a garden. It gives me life and hope when I get to see the plants start coming up.”   Photography by  Cat Mayer

Dr. Earl Young says, “[Gardening] is certainly rejuvenating, and it gives me a good sense of accomplishing something. There’s a lot of excitement raising a garden. It gives me life and hope when I get to see the plants start coming up.”

Photography by Cat Mayer

We all know this bit of Grand Junction road — the section of First Street between Patterson Road and Orchard Avenue that harkens back to the days of horse-drawn carriages and parasols, its stately trees stretching their leaved hands across the avenue. As a child, I imagined what it would be like to live in this part of town, among 130-year-old cottages — and, particularly, in this ivy-draped Victorian two-story.

    As I pull up the long drive, the evening sunlight lays down across the landscape, seemingly illuminating the trees from within. Stepping out of my car, I feel as though I’m no longer in the dry high desert of Western Colorado. Instead, I’m surrounded by canopies of budding fruit trees that keep watch over a blanket of green, dotted by bursts of peonies, tulips, and roses in every direction.

    I have the pleasure of spending part of an evening with Dr. Earl Young, a long-retired dentist, and caretaker of these grounds for nearly 50 years. Young is 84 years old, with creases pulling up the corners of his eyes and a full head of white hair making him look younger than his age. He’s wrapping up his chores for the day, ensuring that all has been fully pruned, fertilized, and watered
for the night.

    “I’ve gardened just about everywhere I’ve lived,” he says. Born and raised in the Grand Valley, Young tells me how his family made part of their living by selling veggies out their back alley. He went away for college and traveled but always knew he wanted to come back to Grand Junction. “I have peace and happiness living here; you have the feeling that you’re home.”

    When I ask him how many hours a week he spends in his garden, he says with a chuckle, “All the hours. It’s never done, but this is where I relax. It doesn’t feel like work to me.” Young and his wife, Floy, bought the property in 1969. Together they’ve transformed their two acres on the hill into this charming in-town oasis.

    During harvest, Young puts up a sign on First Street and sells his fruits and veggies out of a little store by his house. He usually offers sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, Swiss chard, and green beans, as well as apricots, sweet cherries, peaches, plums, pears, and apples (to name a few).

    As an orange cat rubs its muzzle on my leg and a stream bubbles in the background, Young says, “[Gardening] is certainly rejuvenating, and it gives me a good sense of accomplishing something. There’s a lot of excitement raising a garden. It gives me life and hope when I get to see the plants start coming up.” As he tells me of his love for watching things grow, it is clear that his roots run as deep into this soil as those of his beloved trees.