From the Digest

In Memoriam: Gladys Drummond

By Mike Hellmann (March 2021)

Gladys Drummond and her cacti and succulents were a familiar and popular presence at the annual HSCSS Show and Sale at Missouri Botanical Garden.

After Julie Drummond’s call making me aware of the Feb. 17 passing of her mother, Gladys, I immediately began reflecting on just how big an impact Gladys and her family has had over the years on both our society and our hobby.

I began collecting succulent plants in 1984, which was about 10 years before joining HSCSS. Thanks to a co-worker at the time, I was made aware of a wonderful cactus nursery in DeSoto, Mo. I think my wife, Vickie, and I made our first trip to Drummond Nursery in 1986. At that time, it seemed like a three-hour journey each way, but as years went by, I realized that with a lead foot, the trip can easily be made in 65 minutes from our back door.

Stepping into the greenhouses was like walking onto another planet. Gladys and her husband, Fred, had been collecting and selling succulent plants from the southwest and Texas long before I made that first trip. The many plants provided sensory overload for a neophyte recently introduced to this awesome hobby. It was all so new and the plants so extreme, that I was from that time on forever captivated by this intriguing group of plants.

On that first visit, while I was perusing the plant tables one by one, Vickie was chatting away with Gladys, while both were watching me with amusement. Fred would soon introduce himself and immediately start sharing his thoughts on the weather and his most recent strategy for getting rid of some rodents in an adjacent shed that were causing grief.

The whole experience, even for a country boy like me, was indeed a brief respite from the rest of the world. The hospitality was warm and inviting. Gladys was most helpful, sharing her knowledge with this novice plant nut and, as we were driving away, I was already planning our next visit.

That memory is still vivid and seems like it just took place a few years back. Now, as I dial ahead some 30 years, the passion for these plants, both in our collections and at Drummond, is still the same. There have been many changes and challenges for all of us over the years, but that passion remains.

We’ve been blessed to have summer picnics at the Drummonds’, where one could not help but notice the family support for Gladys and her passion. She worked tirelessly, spending dawn to dusk running the garden center and greenhouses, and, up until recently, still running weekly deliveries into “the city” to wholesale customers while picking up cut flowers for her flower shop.

I truly believe that our society would not be what it is today without Drummond Nursery and Gladys’ passion for these plants that were once just a hobby. Drummond has been a primary vendor at every sale we’ve had since I’ve been a member. And for years prior, it was the sole vendor. Gladys also generously gave her precious time to judge our annual show for many years.

Drummond Nursery has given our members so many opportunities to acquire plants of all types. And more recently, as collector-quality succulent plants became scarce, efforts by the family were made to still find them, including winter-hardy plants for our outdoor gardens. The nursery was always there for us, which fueled our passion visit after visit.

Gladys Drummond’s legacies will be many, but for me, personally, the success of our society and the appreciation that I have for these wonderful plants are due to her efforts and inspiration. The numerous visits to her nursery meant the most. Thanks, Gladys. You will be missed, but never forgotten.

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