CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Joe Greenwood is one lucky man. He attributes his good fortune to an oft-forgotten saint beloved in Catholic history.
Greenwood runs the garden center at Green's Feed and Seed on Piedmont Road. His knowledge of gardening and all things green is rivaled only by his intense devotion to an Irish monk and herbalist in the era of St. Patrick.
It all started when Greenwood purchased garden statuary that included an image of St. Fiacre, depicting a smiling Irish monk with his foot planted firmly on a shovel. Greenwood started asking about the figure, and he found answers from two sisters of the Church of the Risen Lord in Clay County who had come into Green's to buy trees.
"They sent me a little paper that told St. Fiacre's story," he said. "I had a nice increase in sales that year, and I gave St. Fiacre all of the credit."
After all, St. Fiacre is the patron saint of gardeners. (And cab drivers - but we'll get to that part in a minute.)
It seems that St. Fiacre left his native Ireland to find solace in France. A plea to the Bishop of Paris for land to cultivate ended in a deal: He was offered as much land as he could turn up in a day. Miraculously, he was able to turn up the land with only the point of his shovel, eventually creating a beautiful sanctuary that contained a hospice for travelers. (That's why the cabbies revere St. Fiacre - they delivered many weary travelers from Paris to his refuge.)
Greenwood sold all but one of the first round of statues. He kept one and put a "sold" sign on it, as he wanted the continued blessings of the saint. Meanwhile, he gave one to the sisters in Clay County for their church. He's given one to St. Christopher's Episcopal Church to honor them for their work building vegetable beds for the less fortunate on the West Side.
Now, Greenwood keeps one by the employee entrance of Green's to bring good fortune to all who work there. He has found other devotees, among them Bill Murray of Charleston. He has a statue in his garden, and he points out that many people mistakenly believe that St. Francis is the saint of gardeners. While St. Francis looks over birds and small animals, Murray is quick to point out his "longtime advocacy of St. Fiacre and his importance to a healthy garden."
I asked about moonflowers in last week's column, and it seems the whole world knows about this flower. I got calls from Macel Shaffer, Alice Jackson, Barbara Klingler, Jerry Holstein and Alan Underwood, among others, with advice. The stories varied from caller to caller, from e-mail to e-mail. Here are two representative opinions.