03/24/05 — Pikeville resident has greenthumb when it comes to festival flower

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Pikeville resident has greenthumb when it comes to festival flower

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on March 24, 2005 1:49 PM

PIKEVILLE -- For years, Alton Finch has been known around northern Wayne County as "the daffodil man." For as long as he can remember, he has grown from 50 to 300 daffodils around his home on Duck Pond Lane near Pikeville.

For the last four or five years, Finch has supplied the flowers for the Daffodil Festival in nearby Fremont at the request of the Fremont Garden Club. The 19th annual festival will be held Saturday.

"All my life I have planted flowers, shrubs and bushes, for something to do," Finch said.

Gardening comes easy to Finch. He farmed land near Charles B. Aycock for years, in addition to driving a truck until his retirement in 1997.

Finch says he doesn't remember exactly how he got into raising flowers.

"It's a hobby, that's all it is," he said.

Not only does he plant daffodils, but Finch also has 200 camellia bushes that he rooted himself, hyacinths that he saved from vacant yards and Japanese maple trees that he has planted.

Eventually, Fremont Garden Club member Ann Hinnant asked him to help with the festival, and other members have also sought his expertise.

"If they have something for me to do, I try to help them out when I can," he said.

Finch fixed pots and planters for the flowers, which the club helped furnish. The club brought in 475 daffodil bulbs from Pantego and Keep Wayne County Beautiful donated more 1,300 bulbs to be planted at Fremont STARS school.

Finch did the dirty work, planting and caring for hundreds of the plants. Some do well, he said, and some don't.

The daffodils at the school "have been real pretty the last few years," he said. "But I've planted some beds in town that didn't do good at all. It depends on how much they've been run over."

This year, Finch planted a bed "that's been real pretty," in front of a pizza restaurant near the railroad tracks in Fremont. Another bed is blooming at the Welcome-to-Fremont sign. He said several other beds of flowers may not bloom for another few weeks.

Finch says he buys new bulbs and also divides older bulbs into many new plants every year. He plants a lot of them along U.S. 117. But those he planted near the high school died after they were mistakenly sprayed with weed killer.

Finch said he plants several varieties of daffodils, which also are known as jonquils. Some are quite expensive, he noted, costing more than a dollar each.

Although the winter was mild, Finch said spring has arrived cooler than usual. But he noted that daffodils will grow almost anywhere in almost any weather.

"I put them beside a ditch or in a border," he said. "What I like about them so much is that they are the first flowers to bloom."

He picked his first flower on Jan. 5, the earliest that he can recall, and they have been blooming ever since.

"When the foliage dies and you cultivate the yard," he said, "they will come back another year. They're nothing to keep up."

His wife of 52 years, Alice, said the flowers are his hobby.

"He won't let me do anything," she said. "I can't pick one. ... He's the daffodil man."