You could almost have grown a forest since Vince Dooley coached the Georgia Bulldogs. And Dooley practically has.
“From field goals to marigolds” is one title Dooley suggested for the speech he gave recently (10/15/2010) at an Atlanta-area college. In recent years, the school’s winningest football coach (201 victories, six SEC titles, one national championship) and longtime athletics director (1979-2004) has become well-known for gardening. There are Vince Dooley hydrangeas (my mother has one) and Vince Dooley camellias out there, and the coach has written a book and travelled internationally because of his latest passion.
“I’ve been bitten by the (gardening) bug, and there is no cure for the infection,” he said. His book, “Vince Dooley’s Garden: The Horticultural Journey Of A Football Coach,” is documentation of his new activity. He said learning about gardening grew out of his love of lifetime learning – he has a Master’s degree in history, obtained before his coaching career began – and he has taken other courses at the university.
The book contains forewords by Michel Dirr and Allan Armitage, two UGA officials who Dooley mentioned often in his speech.
His 2.5-acre home site in Athens — the same one he lived in during his coaching/AD career – has one acre devoted to a garden. Among the foliage are 120 camellias and 120 Japanese maples. He calls it a “garden for all seasons …. there’s something going on all the time.” He’s particularly fond of Japanese maples. He gave his wife one for their 50th wedding anniversary. “It’s the only time I’ve ever known her to be speechless,” he said.
It now is in his blood. When wife Barbara recently mentioned downsizing, Dooley replied, “I am not leaving this garden.”
Such is the evolution of his gardening that the Vince Dooley hydrangea now has three versions: “Endless Summer,” “Blushing Bride,” and “Twist And Shout.” Dirr aided in the cultivation and naming. The photo tour of his home garden showed a pond by his sunroom, a pyracantha covered by heavy snow, and “Augusta Pride,” wisteria that came from the famous Masters golf course.
So, will there be Vince Dooley hedges? “No,” he responded, laughing, to my query that referred to the famous shrubs inside Sanford Stadium. “Those are sacred.”
(Disclosure: I’m a UGA alumnus.)