Every year, every time I see and smell a lilac, my memories of Doc Lilac aka Ted Collins, come flooding back. I love sharing stories of Ted, my (Laurie’s) mentor and employer for the 13 years prior to starting the Broccolo business in 1990.
Ted was a large man with an intimidating physique who could immediately disarm and charm whomever he met. He was a true people person with an expertise in trees. He was a late bloomer graduating high-school and going to college years after his original classmate. Ted grew up living in the Riverside Cemetery as his dad was the caretaker and that is where he developed his love of trees.
In 1978, I was finishing my degree in Ornamental Horticulture and Environmental Conservation from the Finger Lakes Community College. While looking for a place to start my career, I called the Ted Collins landscape business and the man I spoke to said “Honey, unless you’re built like a bull, don’t bother applying.” Although I was a very strong 130 lb young lady, I decided there is no way I will work for a company like that.
Ted Collins visited FLCC to recruit, and I told him exactly why I wasn’t interested in his company. He apologized for the ignorant comment of the manager that I spoke with and asked me to please come meet others at his business and get a true feeling of the culture. He warned me that men can be crude and that he would not stand for that, plus his sales and office staff were very welcoming, so I decided to accept the offer.
I worked in the field taking care of trees and landscaping. Then I started the lawn care business and Ted helped me learn the business of budgeting, sales, hiring, purchasing and how to recover from mistakes.
Doc Lilac’s business of Lilac Hill Nursery began when Ted sold his business in 1990 and that year, I started my own. We stayed friends and of course I bought all my lilacs from him. Ted became a fixed attraction at the Highland Park Lilac Festival. He grew and sold many varieties and could tell you the history stories about each one. Martha Stewart came and interviewed Ted at his nursery. One of my favorite photos from that magazine is Ted on the golfcart loaded with lilacs.
He has been featured in many articles including the Better Homes and Gardens, The International Lilac Society, and out local Upstate Gardeners Journal.
You can purchase fresh bouquets from Ted’s collection at the Lilac Market located at 2320 Turk Hill Rd
Stop by our garden center at 2755 Penfield Rd to buy a lilac. Everyone in the Rochester area should have at least one lilac. Spread beauty and the fragrance at your home and with your neighbors.