About the Author
Tom Liggett was conceived under an apricot tree and born in a brothel. His biological father, MT Liggett, liked innocent, dark-haired girls and pretty hookers. MT sired at least twenty-seven illegitimate children by as many women. He supported none of those mothers and just two of their children. MT only sent support to Tom’s mother when the US military forced him to do so (or when they could catch him). This put Tom and his mother in dire straits. When he was a child, Tom was hungry and alone much of the time.
Tom was taken into the orchard in a banana box when he was just two weeks old. His mother needed the work and refused to “waste” money on babysitters. When he was just a little older, Tom toddled around the orchards and fruit processing sheds. When Tom was three, he could identify the various stone fruit types.
Age eleven was a pivotal time in young Tom’s life. He was an old hand at reading and interpreting college-level horticultural texts. That was when he began to accomplish rudimentary plant research projects in his suburban ghetto backyard. Tom also began to work. He needed money for food, toys, books, and music. Tom knew that hard work was the only avenue that led to eating regularly.
He worked as a gardener, house cleaner, apartment painter, printer’s devil, and fry cook before he got out of high school. Not long after that, he became a dishwasher, busboy, fry cook, head cook, brothel cook, and sous chef. Tom’s early jobs centered around kitchens. Why? Because when he worked in kitchens, he ate. When he didn’t work in kitchens, he didn’t always eat.
When Tom was in school, he played in musical groups, so he could have a social life. He played five brass instruments. Tom played the French horn in a symphony orchestra. He was a member of two bagpipe bands (the drum major of one).
Tom won numerous awards for speech and dramatic arts during his last few weeks of high school. He won an honorable mention for acting in the 1969 Texas state championship. That was an unusual award for an actor from a play that only came in second. It was a really big deal for Tom; a few weeks before that competition, he was two thousand miles away, living in a car.
Later on, Tom worked as a boilermaker, electrician, car salesman, tree cutter, nurseryman, maintenance man, weed cutter, and farmer. Tom accomplished bench-level special chemistry projects for the Surgeon General of the Air Force.
In the midst of that occupational chaos, Tom managed to become Apple Computer employee number 114. Tom oversaw a staff of hundreds and had the only unlimited charge account in the company (“You never knew when I might have to get the manager of the local hardware store out of bed so I could buy some emergency supplies.”). Tom had one of just twenty private offices at Apple, and, as Tom said, “That was good, because my office contained two full-sized couches. I didn’t want to stop working long enough to go home for sleep.”
He has been a minor-league writer since he was sixteen. From 1966 through 1968, he had a weekly column on high school basketball scores in the San Jose Mercury News (“four column inches”). Tom has written countless articles on gardening for small publications and collaborated on two books. He has published two books previous to this one: The Pregnant Majorette and How to Prune, Train and Tie Rose Plants.
Tom founded the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden, the second largest public rose garden in the world. He was chief rosarian for another major public rose garden. He has built and maintained countless private rose gardens. Tom has worked for many different nurseries. He has owned three successful nurseries and has three private gardens of his own. As Tom says, “I liked growing plants and gardens for other people. But I grew weary of creating beauty for other people, while my own gardens looked like ugly truck yards.”
He now grows plants only for his friends, family, and himself. He grows much of his own food. He also remembers what it was like to be hungry, so he grows tons of top-quality produce to feed the hungry. Tom operates the last, full-spectrum working farm in downtown San Jose. He doesn’t sell anything, except during a couple of annual charity plant sales.
Tom is currently accomplishing a research project with roses, lettuce, melons, Asian vegetables, and minor cut crops (long-stemmed flowers other than roses). He is doing great things with florists’ carnations. He continues to propagate and grow eight-foot-tall tree roses (“cascades”). Tom says, “I’m the only person in the Western Hemisphere who grows large quantities of cascades in the ancient European way.”
Tom gets wistful when he says, “I am the last classically trained, full-spectrum American rosarian. How can I know that? Because the mechanism to create more like me has been dismantled. The various rose industries I once supported are gone. The great rosarians are dead. The rose growing hobby is a shadow of its former self. This makes me sad. There used to be ten rosarians like me in every generation. I am the final link in a teacher/student chain that stretches back several hundred years.”
Tom lives with his wife, dog, cats, and gardens in Silicon Valley, San Jose, California.