Royal Palm Beach High bids farewell to retiring teacher Holly Casto
By Sy O’Neill
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
12:00 a.m. Wednesday, June 22, 2016
ROYAL PALM BEACH HIGH
Holly Casto is retiring after more than 40 years with the school district. She began her career at John I. Leonard High and joined the faculty at Royal Palm Beach High School in 1997 as a world languages teacher. She has served as a department chair and was sponsor of the school’s chapter of the French Honor Society.
30 years of experience teaches Casto's Greenhouses owners to always remember their roots
Story by Michelle James Images by Rick Barbero
May 22, 2016
Dale Carper visits Casto’s Greenhouses in Oak Hill at least once each season.
“They’re quality stuff,” he said. “Their tomatoes, peppers, flowers and everything.”
Carper is one of many of Clayton and Mazie Casto’s longtime customers. And Carper does not hesitate to sing the praises of the couple who have supplied his gardening needs for 23 years. He could very easily go somewhere else for his plants and flowers.
The 75-year-old Shady Spring resident drives 40 minutes to get to Casto’s.
“I pass up four hothouses to come here,” he said. “They just have quality stuff. Everything’s so healthy.”
It is perhaps fitting that Clayton and Mazie set up shop on the lawn of an old coal camp house on Summerlee Road in Oak Hill. Much like the men and women who likely inhabited and worked the land for generations before them, the couple — both raised on farms in Jackson County — believes in hard work.
The kind that lasts from sun-up to sun-down.
From the parking lot customers can already glimpse bits of vivid reds and purples — the colors of just a few of the beautiful plants and flowers lining the ceilings and tables of the eight greenhouses.
This marks 30 years in business for Mazie and Clayton. But the couple did not start out with eight greenhouses. They had just one little house. And like most good stories, that greenhouse wasn’t initially part of the plan.
“My husband was working on the river and he hurt his back,” Mazie said. “I dropped out of community college — both of us come from a greenhouse farming background — so we decided to start a greenhouse.”
The couple began with vegetables, but when Mazie decided it was a bit boring for her tastes, her parents offered up some leftover flower seedlings.
“So that’s sort of how the flowers started,” she said.
Neither Clayton nor Mazie knew much about growing flowers when they began. It was 1986 and the Internet had yet to invade daily life. So they read books, watched VHS tapes and visited other greenhouses, asking questions and soaking in as much information as they could.
As they learned, they added. The greenhouses grew in number and Clayton’s arm grew tired from watering. “I hand-watered long enough to kill my elbows,” he said.
Within five or six years of opening, he began developing a watering/fertilization system. He now has two pumps with pipes that run overhead dispersing water and whatever mixture he chooses into each hanging plant.
“The injector causes the water to be mixed so that what goes on your plants is even,” he said. And although the system works well now, it wasn’t always without its kinks.
“I remember once, years ago, and we were real hard up then, too, I put a new injector in and I didn’t check it,” he said. “There were 300 or 400 hanging pots of fuschias and it completely burned them up.”
Mazie continued, “I remember thinking, ‘Something’s wrong with these baskets.' I took them to the kitchen table, put out newspaper and dumped them. I took a magnifying glass and went, ‘Why are these roots blue?’”
“And I gasped,” Clayton added. “They put food coloring in the fertilizer so you could tell what was in the water. As soon as I saw it, I checked the injector and said, ‘Son of a gun. More pinto beans.’”
Clayton learned his lesson from that fuschia disaster, but says he still has to take care when fertilizing and watering the plants as accidents like that can easily happen.
“You use three different mixtures in one greenhouse,” he said. “If you did to this plant here what you do to that plant there, you can just take them out and throw them over the hill.”
• • •
Greenhouse season is short for the Castos as they open at the end of April and close by the end of June. But even though their retail season lasts only two months, Mazie says she and Clayton work sun-up to sun-down beginning in February to prepare.
“For like six months, we don’t go anywhere," she said. "All your appointments, you put off the other six months of the year. I haven’t been anywhere since the second week of April. I haven’t left to go anywhere. I just get stocked up on everything."
“I haven’t filled up my gas tank in months,” Clayton added.
And when the season is over, the couple won’t vacation. They’ll take notes for next year and begin the ordering process, maybe visit Jackson County. “It’s a sacrifice,” Mazie said. “But we love it.”
The couple doesn’t have children and Mazie refuses to pick a favorite flower partly because of that.
“God didn’t bless me with children,” she said. “But these are kind of like my children.”
And she says she gets to make a lot of mothers happy each Mother’s Day — the busiest day of the year for the greenhouse.
“I’ve had women break down on me and cry,” she said. “They say, ‘This is such a happy place.’ I’ve had women be depressed and you can just see a smile after they’ve been here a while looking at the flowers.
“Flowers just make people happy,” she continued. "I’ve heard them say this is what heaven looks like.”
• • •
Mazie and Clayton moved out of the small house that butts up against the greenhouses about eight years ago, building a larger house out back.
The hard times that landed endless days of pinto beans on the table are gone, but they say they are grateful for those times and are amazed at how far they’ve come.
“We’re just so blessed that we’re able to do this,” Mazie said.
“And we don’t forget our roots.”
Or customers like Dale Carper.
And Carper is grateful for the Castos, too.
“They’re nice people,” Carper said. “Hard-working people and they’ve got the best plants and flowers in the state.”
“This is why we do this,” Mazie said, embracing Carper from the side. “This is why.”
• • •
Visit Casto's Greenhouse, at 2391 on Summerlee Road in Oak Hill, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Clayton and Mazie Casto opened Casto’s Greenhouses on Summerlee Rd. in Oak Hill in 1986. In 30 years, the business has grown from just one greenhouse to eight with 12 seasonal employees.