No doubt about it, the heavenly angels are big again.
Big in bookstores, big in gift shops, big in home decorating. They pop up in door wreaths, as wall hangings, as candle holders, as images woven into lap blankets, in cast concrete as garden statuary and as gold lapel pins.
They even made the cover of Time magazine late last year.
Angels are big with Pamela Greenewald, too.
In 1992, she started a little shop in a garage in High Springs, northwest of Gainesville, where she sold plants and outdoor statuary. She says the name for the shop "just came" to her: Angel Gardens.
"It hit me in the ear; I felt like it had been given to me in the ear," she says with no small amount of wonder.
Ms. Greenewald noticed that her cast concrete angels sold best. Soon, her tiny business outgrew the garage and tumbled into the driveway. She started looking around for a place to go. The ideal place would be an old house.
She looked and looked.
"I made a statement to the angels: "You are going to have to find the place where you want to be because I give up, I don't know where to go,' " she recalls saying to her burgeoning collection of angels.
Ms. Greenewald knew about a 1920s vintage Cracker house south of Alachua on U.S. 441. "This was the house that everyone always loved and wanted," she said. "It was a lonely old house, going downhill." Like a lot of people, she asked the owner about it. The price for the 15 acres and house was too much for her limited budget.
But she says the angels "told" her to go for it anyway. She decided to ask the landowner to split off 1 acre with the house. To her amazement, he agreed to do so, and the price fit her plans.
Thus was Angel Gardens transplanted.
The restored pink and blue house has 2,500 square feet of space for angels, angels, and more angels _ 100 kinds of ceramic angels, straw angels, plastic angels, concrete angels, plaster angels, even angel-hair angels, plus a corner bookshelf lined with books about angels.
"All the angel collectors are finding me," she said.
The guest register confirms this. In the months that she has been open, people have come from Wyoming, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, even Schroon Lake, N.Y., to buy her angels.
Of course, the book is full of Floridians, too.
The prices for figurines go from $10 to $100; for concrete angels from $20 to $30; for fountains from $165 to $350.
Ms. Greenewald has expanded her store to include garden items, hand-painted garden hats, hickory oak and vine rocking chairs, and all kinds of Victoriana. There are even "PooPets," 100 percent cow manure pressed by Mennonites into the shape of small woodland animals. The $10 to $12 PooPets sit in the garden and slowly release their nutrients as fertilizer when it rains.
Plans include a tearoom conservatory, a full-scale plant nursery and a water garden. For now, guests are invited to have picnics on the lawn furniture scattered around the building. They also can sit under the spreading, 200- to 300-year-old oak tree in the back yard.
"The tree gives off a lot of healing energy because of its age," she said.
IF YOU GO
Angel Gardens is on U.S. 441, 3.5 miles north of Gainesville. To reach it, take Interstate 75 to the U.S. 441 Alachua exit; go southeast on 441 for 7 miles. Angel Gardens is on the west side of the road. You also can take the State Road 222 exit, go east, then northeast on 43rd Street to U.S. 441. The shop is about 300 yards north of the intersection. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call (904) 462-7722.