Dandelion, Big People Jobs and Devils, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Big-People Jobs and Devils

I need to find a woman named Sheila and say, hey, thanks for all the truisms. She came through again this week.

I was panicking over the fact that I still have absolutely no plan for my life and should probably come up with one. (This is a regular on my panic list.) I was contemplating applying for a big-people job (regular hours, regular pay, air conditioning, french manicures, benefits, etc.) but the potential place of employment is known for its bad politics and a chick that is simultaneously powerful,  power crazy, and just plain crazy.

I’m gabbing away to my friend, Jen, about this potential big-people, albeit disastrous job, and she quotes Sheila. (Sheila is Jen’s friend. We’ve never met, but I love how women know each without knowing each other because we’re friends with each other’s friends.)

Anyway, here’s Sheila’s quote. The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.

My, my.

That one fits right up there with the grass being greener. Oh, the applications.

Because the devils are mine. The one I know and the one I don’t know. They’re a part of myself that is just as cra cra as the power hungry chick, and they’ve had a recent field day with me over the big-people job and my reluctance to go for it.

  • You’re afraid of that woman. Yes, I am. Everyone is. It is right to be so.
  • You’re afraid of change. You betcha. I’ve had enough change in the last decade to, well, last.
  • You’re afraid you aren’t smart enough. I am smart, but smart enough? I don’t know. 
  • You’re afraid someone will find out you aren’t who you say you are. Surely to the Lord everyone already knows that, don’t they? 

I leave my devils to their conversation. It’s not a new one, anyway.

I decide I don’t want the job because, air conditioning and all that, I’m not ready for change. It’s good to have an actual reason when not going for french manicures and health insurance because the devils can make me doubt myself, cause me to wonder if my decisions are based on how the wind blows.

I give myself permission to skip the big-people job and go home, where I’m the only crazy woman in residence. I decide that conquering my devils is befriending my devils, both those known and those unknown. It’s like the monster in the closet. When you turn the light on, you discover it’s only your shadow.

 

 

Bamboo screen, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

A Native’s Garden

BB Barns Garden Center is known for their ornamental gardening plants and products. The English Cottage appeal isn’t lost on customers who practically swoon when visiting the store, exclaiming how gorgeous it all is. But, BB Barns has their natives, too. Ellen Blair, who works as an Outside Sales Associate as part of the perennial team, is a native of Western North Carolina. Asheville is her home, and her career as a horticulturist has been spent in the region’s finest gardens.

BB Barns is now happy to have her on their team, and she was brave enough to go first on the virtual tour of BB Barns’ employee’s gardens. Thanks, Ellen!

As we at BB Barns already know, Ellen is particularly good at 2 things: using what’s handy in the garden and getting creative with it. What Ellen has at her house is a backyard full of bamboo, courtesy of past neighbors. 10 years ago, when her dog, Molly, who was old with dementia, got trapped in the grove of bamboo, Ellen got creative.

Bamboo Screen, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

The backyard, once the dog-run was over-run by invasive bamboo. Ellen cut 20′ long pieces of the “grass” that captured her dog, Molly, and let it dry for six months while contemplating what to do with it. The screen was the result, and the mountains she’s always called home were her inspiration. Each panel is 10′ tall and the whole thing is 30′ wide. It is a surprising and impressive thing to see in Ellen’s shade garden. See the bird stoop? It’s old bittersweet wood used in front of a birdbath. The irony of the bamboo and bittersweet used together!

Here’s a picture of the bamboo this screen helps hold back.

Bamboo Screen, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming

A close-up of the tight growth of invasive bamboo growing behind the screen.

With the screen in place, the old dog-run became the new shade garden. Japanese forest grass, hostas, hellebores, oak leaf hydrangeas, cimicifuga, ferns, and more were added in front of the screen, creating a great morning coffee spot. Often, our customers bemoan that living in Western North Carolina means living in the shade. What can they grow? Check out the following pictures, and then be sure to ask Ellen for help designing your own shade garden.

Japanese Forest Grass, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Nothing compares with Japanese forest grass for color in a shade garden. Foliage beats bloom with this chartreuse color pop, while adding movement in the garden.

Japanese Painted Fern, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Japanese Painted Fern is another great shade perennial. The cool colors of this fern help create a cool feel in the shade.

Oak leaf hydrangeas, fun face on a tree, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Oak leaf hydrangeas, a native plant for a native garden, that performs best in more shade than sun. The face is Ellen’s idea of fun in the garden.

Gargoyles in the garden, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

But even a pro like Ellen caves to the full-sun perennials, hoping they’ll bloom in “enough sun”, in the shade.The Rozanne geranium is blooming, but as Ellen pointed out, it’s a bit leggy. That’s what we love about gardening, all trial and error. Still, it’s a perfect spot for the gargoyles, gifts to Ellen who worked in the Historic Walled Gardens at Biltmore as a Gardener II crew leader. Perhaps reminiscent of the gargoyles that adorn the Vanderbilt home?

Ellen’s creativity isn’t limited to making screens. She enjoys creating themed gardens. While working at Biltmore, she helped create a white garden, a Victorian border, a hummingbird garden, a fragrant garden, a winter garden and a butterfly garden.

Butterfly garden at Biltmore, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Photo courtesy of Ellen, who helped create this butterfly garden at Biltmore Estates.

Now, Ellen uses her own yard to create themed gardens. This is the memory garden for her sister who passed away last summer. A sunny spot full of color and whimsy.

A Memory Garden, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming

Colorful ‘Tango’ agastache (hyssop), Rozanne geranium (in a more happy place), and Angelina sedum help create a colorful memory garden. The gargoyle reading the book reminds Ellen of her sister, who loved to read.

Stately conifers front Ellen’s garden, making passerby’s wonder about the garden behind them.

Stately conifers, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Towering conifers give evergreen privacy to Ellen’s whimsical garden.

When asked what kind of garden she created, Ellen replies, “A happy one. I used to do everything by the book, so to speak, like in 3’s and 5’s, and while I don’t disagree with those design concepts, these days, I just want a happy garden. I don’t worry so much about everything being perfect.”

Popcorn begonia, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming

A happy, whimsical gardener, Ellen made these begonias “pop” with these cute containers–a gift for her sisters.

BB Barns Garden Center is grateful to have the knowledge and experience of Ellen Blair, who has made horticulture her career for over 20+ years. Our customers benefit from her wealth of plant and design knowledge, her easy-going approach, and her happy garden. See? BB Barns is a big believer in natives, too.

 

The Potting Shed, Hilt Street Garden, Brevard, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

A Pinterest Worthy Garden

Let’s start with hiding the trashcans. I’m sorry this picture is so Pinterest worthy.

My neighbors, who live one block from me, and were kind enough to invite me to see their garden, chose to hide their trashcans in this clever way. It just makes you smile, doesn’t it?

Pinterest Worthy Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

A clever way to disguise trash cans, with old logs and Purple Homestead verbena.

I have a list of top 10 questions from garden clients. Ranking #2 on the list is how to hide anything from trash cans to HVAC units, and the solution, to my client’s way of thinking, is never cheap. Elaborate fences, major plantings, stone walls, you name it. So, this inexpensive (even the pots aren’t pricey), and completely charming idea, artfully done by my neighbors Pat and Joe Webb, impressed me enough to pull out the IPAD and show clients, it can be easy.

Turns out my neighbors, who were antique dealers (Barclay-Scott Antiques) and furniture re-finishers (Ancient City Refinishing) in St. Augustine, Florida before moving to Brevard, already knew something most landscapers and new-to-gardening folks don’t. It doesn’t have to be new.

And, a garden doesn’t have to be matchy-match (a real design term). From the labyrinth in their front yard to the potting shed in the back yard, the Webb’s garden is so much dang fun.

Wait till you see the labyrinth container. Worthy of any fairy-garden Pinterest pin, for sure.

Pinterest Worthy Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

The Webb’s are cat people, so Aggie stays at home when I visit their garden.

Pinterest Worthy Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner, Pinterst worthy labyrinth fairy garden

A sedum-planted labyrinth container. Another Pinterest-worthy idea done by Pat’s sister. She works at New Leaf Garden Market in Pisgah Forest. Owner, Hope Janowitz, was the designer who installed the bones of the Webb garden early on.

Pinterest Worthy Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

At the very back of the garden is the potting shed. The Webbs call it their whim.

Pinterst Worthy Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooling, Cinthia Milner

Seedlings getting their start in the potting shed

Pat and Joe said the potting shed, which is constructed of local locust wood, tin roofing and windows from an eastern North Carolina farm, was a whim. They were looking for their next project. This was it, a functional (they use it to store garden tools and start seeds), and yes, looks-like-it-is-straight-out-of-the-Appalachian-mountains, shed. It is their newest, and yet another Pinterest-worthy part of their garden.

Pinterest Worthy Garden, antiques and herbs, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Antiques and herbs, reminiscent of St. Augustine, the Webb garden reflects what Pat calls the organic nature of life.

Pat has a teacher’s degree and Joe a finance, but that didn’t stop them from following other dreams, as well. Pat was in retail management, and Joe did Restoration Studies at Sotheby’s in New York. Pat describes each move in their lives as knowing when one chapter is finished. Walking through their garden is like reading those chapters. The old chapters are there and the new ones are forming.

Pinterest Worthy Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

A simple urn with volunteer violas.

Pinterest Worthy Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

The perfect spot for an herb garden, a breezeway from the kitchen to the garden. The Webbs widened the banisters to accommodate pots of herbs.

Pinterest Worthy Garden, Herb garden ideas, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Willie Nelson, the cat, likes the wider banisters for sunning.

Pinterest Worthy Garden, Broken pot in garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Even a broken pot has a use in the garden, just add rock so the soil doesn’t slide out.

Pinterest Worthy Garden, Raised bed veggie gardens, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Raised bed vegetable gardens behind the garage and near the potting shed.

Pinterest Worthy Garden, Moss Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner,

The moss garden. A reminder of the mountains surrounding their garden.

Pinterest Worthy Garden, Bowl of pansies on old log, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

A bowl of pansies on an old log makes for a perfect vignette.

Pinterest Worthy Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Anything can be a plant stand… or a chair.

Gardens tell stories and the Webb’s garden tells their story, one of acknowledgement of the old while embracing the new. It makes for a lovely garden combination, and a good Pinterest board.

Dancing through a Mid-Life Crisis, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milenr

Dancing Through a Mid-Life Crisis

No, I’m not taking a ballroom class. I plug my earphones into my IPhone and hit play. I hit play in the parking lot, before I even get to my car. All day long I help people solve plant problems. What to plant where, what plant best matches the porch cushions (really?), what works in shade, in sun, on an embankment, and so on. I answer questions politely and hopefully, informatively, but if you could read my thoughts, I’m looking forward to the music.

So why the music and the mid-life crisis?

Because life gets hard about this time in the journey. For some, it starts out pretty darn hard. For others, hard things happen along the way. But by mid-life, the ball really gets rolling. At least, that’s what I’m finding out. My mother died so unexpectedly and suddenly last July, that I am still reeling and forever picking up the phone to call her. She missed Jordy’s birth, my 3rd granddaughter. And now, my dearest and oldest friend is facing brain cancer. Weren’t we just decorating our college dorm room? It goes fast. There is no other way to say it. A blink and it’s gone.

Here’s the weird part. Once great, grand, and parents are dead, you’re up next to bat. Yes, if family history prevails, I have 20+ years still, but the generation before me is gone. They were my buffer. Now, I’m the buffer for kids and grandkids, and well, that my friends is a sobering thought.

Add empty-nest, jokes about how long we can live based on our IRAs, grandchildren we never see, working long hours in hopes of increasing that IRA a little and then the dang downsizing. I hate the downsizing.

When did life become about downsizing instead of building? When mid-life showed up, that’s when.

You see what I mean. Full on mid-life crisis. I read some articles about it. Not much there. Did glean one gem. That my brain can’t process everything happening at this stage of life. Agreed. So, I gave up reading the self-help stuff and hit Crazy on You, or Hooked on a Feeling, or Spirit in the Sky or I Want You Back (yes, the Jackson 5), and tuned it all out. When I open my front door, I dance. I dance while preheating the oven. I dance in the shower. I dance and vacuum. I dance around my house to everything from Queen, the Eagles and yes, even PitBull.

And I remember. I remember dancing with Donna in our college dorm room, dancing with my sisters in our childhood bedrooms, dancing with my toddlers and boys and even teenage sons in our family living room, dancing with my mom and dad in our family living room. I had forgotten that my family–that I–love to dance.

The kitchen is the best place for it. The floor is slick. After dinner, I crank it up and stand Aggie up on her hind legs and dance around with her. She doesn’t like it, but she tolerates it as one would expect a good dog too. I dance until way past bedtime, and for a few hours I’m not the grandmother with grandchildren way too far away, or the divorced wife living paycheck-to-paycheck, or the 56-year-old looking straight at the fact that mid-life is really just a term for what I’m experiencing.

Because I passed mid-life a decade ago.

My oldest son says our goal is not to be successful. Our goal is to come to terms with ourselves and the choices we make, or, I would add, perhaps the choices others–or life–make for us. Mid-life has definitely been a choice-evaluating-time for me. To consider where I stepped wrong or maybe right, but mostly, I’m just dancing.

P.S. This one is for Carol. 🙂

 

Mulch on, Mullch off, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Millner

Mulch On, Mulch Off?

Oh for pete’s sake, mulch off.

Okay, so mulch is good for moisture retention and weed control, for sure. It is also bio-degrades, and as it degrades it helps improve soil content, which in turn helps with gas exchange, drainage, root growth and so forth. So yes, please mulch, compost, fertilize, pile your shredded (or not) leaves on in the fall, and generally improve your soil. That really is your purpose in the garden: Leave the soil in better condition than when you arrived. And, just FYI: Landscape fabric does not help that cause (improving the soil), so get rid of that stuff.

But, as always, too much of a good thing is too much. Case in point.

Mulch on, Mulch off, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Suburban trees all in row, their roots suffocating under so much mulch.

What’s with the candle in the cupcake look?

We’ve taken the concept of mulch and because it is a good thing, we do what we do best (or maybe what I do best), overdo a good thing. If a little is good, a lot must be great.  We live in an extreme world. The middle road has been forsaken. From fundamentalists to liberals, there’s an extreme. It is showing up in the mulch in our yards. Okay, bit of an exaggeration there, but I just did a quick glance at FaceBook, which is the new political/religious opinion forum, and I got carried away.

Back to the mulch. Mulch off, please.

Remember when you were a kid tromping through the woods and playing in the root flair of those tall forested trees? Trees with no mulch? Yep, that’s what we need to see around a tree, the root flair. Doesn’t mean you can’t mulch, just means you’ll save some money, and not need the mulch truck to drive up every year and dump yet another load, even though the last three loads are still perfectly fine.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for mulching your trees and shrubs, provided by the Bartlett Tree Research Team. (Yes, the Bartlett pear, you need not like the tree to appreciate their research.)

I have a client whose mulch is 10″ thick (I measured it). Her gardener was planting in the mulch, not the actual soil. Understandable with 10″ of mulch. Every spring and fall, the yard guys drive up and dump another load of mulch. She likes the dark color. I said, “Me too, turn it over each fall and it will be dark.” Or have them turn it over if you don’t feel like it. (And really, who feels like it?)  She had called me over because all her plants were dying. “What is wrong?” Plants don’t grow in mulch. Plants grow in soil.

Another client, and I watch as the yard guys drive up, rake 6″ of mulch off, put it in their truck, dump 6″ of new on, and then drive off with last year’s mulch. I suspected they were going to dump the 6″ they collected on someone else’s trees. My client was happy. Her yard looked “clean and groomed.” I love the way fresh mulch looks, too. For that first week after mulching, I’ll admit to loving the cleaned-up look of my yard, like a deep clean of my house. I feel as though the world is in order.

But clean and groomed isn’t the sole purpose of mulch, and adding more when more isn’t needed for grooming sake’s ends up potentially harming the plants.

You should always see 25% of the root ball when planting a tree or shrub. If all you see is mulch there’s a good chance bugs and disease will harbor in that mulched volcano base, or worse, the roots of the tree will grow up into the mulch (believing it is planted deeper) and girdle the tree, potentially killing it.

Bottom line: Mulch on for about 2-4″. More than that? Mulch off.

Working 9 to 5, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Working 9 to 5

Let’s all start by saying we wish we worked 9-5. I’m more like 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. How about you? But hey, it pays the bills, and that does seem important. I make more money working more hours, not more money by the hour. Welcome to the blue collar world. Still, I love my job and am very passionate about what I do. So, I keep doing it.

But, this week was a bad week at work. It just was. Even a job you love and are passionate about can be a pretty crap job some weeks. It’s life. Work is a good thing that sometimes isn’t so good. Here’s how I handled that. I chose to be a little underhanded. Because someone picked on me, I picked on someone else. The pecking order and all that. How old am I?

Bottom line: I was mean.

I was passive aggressive about it so it’s possible the person missed it entirely. That generally flies right over a guy’s head. Women never miss a passive aggressive move. So, here’s hoping the guy I picked on didn’t notice my passive-aggressive little self. If he did, here’s  hoping he noticed my bending-over-backward-to-be-nice self the following day. Because I regretted the silly behavior the second I did it. I felt childish and ridiculous. And, let’s face it, no one deserves to be picked on just because I was.

Skip to my sister’s work week and well, my passive aggressive move looks like buttered toast with a warm glass of milk. Her boss, a supposed genius, decided to take her into a closet, and use every “gd” word he could think of while reminding her who signed her check.And, this because she did something his wife instructed her to do. Obviously, trouble in paradise.

That reminder, the check, was enough to keep her silent. Oh, how I wish I had been there because he does not sign my check. I understand though. Fear of losing one’s job, the very thing that puts food on the table is nerve-racking, and causes us to devalue ourselves enough to allow some crazed idiot to scream in our faces, and call us names. So long as that tirade doesn’t end with you’re fired, we’ll stand there and take it because we need the work. I will. I wouldn’t have opened my mouth with the bi-polar boss calling me every name in the book because I’ve got no back-up. It’s me and me alone that pays my bills. If I don’t come up with the cash, nobody does. So, while I lectured my sister on speaking up for herself, I acknowledged that I, too, would have stayed quiet. What we’ll do to provide for ourselves is a bit scary. Not to mention passive-aggressive, sometimes.

It can all be very traumatizing. I mean that quite seriously. Which is a shame because if fear didn’t dictate the work force, or bullies didn’t call themselves bosses, or he bottom line didn’t mean you’re fired, or lack of experience didn’t mean you’re too young, or aged-out didn’t mean, well, that you’ve aged out of the work force, I’m betting we would all do some pretty amazing things.

Remove all the insanity and fear, and you have people who are free to do what they’re designed to do. From engineers to ballet dancers, everyone could flourish.

But, there’s also this. Bettering ourselves. Climbing up the ladder of classes. Every person wants to make it to the next rung on the ladder with the thought that it might make life a bit easier. And money does make life easier, so the temptation becomes giving up what we’re passionate about so we can better ourselves. Having been on both sides of the money equation, having money is so much better than not. Having been on both sides of the work equation (love it & hated it), hating your job is so much worse than not.

We either work to live or live to work, the saying goes.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we lived to work, and that work paid for us to live? I believe that’s what’s called “having it all,” the job we love with the paycheck that stretches.

I don’t have the answer to this, and frankly my frustration with what my sister had to endure is the nemesis for this blog post, so perhaps this is more rambling than enlightening. I’ll conclude by saying that I have chosen to do what I love though I scramble to pay the bills. If I stop to evaluate it, I come back to the same conclusion over and over: I am a gardener. It’s what I do, albeit with less money than I’d like, but with other plant geeks who make less money than what they’d like, but who aren’t cursing people out in closets.  My bosses are busy watering plants. So, am I.  Which seems a good thing to do on a scorching hot day when we all could use a drink.