Plants Gonna Die, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Plants Gonna Die

On this morning of a frost-filled night, there is but one thing to say, “Plants gonna die.”

Most of my clients will credit themselves with killing half the plants in Western North Carolina. And, if you consider the number of plants they have purchased and planted, they may not be too far off in their accounting. But, there is this odd notion held by almost all garden center-goers: They do not think plants die (unless at their hands). They have this tricky thought that if not for them and their lack of ability in the garden, plants would live forever. They most especially believe this regarding trees. To most novices, trees just don’t die.

Case in point. My favorite, hand’s-down-question-so-far-this-year:

What can I do for my dead tree?

A very kind gentleman, about 40-ish with a small child, grabbed me in the parking lot, wondering if we had anything to help his dead tree. A chainsaw? We don’t sell those.

He was serious.

They also think they are at fault for plants refusing to bloom (here they are generally right), or they go in the opposite direction and do not understand why plants don’t live in their standing water? Can’t I just put gravel in the hole? Or why don’t we have vines that grow in full shade, bloom all summer and are evergreen? See (they show me a picture on their phone)? I have a trellis right there.

Geez. If I had the plant that was evergreen and bloomed all summer and grew beautifully in dense shade, I’d be counting money instead of days between paychecks.

Listen up: Plants are living things and like some of the people we know, they will disappoint us. They will refuse to meet our expectations. As I will discover shortly when I venture outdoors, some of the more tender things I already planted (I know, I know, last frost date is Mother’s Day weekend), will have met their maker. In other words, some plants gonna die, or I should say, all plants gonna die sooner or later. It is a part of the circle of life. (Lion King, anyone?)

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite quotes from garden-center goers.

I have 4 crape myrtles and none of them bloom. I’m here to buy another one. 

So you want 5 non-blooming crape myrtles? Okay. Let’s go pick out a pretty one.

I need a plant that stays 4’10” tall, is yellow and evergreen.

Amazingly, we generally find these “specific-plant-or-no-plant-folks” something that will work.

Do you make perennials that don’t lose their leaves and will bloom in winter?

I’ve yet to make a plant, which is why I’m counting days instead of money, but I can show you the silk department.

What do I do with the dead leaves from my perennial plants? Do I need to leave them there so the new leaves will come up?

Might as well. I haven’t cleaned up my garden in years. Sort of the case of the cobbler with no shoes, but hey, aside from the diseases and pests, everything is doing great.

If I buy 1 rose, will it split into 2?

That explains the roses that are popping up all over my yard. The darn things are splitting themselves in half when I’m not looking, and propagating everywhere.

Lastly, What is wrong with these plants. They keep dying. 

What can I say? Plants gonna die.

Plants Gonna Die, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

The mangled roots (poorly planted, roots should not look like that coming out of the ground, but that’s another blog), of a Japanese Magnolia, removed by Erica, our amazing grounds-keeper/designer. All I’ll say is, someone who knows better planted that. So sometimes, even the experts kill trees (or shrubs).




What's a Japonica? Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Do You Sell Japonica?

How many times in one day can you answer the same question? As many times as you’re asked it.

I work in a garden retail store, and tis the season to buy plants (hallelujah). There’s a sudden panic that hits when warm weather comes. Customers know that stores get in fresh material weekly, and if they want the best, and not the picked-over stuff, they better get in there and start buying. Fair enough, although, we keep fresh material coming all year–just FYI.

With this sudden panic comes loads of questions. Here are a few of the staff’s favorites.

1. Do you carry Japonica?

Yes, we do! Lots of them. Katsura japonica is my favorite tree. There’s Kerria japonica and it’s great because it blooms nicely in shade. Chaenomeles japonica is blooming now. The red blooms of the ‘Texas Scarlett’ are stunning.  Oh? You want an evergreen? Cryptomeria japonica is great. There’s ‘Black Dragon,’ ‘Yoshino,’ and ‘Elegans Nana’ is cute, and about a billion more in the cryptos. Are any of these the Japonica you’re looking for?

Of course the list goes on because how many botanical names have Japonica in them? Almost every plant that has its origins in Japan.

My boss and Kenny, my co-worker (both of whom have worked there forever), translated this question: Do you sell Pieris japonica? Ah, yes we do. A broad leaf evergreen of the Ericaceae family. You know, like rhododendrons, and azaleas. Pretty panicles of bloom and more upright than wide. Moving on.

2. When are your roses coming in?

Mid-April. (This is actually the top question, but it wasn’t my favorite so it gets second billing.)

3. What can I plant on my bank?

Okay, so, I hate this question. People flock to Western North Carolina because they envision themselves living on a mountaintop with a view. Ever tried to build a house on a mountaintop? Not many flat places up there. But builders will be builders, and they’re going to make their money, so they slice hillsides (in some cases literal mountains) in 1/2 and then use that dirt to form a flat place. It’s called cut and fill, or changing the topography, something that in my book you should not do on that level. Then the builders leave, and guess what the homeowners have besides a view? Erosion. Thus, banks of ivy (invasive), or cotoneaster (looks hideous), or a small forest of juniper. Or my favorite, if it’s so steep you can’t walk up it, African Love Grass. These poor homeowners come in daily asking what can I do?

A few more favorites from staff:

  • Why won’t my (fill in the blank) bloom? (Top two: hydrangeas and crape myrtles)
  • What should I spray on this? (Holding in their palm a black, shriveled up leaf that resembles nothing green and growing.)
  • When are your tomatoes coming in? (Again, tomatoes won’t grow if its 50° or below.)
  • Can I plant (fill in the blank) this now? (Ten day forecast is 26° low at nights.)
  • What was that pretty plant I got from you last year? (So tempted to answer that is was an 800 dollar Japanese maple, and would they like another one?)
  • Why are your plants so expensive? (Ever heard the phrase you get what you pay for?)
  • Do you have that plant that is green, and has flowers that are (name the color) on it? (We can answer this one. It’s whatever is blooming at the time.)
  • Do you have anything evergreen that blooms all summer? (I am in the process of discussing this one with God. I will get back to you on it.)

Hey, keep those questions coming. It feeds our egos, and makes us feel smart for a day because we can answer them. And, none of us fall into the super-smart category. Well, Kenny does. And my boss was almost a Morehead scholar, so I guess he does. Ellen knows more about plants than I’ll ever know, so yeah, she’s got the smarts. Sarah came out of the womb smart. Alex inherited his smarts. Chris is street smart, common sense smart, and amazingly plant smart. So, that leaves me. The ditsy blonde with the blank look. Okay, so ask me. I need to feel smart sometimes, too.

Do You Sell Japonica? Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner, quince blooms

Chaenomeles japonica or Flowering Quince




conifer garden, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner, jon merrill

Cool Conifer Garden Pictures (You have to see these!)

Here are some great conifer pictures taken and shared by Jon Merrill, General Manager at the store. Feast your eyes on color, texture and year-round enjoyment in the garden.

conifer gardens, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner, jon merrill

Notice the Japanese maple? They are great companion plants for a conifer garden.


conifer gardens, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner, jon merrill

Look at that blue, and the weeping maple. The layered look (a garden), and the containers. If you don’t have room for large trees or shrubs, containers are always fun.


conifer gardens, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner, jon merrill

It’s called a poodle tree and any conifer will do. I’ve seen poodle pines, poodle chamcaecyparis. Poodle it and even big, burly men will buy it. Although, one guy said he would never call his tree “poodle anything,” he was going to call it his staggered tree. Whatever, it’s a poodle tree,

conifer garden, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner, jon merrill

See? You don’t need a big space. Just a front yard. Cute, small house. Amazing conifer garden. Love it.

conifer garden, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner, jon merrill

Color, color, color. And, some of these evergreens turn beautiful, burnished colors in fall/winter. So, no more boring deciduous winters. I do feel my winters are a bit deciduous. I think I’ll write a book about it: The Winter of My Deciduous Discontent. No?

conifer gardens, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner, jon merrill

How many times am I asked a day, “What can I use to screen my neighbors?” (Seems we all have neighbor issues.) These conifers will screen out the whole dang development. Add in The Wave (look at the cutie at the front) and well, you’re waving good-bye to all those nosy neighbors.

conifer garden, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner, jon merrill

Garden path, anyone? Who says you can’t have conifers and perennials at the same time?

conifer garden, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner, jon merrill

Here’s Jon. He’s 6’4″. Can you guess how tall that tree is?

For the how-to of planning and growing a conifer garden, click here.