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).




pints of blueberries transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

Practicing Gratitude in the Rain

A friend texted me to ask how my day was.

I texted back. I began:

My ribs hurt so bad from coughing from the flu last week, and we were unloading a lot of heavy plant material today, so that only made my ribs worse, and it was raining and icky outside. I tried to run an errand at lunch but the traffic was crazy, and the pharmacy didn’t have what I needed ready. I came home, took a shower and crashed. How was your day?

But, I stopped myself before hitting send and read it. That was a pretty depressing text! So, here’s what I sent instead:

It was okay. The rain let up around 11. We had lots of heavy, plant material to get unloaded so that kept us busy. I was able to run an errand during lunch. How was your day?

Such a tiny, little shift in my brain, but it worked. It made me appreciate my day. The rain did let up, something I’d actually prayed for on my first official day back, and just recovering from the flu. We were able to stay busy all day and thankfully so. Nothing is worse than being in pain, and being bored. It just causes you to focus on the pain. I did get an errand done at lunch, but more importantly, I needed to ask how her day was. What was happening in her life? It changed my whole evening. I went from thinking the day had been pretty yuck to thinking it was a pretty good day.

When my kids were little, we did nightly devotions. We began this family time by saying one thing we each were grateful for. Then we read Scripture, discussed it and said prayers. I kept a journal of our evening devotions, and can go back now and read what each of us were thankful for on any particular day for a decade. I am grateful I did that because that journal is a treasure to me now.

Here’s a few I from the kids:

  • A cup of hot chocolate.
  • It snowed! School closed!
  • Lasagna.
  • The birds at the bird feeder.
  • My warm bed.
  • My friend Todd, whose dad is Elvis Presley. (I just wrote it down.)
  • My family.
  • Platypus (the dog).
  • That George lets me cheat off his paper. (Again, I just wrote it down.)
  • Papaw and Memaw.
  • No homework.

It was my blessed moment in a mom’s busy life, listening to her children speak what brought them joy. I’ll admit it was harder for me and my ex. The adults found it difficult to find gratitude in the midst of the adult stresses of life. But forcing myself to examine my day, and find something I was grateful for at the end of it. sent me to bed with a smile and a different perspective on life.

So, for old time’s sake, and a re-framing of mind concerning my day, these are the things I am grateful for today:

  • Ibuprofen.
  • My bed!
  • Aggie (the dog).
  • Little Kitty (the cat :).
  • Blueberries.
  • Earl Grey Tea.
  • Friends who text me to ask how my day was.
  • Late night rain but clear skies during the day.
  • Plants.
  • Fun co-workers.
  • A warm, cozy house.
  • Soft socks.
  • Waterproof boots.
  • Seeing Ellen again.
  • A washer and dryer.
  • Donna and Jennifer.
  • Hot showers.
  • Doggie day care.

I could go on, but lesson learned. Grumble and complain or rejoice and be grateful. I’ll go for the latter. And you? Would you mind leaving a comment of one thing you’re grateful for today? What brought you joy today? I’d love to hear.








Plants, Porch Cushions, and Designer Books

God made somewhere in the neighborhood of  297,000 plants, not including lichen or mushrooms. And, that figure comes from Plants, Plants, Plants, a kid’s book I got for my grandchildren (a surprisingly accurate book).

But, my clients do not want any of the 297,000 plants God made. No, they want a plant that MATCHES. Matches the porch cushions, the window shutters, the rug, the paint on the shed, you name it. To be specific, as one dear client described, a plant that grows to approximately 3 feet 10 inches tall and 4 feet wide, is yellow (or whatever color the cushions are), evergreen, doesn’t shed, blooms (all summer), needs no pruning, and oh yeah, it needs to go behind all the other plants in the front (very established) bed, which will require a crane to place the dang thing.

(Yes, this is me complaining. It’s that time of year when my clients hate me and I hate them.)

Here’s what I want to say to my mostly beloved clients:

How do you feel about silk plants?

Instead, oh wise woman that I am,  I use the universal language of all women. I say:

Your husband will say no to the crane.

They sigh. He will, won’t he? I shake my head that, sadly, yes, he will. I know their husbands, and do generally feel bad about making them the fall guys, but hey, a girl’s got to make a living.

Years ago, I was hanging out with my sister while she hung curtains for one of her clients (I do the outside, she does the inside). I was perusing their library, a room bigger than my house, filled to max with shelves of books. A certified book nerd, I was in heaven, until Kathy–quite callously I might add–broke the bad news to me. She was drilling holes into their $100,000 walnut paneling for the Roman shades she was about to install. (The husband had casually mentioned the cost of the custom woodwork after he spied Kathy’s drill, and suddenly understood that his wife had given her complete permission to mar the wood for the Roman shades that would adorn his entertainment room/library.) With drill bit in her mouth, Kat said, over her shoulder, “Those are designer books.”

Huh? What’s a designer book?

Designer books give you the look of a library without the mess of books that “don’t match” and heaven forbid, cause you to readjust book shelves to accommodate book sizes. Designer books can be ordered in the same size, and the same cover, but not necessarily in the same language or even the language of your choice. These particular books were in every language known to man. It was like the Tower of Babel had crashed in their library. Even if they chose to toss good taste out the window, and grab a book, who reads Ho-Chunk? I was so naive. For a woman who just donated several thousand books from my library to the local one,  I am still trying to wrap my brain around that. Why do that?

For the same reason we want plants to grow to 3 feet 10 inches, be a certain color and bloom all season, while being evergreen. Everything needs to MATCH. Heaven forbid if the blue of the poor delphinium doesn’t match the blue of the porch cushions. No matter that the delphinium is spectacular beyond compare, if it doesn’t match, well out it goes. Perhaps we’ve become consumers to the point that we are clueless about how plants grow or books are written. I am thrilled God was the creator and not my clients, or we’d all match. I’m talking clones.

If I’m asked once, I’m asked a million times by my clients, “Am I doing this right?” They’re worried what the neighbors will think, or the family and friends. Try as I might, I am unsuccessful in convincing them that gardens are about self-expression and creativity. If they like it, then it is right.

Do you like it? I ask them.

They do.

Then that is all that matters. And, it is.

Sometimes, my client’s taste is so not mine. Tightly clipped boxwoods, tacky yard art, or cottage-y fluff doesn’t excite me. But, watching a woman discover her own creativity does. Watching her find wonder in her garden is a dear thing. It is a hard won battle. Trusting ourselves is next to impossible when books are supposed to look uniform on shelves, or plants quit growing before hitting the 4 foot mark.

I want to scream, God did not make that plant! But, oh my goodness, look at what he did make. Roses, and shrubs, and trees, and ferns, and moss, and perennials of every color and size. Almost 300,000 plants.More than could be explored in one lifetime. And he made you. And he made me. And isn’t it wonderful that we don’t match? Now, let’s take what we’ve been given and make something fabulous out of that.