Cultivating a Culture of Gardening™

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why I Let Myself Go To Pot

It actually started as something akin to love at first sight. 

There I was mid-May of 2015, blithely working the manic world of a landscaper, juggling 350+ clients, 7 company branches, 5 subcontractors simultaneously as twice a year we changed out seasonal flower beds within a 6-8 week period. In-between those install times was the maintenance, schedule building, special projects, client meetings, ordering, plant disease issues, landscape designs, a few garden-related writing and speaking gigs, and every once in while I’d get to focus on what first directed me into this line of work - container gardening. 

In May of 2015 I took a few days to visit with some garden-writer friends at P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm. And that’s when I saw them - the garden planters, the decorative pots, that were the culmination of all that I’d been looking for as a gardener and as a landscaper. Yep, kind of melodramatic, I know. But let me help you understand a little bit of why finding exceptional containers had such an impact on me. During a most of my landscaping career, I averaged putting together up to 1200 container plantings a year. Shoot, I even wrote a book about  container gardening! And I loved the challenge of creating a planter display that made my clients feel like their personality, preferences, and passion were reflected in those pots. 

But the job wasn’t always just about the planting. Sometimes I would have folks tell me they wanted a plant combo they’d seen in Southern Living magazine that included a 3 gallon rose and 6 different plants, and they wanted it planted in pots they found on sale at some designer store, they’d have no drainage hole, and would hold about one cup of potting soil. Then there would be the install issues of the client who’d ordered those gorgeous antique-looking 350 pound cast stone or clay planters that they wanted on the back porch which could only be accessed by going up 3 flight of stairs. Folks, I’m not making this up! 

So, back to that love at first sight, I’ve found the containers of my dreams scenario: as I wandered around P. Allen Smith farm, I kept seeing these beautiful planters. Yes, the flowers in them were very pretty, but the planters themselves were unique and absorbed my attention. A couple of the planters I had to thunk with my fingers because I didn’t believe they were actually made of resin as I had been told. 

I started quizzing my garden friends, “Who made these planters?” 

Then I started learning more about them: 
*many of the styles are double walled to protect the plant roots against heat or freezing. I have been advocating for years that with iron, stone, or glazed clay that absorb so much heat or cold, it is important to create some type of layer (pot within a pot) to protect plant roots from extreme temperature.
*they had a ten year warranty against fading or cracking. 
*even the larger planters were manageable for the average gardener
*the taller planters have a “gravity cavity” that can be filled with sand to stabilize them in windy conditions. 
*and then there is the story of the young Miami couple (the owners of the company) with a dream of selling pots that were attractive and affordable and met the needs of gardeners and landscapers, who loaded up their van and went from nursery to nursery. Learning as they went along from the feedback of those they met to create an even better container. 
*Crescent Garden teaming with Four Star Nursery, an industry leader in growing ornamental plants, and testing for 3 years to create a “self-watering” planter - the TruDot Self-watering system with Patent Pending Water Level Indicator. I’ve tried my hand at many a self-watering planter and this one finally gets it right. 

Over the next few months after that first introduction to Crescent Garden planters, I realized that I’d actually been promoting these containers for years. If anyone has ever heard me speak, I have included for years the photos of planters I’ve seen along Michigan Ave in Chicago over the years, exhorting the virtues of adding large planters in streetscapes to enhance the beauty of a city. Guess whose planters those are? 

Crescent Garden's 

So I introduced these planters to my co-workers and clients. Over a few months I chatted with Crescent about my writing a little for them and helping with their social media. Then when life pointed to making some changes in my life, I made the choice to let myself go to pot. Well, technically go to pots, but by leaving off the “s” it sounds so much more dramatic. I started my new career in sales and marketing with Crescent Garden. 

Now, in letting myself go to pot, my days are filled with helping landscapers and garden centers learn the benefits of these planters that adeptly address so many container gardening issues that stifle new gardeners, maintenance crews, and landscape installers. We even have a landscape direct program that allows landscaper to order planters directly to the install location, with set pricing that already includes shipping costs so no need to call around for freight costs. 

Yep, whatever I want to call it: Pot Peddler (that raises some eyebrows), Purveyor of pots, Pot Salesman (more raised eyebrows), Container Connoisseur, it’s a job I relish in as I just let myself go to pot. 

Post Script - About 10 years ago I started changing out the clay and stone planters at my own house to double-walled rotational molded planters like Crescent carries so that I could move them around on my own (my boys were going off to college/getting married and not there to help me) and I could keep them throughout the winter. It's nice to now have an option for some better looking rotational molded planters here in Tennessee!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Answer To World Peace Could Possibly Be Found In Murfreesboro, Tennessee

You won't be able to find this place. The lady at the garden center that I had been visiting told me three or four times, "You won't find a better place to eat in this city than CLEAR VIEW restaurant." She said it VEEERRRYYY SLLOOOWWLY just in case I didn't catch it the first few times. But she couldn't tell me where it was because, "I've been driving there for so long that I don't even think about what street it's on. If you have one of those smart phones you can just look it up. It's even been in Southern Living Magazine!"

So I got in my car, pulled out my really smart phone, and searched for 10 minutes to find this exemplary restaurant. No Clear View restaurant. No Clearview Restaurant. No Clearview Meat and Three. Relentlessly (and hungry), I start searching for eating venues in the Murfreesboro area and finally come across KLEER-VU Lunchroom. 4.6 Star rating.

So I transversed the city, and pulled up to this icon of eatery.
In the middle of this block of lower income housing sat an humble restaurant filled with garden club ladies, a few guys that could easily pass for gangsta rappers, an elderly caucasian couple, a stunning African American woman who walked in and said hello to everyone (probably some famous Nashville musician that I should know), a random assortment of black and white diners, and me. 

We all stood in line peacefully as we ordered our southern style lunch, smiled and greeted each other as we waited, and peacefully enjoyed a lunch together without a sliver of unpleasant discourse.  

My conclusion is that Pigs Feet, Breaded Okra, Turnip Greens, and Chess Pie - or the like - can bring a diverse world to peaceful cohesion.

If it could be so simple...

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Observing Life Abbreviated

It was 2 a.m. in the city of angels. Restless on the hospital room sofa bed, I sat up cloudy-headed by the events of the last few days and gazed over at the bed next to me. Killian so very still and his momma, Alex, laying beside him, a place that had been her bulwark to ebb off the inevitable loss of the days ahead. 
How had I gotten here?

My mind replayed once again the unseen events that had become a photo-reel in my imagination. Ten month old Killian discovering the freedom of bipedalism begins to discover a new level of his home. A door left slightly cracked rather than tightly closed, an over-the-counter sleeping medicine bottle with the top not quite screwed on, those few minutes of distraction that everyone who has ever been around a young child knows happens daily, the 911 call, and then the tearful phone call from his momma where she had to repeatedly tell me, “If you want to see Killian one more time, you need to come out now.” Repeating it either because I couldn’t understand  through the tearful words or maybe just because I didn’t want to believe what i was hearing. Killian would not recover and I needed to fly to Los Angeles. 
I had stopped by the office of the landscaping company that I worked for to drop off my letter of resignation - I had no idea what the future would look like but with fall planting only two weeks away, I knew that I did not need anything distracting me from the grandkids that awaited me at the other end that plane ride.  I had then taken the first flight I could get on to Los Angeles. 
I don’t remember much of the next few hours - somehow, on that very full plane, I had gotten a seat with no one beside me, and I had played through the scenarios of what I could say to comfort the family that awaited me. There had already been such hardship. My son, a marine veteran with 3 tours in the middle east that earned him a purple heart and life altering PTSD, had had almost no contact with his wife and family over the last year. Money had been extremely tight for them both as he struggled to adjust to civilian life and his wife struggled to hold the family together until he worked through the war demons that haunted him. And my years as mother-in-law had been often intensely strained and painful. Yet when I first walked into that hospital room, saw the small child that I had held all day unknowingly for the last time five months before, the tears overcame me. And Alex came and held ME as I sobbed. In that moment I was not the mother of the son who had broken her heart, but the grandmother of the child we both loved.

All the moments that I had missed with Killian in his short life because of my own selfish ambitions or relational insecurities became waves of grief over the next few days. And as I would weep, Alex would wrap her arms around me and we would weep together.

Alex, his other grandma Tutu, his grandpa Steve, and a myriad of aunts, cousins, and friends were able to say good bye to Killian until the nurses took his small body away - where his heart, kidneys, and liver would bring life to other children. Killian died on August 31, exactly 10 months after he was born. Exactly two months ago from today, what would have been his birthday - October 31. 
In the city of angels for the next few weeks I learned to be just Grandma B, and I saw the beauty of a fellow grandma Tutu who has devoted her life to serving her grieving daughter and grandkids, and I saw the beauty of a young mom who has more strength than she realizes because of how she has fought for her family. Grief is a river that flows through us now, but we ride that river together so that it does not overwhelm us. 

Hands that loved: Alex Wise, Killian Wise, Tutu, and Grandma B
God is a Redeemer, a truth I have sung about and spoken of for decades. As the weeks tumble  away from the reality of this great loss, I remember my time with Killian, I think of the increasingly frequent time visiting his older brother and sister, I think of the tender time I shared with their Momma Alex, I think of the hopefulness of the days ahead because of healing relationships, and I see that God is indeed a Redeemer. So I keep putting one foot in front of the other, and trust that He understands when I don’t, that He is strong when I am not, and that Christ is indeed my hope and comfort when grief overtakes me. 

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