The Champions at Home

I join the millions of Americans who have an every four year summer addiction to watching people pummel their bodies and minds to crazy extremes in the summer Olympics. I love the stories, I love the glimpse into the lives behind the champions, I love the dark horse champions who no one saw coming. What I’m really looking forward to are the olympic gardener events: speed weeding competitions and synchronized mowing. Can’t seem to find it on the line up….

This weekend I’ve stolen moments to watch who the champions inbetween fun cookouts and fireworks with friends on Friday night, Old Crow Medicine Show concert at Fontanel with another group of friends on Saturday night, and a dinner with a house full of teenagers tonight. But reality at home collided with the reality in London when I started thinking about the stories of what makes a champion.

Friday night out our cookout  included a family of six who left the next morning to take their sixteen year old daughter to compete in track at the Jr. Olympics in Houston, Texas. But their time and energy that evening were often taken up with their 18 year old autistic soon who could hardly wait for the fireworks display (we had to keep an eye on the constantly disappearing bag of fireworks). They discussed their plans for adopting a son from Russia and getting their oldest son settled into his college dorm room. As I looked at what makes a champion – the perseverance through difficulty, the positive attitude, building for the future, pressing on when others would quit – this family is olympic gold in my mind.

Saturday night we went out to eat at The Pharmacy in East Nashville and then on to the concert. A fun group that included my beautiful friend, who during her first year of residency after medical school, suffered a paralyzing injuring that has left her dependent on a wheelchair for everyday life. As we laughed at how we loved to go places with her because we got to always go to the front of the line and get great seats at the concert, our special privileges come at the price of my friend’s lifelong disability. Yet my friend is full of laughter, delightfully entertaining, an involved and caring mom to her teenage daughter, and a woman full of compassion to others around her. My friend Sara is a gold medal champion in life – a gold medal winner in life.

My friend Sara in the middle

Winners are all around us – let’s celebrate the champions in everyday life.

White Gate Inn and Cottage – Asheville, NC

Japanese Painted Fern

While visiting in Asheville, NC, I was able to enjoy wondering through the gardens that surround the lovely White Gate Inn and Cottage.

The pathways were enticing.

Awesome containers

And you never know who you’ll run into

or what creature are lurking around the corner

And lots of places to set’a’spell

With calming places to enjoy.

Surviving The Drought

 Just keeping plants alive during this drought has been a part time job. Here are few containers holding on and still looking good on my back patio.

Russellia, heuchera

Burgundy mandevilla, blueberry phlox, cuphea cha-cha, coralberry calibrachoa, sweet potato vine (sweet caroline)

The Rococo New Guinea Impatien (new from Viva plants) with its pretty ruffles petals

Book Giveaway with Fine Gardening Magazine

Here’s a chance to win a free copy of my book, Container Gardening for All Seasons – just read Billy Goodnick’s review of the book, then sign in and leave a comment on his Fine Gardening blog page and you’ll be entered to win! Thank-you, Billy, for getting the word out. And thank-you, Annie Haven, for adding a set of Haven Brand Compost Teas to the winning package! Click on link below to get to Billy’s blog:

Independence Day

 Full moon and fireworks!!

While we are roasting our hotdogs and planning our fun activities today, let’s all take a minute to write a note/make a phone call/send an email to a soldier who helps keep independence a reality. This is a rare photo I have from my son, Jonathan’s, time in Iraq as a Marine. So thankful for his service to our country and so thankful he’s home safely with his wife and two children!

If You Build It, They Will Come

Around twelve years ago hubby and I read about a community that was being built west of Franklin, Tennessee and decided to check it out. We drove out to what seemed like the boonies and had a delightful young sales agent named Erin Davis tell us all about this masterplanned development – how there would eventually be over 2500 homes, there would be a golf course,  pools, clubhouse, school, grocery store, beautiful open areas, and that the purpose of all this was to build not just a neighborhood but a community. We spent days reading over the material, made several phone calls to Erin, then decided to just stay where we were because so much had yet to be built. We had heard stories of developers that promise all kinds of wonderful amenities for their neighborhoods, then either waited until most of the homes were sold to add the amenities or either reneging on the deal altogether.

This past Friday, June 22, 2012, I took a drive around that lovely place I had visited so many years ago – it was my last drive as the Director of Floriculture for Southern Land Company who built that community I came to love called Westhaven.  Almost eight years ago I read an article about a company that was making horticulture one of the foundations of their developments, and that they wanted people to see the distinction that landscaping and floriculture made in their communities. I approached Southern Land Company and asked how I could be a part of this unique vision which was to make their communities feel a little like you were visiting Disneyland – and they signed me on to work in their horticulture department. What I didn’t know then was that they had built the community that hubby and   I had visited years before, that they would indeed follow through on their commitments to build what was promised – and make it even more wonderful than anyone imagined; that they would continue to build other beautiful communities like Laurelbrooke, Windstone, Dwell, Tucker Hill in McKinney, Texas, and branch out into commercial properties – and that I would get to have a part in coloring them with seasonal plantings; that the young Erin Davis would marry Southern Land homebuilding department’s Dan Gilbert and that they would use container plantings I had done for our common areas in their wedding, and that I would come to enjoy and value them both as friends and coworkers; and that this company that had wanted to build community would attract a neighborhood of people that enveloped me into their community, dub me ‘The Flowerlady’, and become a precious part of my life for almost eight years.  Somehow, in the vision that Tim Downey had for his Southern Land Company, community was about growing together.  I had the privilege of seeing beauty grow out of the containers and blossom into the friendships throughout the neighborhoods. To Tim, Brian, Ken, Amy Law, and so many others that built this village, and to the people of Westhaven, Laurelbrooke, Windstone, Dwell, and Tucker Hill who stole a piece of my heart, thank you for letting me grow with you.

One of the first courtyards I helped design – the Marlette’s home
Deckboxes became a signature look for our homes in Westhaven
Deckboxes growing in the greenhouse in the spring
A shade loving deckbox for a northfacing front porch

Having containers on the front porches of Westhaven homes made Southern Land communities a destination location for many gardening groups

New Dawn roses and jasmine embellish the arches surrounding the great lawn

Getting containers ready for the Golf Course opening

Along the wall at the pool

Winter planting at Westhaven entrance

Winter windowboxes

Summer containers around the fountain

The back entrance to Westhaven resident’s club

Doing container demonstrations at Southern Land’s new development in McKinney, Texas (Tucker Hill)  

July 9th I begin my new venture at LSI as their Director of Floriculture. Until then I’m learning a new computer, cleaning out closets, having lunch with friends, and staying out of these record temperatures as much as possible.