Mary Starnes

Mary Starnes is a reader.  I know nothing of her, her life, or her garden. We have never met, nor have we corresponded.  But her comment on my blog yesterday (or was it the day before or last week?) struck a chord.  Facing flats of flowers on her drive, in blistering heat, she had the time to write to me.  I do not know how you do it, she said.  My first reaction-I am not sure I know how I do it either. With the first three weeks of June-the busiest and most intense weeks of my year-looming large on the horizon, I am under siege.  I am adamant about the design and installation being of quality.  This is in diametric opposition to the need for speed. Our annual planting season is short, and every client has a good reason why they would want their plantings done sooner, rather than later.  I wake up in the middle of the night with a discussion of this planting or that already underway.  I worry my way through the three weeks to come.  No kidding. 

Planting during annual season is loads of work.  Just making sure the proper plant material is on site for a job is a full time job some air traffic controller might want to take on, in the interest of some marginally less stress. Contact me, if this seems like a good idea-please.   I dream about that person coming into my life,-but in fact, I select all the material.  I travel, review, order, and arrange for.  I work 7 days a week most weeks of the year-but these particular seven days a week threatens to knock me to the ground. Designing, locating, and getting plant material delivered, instructing a crew on the installation-this seems to me the full time job of three people.      

No matter how carefully I plan, everything out of my control holds all the cards. Weather, plant availability, a crew person out due to a car accident, a client who changes their mind-the list of what I do not have control over is long and extensive.   Though it may appear that all goes smoothly for me, usually nothing goes as planned.  I can count on this.  Rough around the edges does not show particularly well in photographs-thank God. 

My clients-I cannot count on what they signed up for.  There are invariably extenuating circumstances. Being asked to shift gears midstream-this is my life. I can count on a big fluid situation.  I cannot count on what I contracted to have grown being ready and available-crop failures, mistaken sales to others, disease, too much heat, too much cold-this list of what is not ready and available to me is long. My job involves switching gears on a dime.  My job part two-I assess the big picture, and make a plan for what will work.  It is not my idea that a client needs to know about any problems.  They need to be pleased-satisfied. 

My crew superintendent forgets to charge his phone.  Construction traffic makes me 20 minutes late.  A crew person blacks out, and forgets to load a flat of pink polka dot plants. The heat soars to ninety for two weeks in late May.  The maintenance/watering issues for plants in four inch pots-huge right now. Much of what I had counted on has gone south.  Should this writing read to you as all over the map, I am  pleased.  My life in late spring as best I can represent it-as usual.

No pictures today-I would not dream of touching my camera given the dirt stuck to my hands.  Please just imagine; thanks.


  1. I am absolutely impressed with all that you do and cannot imagine how you get it all done. Please know that your posts are always an inspiration! Your clients are lucky ducks!

  2. Ahhhh I so understand what you are talking about! For me the biggest thinkg is the self doubt….. on top of all the items listed above! Did I order enough for the project, should I have handled a situation differently, where sould the crews be going tomorrow… did I make the right decision on the plant combo, will the client like this? The questions are endless this time of year!

    With 20+ years expereince you would think auto pilot would kick in and the doubts would be a thing for the newbies- but still every may/june = self doubt and no sleep. I really believe we need a green industry celebration -after the 4th of July-a national holiday for all of us who don’t know what June’s like because we are too busy working to think! And of course a wonderful big party for our support team, because without them… oh I don’t even want to think of that!!! hang in there!!!

  3. Deborah, You were right! I never did reply to this post. My only excuse is that I surely must have passed out and hit my head after seeing my name. It was a thrill to meet you this past week as I know it is to all of your fans that come into the store hoping for the encounter. I posted about you only my Instagram account this weekend and as expected, you got lots of love from the container gardening community. Thank you for being an inspiration to us all.
    All my best
    Mary Starnes

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