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Yin and Yang Customers

Garden Reports and Rejoicing –  May 9

On Monday I helped some people in the perennial section of the garden center. I’d say they were yin-and-yang-customers…on the one hand they were excited about planting and ready to put something in the ground. I loved their enthusiasm and desire. On the other hand, they were grabbing anything in bloom without much thought or willingness to work with what’s possible.

They wanted only plants with flowers on them, and expressed the desire to have plants that would bloom all though the summer. I told them that the plants that are in bloom before mid-June are only flowering early in the season. I couldn’t think of a single shrub or perennial that flowers in April, May or early June that continues to bloom into July and August.

These customers weren’t content with my answer. “How about this one?” they’d say, picking up another perennial in full flower, hoping that my answer would be different. I tried to turn their attention to the fact that they shouldn’t be looking at their landscape as they would a room in their house…indoors we can decorate and have everything remain in place. Our gardens, however, are closer to a kaleidoscope where the colors and shapes are constantly changing and largely outside of our control.

With these people I failed in my mission. I couldn’t get them to move beyond their desire to plant an instantly flower-filled yard that would remain unchanged in the future. They did not like what I was saying, and wouldn’t be moved into reality.

Would it have been better, do you think, to just lie to them and say that yes, that Aubrieta and Aurinia would indeed flower all summer? I have to believe that ultimately this would lead to their disillusionment with gardening when they ultimately experienced reality.

I was left wondering how I might bring their unacquainted eagerness closer to my informed passion for plants. How to best honor and cultivate their willingness while allowing that they need time and space to grow into the awareness about plants?

If I judged this urn planting with my customer's eyes, I'd been to wonder if these pansies were worth the time and money...every year I say "Yes, they are!"


3 comments to Yin and Yang Customers

  • Donna B.

    .. It’s really a shame to read your experience with things like that, really! Although I would be your favorite customer… I always ask: “When does it flower, when do the leaves show up, and when do they turn and what color are they in the fall?”
    [I never get annual flowers, I grow veggies that are annual! haha. I’m attempting some self-sown things but they don’t look like they’re working out too well, ugh!]
    Hence why I stick with perennials! [must… get… ninebark!]

  • HI C.L.: You where correct in telling them what it was and perhaps after they go through a season they will remember you and come back for some very good sound help.

    I volunteer at the UNH Cooperative Extension Info Line and many times a caller will get upset when I tell them how it is not what they want to hear. Usually before the call is over I have them listing to what I am saying and they are asking for more detailed information if we have it. Yes I have had some just plain hang up and are gone. I had one lady say that it was obvious that I was not the right person to talk to. So now I just take them as they come, and some time I find out they call back.

    Enough of that, have a reat evening,

  • John,
    You’re absolutely right – some people end up engaged and interested and others….not so much. Today I had a woman ask me about my advice for planting an Asian style garden. Every time I started to suggest a plant or a way to arrange the plants, she would veer off into a recitation of the plants she’d already decided on. After three times when I said “Those sound good, and you could also add….” only to have her return to the same list I finally realized that there was nothing I could say that she would hear. “Why don’t you go to the library and look at some books on this style of gardening?” I finally suggested. “That’s my next stop.” she agreed. So in the end I was heard!