Do You Need to be Clipped For Growth?

Summer is far from ended but perhaps some of your flowers don’t quite agree. This is frequently the time of year where pots and window boxes look sad with browning leaves and flowers. Your flower beds are likely looking the same and sympathetic to those planted around them. As hard as it is, the best tactic that you can use is to clip them and you don’t necessarily need to be gentle.

For most flowers, especially annuals, their goal is to sprout new life and ultimately set seed (or throw seeds!) before dying. Like all species, they aim to maintain the existence of their species by reproducing. When your flowers, and even some shrubs, look haggard and seem to be drying up you need to deadhead them to give them new life. Deadheading sounds like a drastic measure and it doesn’t mean that you yank them out of the ground. Deadheading entails clipping off the dead or browning flowers and often a sizable chunk of the leaves to jump start your garden into growing profusely and flowering again.

There are numerous benefits to deadheading the flowers and some shrubs in your garden. As tough as it is you are doing them, and yourself, a favor by encouraging growth.

  • Deadheading refreshes the look and lushness of your flowers. Plants improve their health and beauty.
  • When you clip off dead flowers it halts the production of seeds because plants redirect their energy from seed production to root, leaf, and flower growth
  • Clipping plants triggers chemical processes in plants or shrubs that tell them to produce flowers not set seeds.
  • Some plants are notorious self- seeders and clipping off the dead flowers, the vessel for seeds, prevents a mass of baby sprouts the next year
Clearly, you need to be strong, pickup your garden clippers, and cut away. It can be very rewarding as you clip your frustrations away and even more so when your garden springs back to life.

I always say that humans aren’t all that different than the plant and animal life around us. That’s why I started this blog. Sure, we are more complex but we are so similar in many ways. As professionals there are times that we feel like a browning flower in late August. We may feel like we are mentally shriveling up and not producing like we once did. We may lose our purpose or reason to bloom. We aren’t as strong or committed as we once were. We long for the days where each morning we jumped up out of bed fresh and ready to blossom with growth. We may no longer bloom for others or even care about their growth. In short, you feel and maybe even look, like a dead flower head. Sound familiar?

When you feel like this there is only one solution – you need some clipping in order to grow and bloom again. You need to acknowledge that you are in a rut and need a restart. Your mind must change focus from spewing out seeds to growing from the roots and flowering again. So how do you do this?

  • Make a list of what attracted you to your career/job in the first place. Are you doing those things or has your role changed over time without you realizing how far you have drifted from what drew you to it in the first place?
  • What factors with your job, team, or boss have stunted your growth? Is it time to ask for new responsibilities or a change to a new area?
  • Sometimes you just need to admit that it’s you, not “them” or vise-versa. If so, what changes can be made or is it time to clip yourself out of your current job?
  • It may not be your job that is the problem. Maybe you need some growth and to take a class to put some spark back into your field. You may even meet some new people and grow your circle of friends.
  • Teach a class in your field to empower others to grow. You can impact young leaders and I guarantee that you will feel renewed again just helping others learn and flourish.
  • Join a Meetup group in your field or better yet, in a different field. Likewise you can jump back into various associations in your area. You will meet like minded people and you may find that you have something to offer. This may be the new start that you need.
  • Sometimes we get planted in the wrong spot. You can’t grow cactus in the shade and perhaps you do need a change before you shrivel up from being in the wrong place or from a lack of growth. Find a trusted mentor or look into a career coach to guide you to give you a little fertilizer.

I know that there have been times where I have over identified myself with my job. That’s not healthy and there is more to you than a job. Have you noticed that the first thing people ask is what you do or where you work? I found that by volunteering or lifting others up I felt a renewed sense of being and growth. Focusing on the growth of others and trying to have an impact have grown me far more than I could have ever imagined.

As drastic as it sounds you have one life and sometimes you need to either clip yourself or wait for someone else to do it - which may not be pleasant. Many people need to hit bottom first before we take steps to cut off the old in order to grow again. Do you need to be clipped for growth?

Lessons From the Garden

Thanks to Rachel Potter for this insightful guest post.
A garden can be a good metaphor for life, and it has been used this way over and over again because, of course, people and gardens go together and always have. City dwellers might not be able to identify an eggplant or oregano, but even a hundred years ago, most people were more attuned to the natural world’s clock than they were to an actual one. People woke with the sunrise and went to bed when it got dark, and they planted and replanted their gardens to keep a continual supply of food on their tables, so when they went looking for examples to explain life they went to the garden too.

Think of how many of these gardening idioms you use in your regular speech:

She’s as busy as a bee lately.
He’s certainly a late bloomer.
This old coat is going to seed; I need to replace it.
You reap what you sow.
He needs to nip that habit in the bud.

Probably many people don’t even know what reaping or sowing is, but they still use that idiom in their speech to communicate that what goes around comes around or that you get what you deserve in life because reaping and sowing were built into the rhythm of life. You knew if you planted lettuce seeds in your garden, you wouldn’t see tomato plants coming up in that spot. (Unless you planted tomatoes there last year, but that’s another story.)

What do you do when you’ve made a mess of something? We also go back to the garden for advice for that. We talk about getting to the root of the matter or digging something up from its roots, meaning that if we don’t deal with the entire problem, it will just crop up again. We mention mending fences when we mean making up with people we’ve had words with or wronged because we know that good fences make good neighbors (i.e., enforced boundaries are important).

There are also many idioms involving weeds. When we say that someone is deep in the weeds we mean they are in real difficulty. A garden that is overrun by weeds will not be productive because the weeds will steal the nutrients from the soil and the plants there will not thrive. To weed something out means to get rid of a bad thing, a problem. It’s similar to the idea of pulling a bad tooth, but more positive because pulling weeds is a lot less painful than pulling teeth!

It may seem like gardening problems and people problems have little in common, but there are many things to be learned from watching how a garden grows. Planting in season, watching the weather, tending your plot, watering when necessary pulling weeds while they are little and manageable - they may seem like childish lessons, but they can be applied to leadership too.

It’s easier to deal with a problem when it first emerges. We know that. Watching the dynamics between people in your company and looking to see which people work well together and which hinder each other - that’s crucial too. When you have problems with your staff or coworkers, it helps to determine what the real problem is rather than trying to fix a stream of petty complaints.

If you are a gardener, you’ll automatically see life through a the lens of the garden, but others may find it helpful to take what wisdom the natural world has to offer as well.

Ready to Sweeten Up Your Pallet This Spring?

Photo Courtesy of foto76 via

Simple Ways to Improve Your Garden With Pallets

Here is a great guest post from John M. Potter

Serious gardeners know how to deal with problems. It’s rare that any gardener has perfect soil, perfect moisture, or perfect weather - outside of a greenhouse, that is. Most of us have to dig out rocks, add mulch or sand, fight off rabbits and other critters, and patiently water on hot days in order to reap the rewards of beauty or harvest. If you can’t work under somewhat challenging circumstances, gardening is not for you.

That’s why gardeners often have an eye for the potential of things. They see a community garden in an empty lot - and the neighbors, socializing, and learning together that goes along with that. They can look at a steep hill in a backyard and envision a lovely terraced flower garden blooming from May to October with perennials. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for gardeners to take on little projects to turn their second home into something more comfortable and convenient for working in.

One of the trends we’ve seen recently in gardening is upcycling. Because gardeners also tend to have an attachment to the earth, many of them try to find ways to recycle items that would otherwise end up in a landfill. This often results in a quirky personalized space full of treasures - silk purses from sows ears.

Pallets are a common material gardeners use because they are so ubiquitous. Pallets are used for transporting just about everything, and they’re constructed with wood that’s already in a useful rectangular shape. Because pallets can be gotten pretty easily for cheap or for free, they’re worth using if you’d like to make something beautiful or handy.

What are some good starter projects for gardeners? First, think about what you need. There’s no point in making anything if you won’t use it. Would it be handy to have a space to store pots and tools or would a table to clean vegetables be more helpful? Could a pallet help you to grow plants like lettuces or herbs vertically? Would you garden longer if you had cold frames? Would it make you smile to surround your garden with a decorative fence? There are many good tutorials online showing beginners the practical steps and things to consider when using pallet wood for projects and even more articles and Pinterest ideas about what is possible.

Before you bookmark 100 more sites, though, it’s always good to examine your goals. You might need a new challenge or a different creative outlet. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to work with wood, and this is an easy way to start. Or is it a priority to personalize your garden space? None of these are the wrong answer. All of them, or none, might be the right answer at some point in your lifetime. Just don’t let yourself get sidetracked and forget what you’re really outside to do: grow things in the earth.

Finally, don’t forget to revel in the feel of the dirty in your hands and the wind in your hair. Spring is for gardeners, and it’s finally here!

What's Your View?

"A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them" - Liberty Hyde Bailey

We all have a unique way of looking at things and it's not always easy to see situations through the eyes of others. Too often we put ourselves first and turn a blind eye to how other's feel and we ignore their view point. Don't be that person.  As leaders we need to take our shades off and view things around us with fresh eyes, an open mind, and a new perspective. Then you need to ask yourself "What's my view"?

July is the best time of the summer in my Midwest garden. Everything is lush, flowering, and showing off like dancing fairies. I invite you to look at my garden through my lens and enjoy!

What's Your Sweet Spot?

"An Ant on the move does more than a dozing Ox" - Lao Tzu
The ants go marching on and on

One of my favorite jaunts every morning is to wander around my garden enjoying the dew and sweet smell of the plants. The flowers are fresh and shimmering in the early sun.  Everything is slowly coming alive and ready to face the day. Mornings are also the best time for me to hunt for bugs or rodents that have busy over the nighttime hours.
This week during my wanderings, I was taken aback by the hoard of tiny marching ants on one of my weeping white pines. It was apparent that it was a party that I hadn’t been invited to. Usually the ants are in the hundreds of ant hills hidden on our sandy ground or lounging on my Peony plants. I quickly discovered that the star of the party was two hanging pine cones dripping with sweet sticky sap. The ants had found their “sweet spot” 

When most of us think about ants on the plants we think of beautiful Peony plants that open with a large display of color. Ants are notorious for scrambling all over the flower buds and there’s an active myth out there that the Peony flowers need ants in order to open and bloom. Not true by the way. The ants are there for the sugar high that they receive from the sticky nectar on the buds. Ants crawling on flower buds are probably beneficial because no other bugs will visit and the ants don’t do any harm. Once the Peonies open, the ants move on because the nectar on the flower disappears. 

 Many plants like Peonies and tropical plants have rectory glands. These glands are an organ on flowers or a leaf of a stem (Webster). The nectory secretes nectar that ants love to munch on. Ants are also drawn to plants because of Aphids. Aphids are small orangish sucking bugs that attack plants. They don’t kill plants, but they are a nuisance and you should spray a strong shot of water at them to knock them off. As they attack, the aphids secrete honeydew which quickly brings ants to the party to eat.  

You would think that since ants are little nectar eating factories that they would be great pollinators as they move from plant to plant. They aren’t. They can’t fly and they only have their little legs to get them around. Surprisingly, some ants secrete a natural substance that acts as an antibiotic. The antibiotic protects the ants from bacterial and fungal infections. Unfortunately, this substance also quickly kills any pollen grains and so there can’t be any pollination. US Forestry Service 

Ultimately, most ants on your plants won’t do any harm. They are just doing what they do best – looking for a great sugar high and some plants are more generous than others. Unless they are driving you crazy or you just plain hate ants,  you don’t need to do anything. Ants are actually beneficial insects because they can help clear your garden of Aphids or other pests during their sugar journeys.  Maybe the ants are even smarter than a lot of us. They are very effective in finding their “sweet spot”.

As I thought more about the ants, I become a bit jealous. Think about it. They are programmed to seek out and find their sweet spot. Moreover, they find it. How many of us are still wandering around every day in a fog?  We go to jobs that we can’t tolerate or even hate. Some people just show up and give enough to keep their job and collect a paycheck. They live for weekends and work makes them physically sick. Then there are those of us who are challenged, energized, and engaged at work every day. We love coming in to learn something new, have an impact, feel fulfilled, and ultimately make a difference. I’m fortunate that like the ants, I have found the nectar and my “sweet spot”. I’m one of the lucky ones that have been able to sip from the nectar where my interests, skills, and a great opportunity have merged. Are you still looking for your “sweet spot”?

“People are most successful when they are in their sweet spot. Your sweet spot is the intersection of where your passion meets your greatest strengths” – Ken Coleman 

Do you need to go on a journey to find your sweet spot? Maybe this will help:

·         Take a close look at your genuine interests. What really lights you on fire and makes you glow? Follow the light and stay interested.

·         Know thyself.

·         Take risks.

·         Know what your passion is. Find it now.

·         List your key skills and stay away from your weaknesses. Keep your gifts close and use them every day.

·         Have a personal vision, identify your goals, and live your values every day.

·         Develop your own style. Don’t let anyone steal it or squelch it.

·         Do something that will bring you joy every day.

·         Know what culture that you need in order to grow and the type of people that make you light up with vigor.

·         Make life and work balance a priority.

·         Run from anything that bores you or saps your energy.

·         Build strong relationships and network to see what is out there and who can help you.

·         Find a job or life coach to find what you need, where you need it.

·         Have fun!

·         What will people pay you for that you love doing?

·         I s money really more than sipping sweet nectar?

·         Never settle.

Life is too short to NOT follow the path to finding your own “sweet spot’.  If you are in a job that you hate or you are drained every day only you can change it. Start your journey right now. Get your little legs moving and seek out some nectar. You CAN find your “sweet spot!”


Does Color Really Matter?

"The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts" - Marcus Aurelius

Time to diversify and design a red and orange garden?

 To me, a garden is an artist's palette. It changes over time and the scene jumps out as the artist lightly  brushes on color and texture. Gardens are a reflection of the "artist" and no two are ever alike. Gardens are meant to be free flowing and unique. Gardening isn't just about color. It's also about texture, bark, pottery, garden art, or even fences. Gardening welcomes all colors, sizes, textures, and plant temperaments. For me? The more diverse that a garden is, the better. I love diversity and it's amazing what each plant brings to the mix.

I tend to be more of a carefree and adventurous gardener with color and texture. I don't take a whole lot of time to plan out colors or even placement in my gardens. In the end, I'm rewarded with a plethora of colors that compliment each other. What's important to me is that I enjoy the beauty that I've created and if others love it? It's an added bonus. I have stepped out of the norm and have designed some monochrome gardens. I have a black garden and an all white garden that face each other as if in battle. I also have a bright cheery yellow garden that pops in the sunlight. It's fun and finding the right colored plants sent me on a greenhouse scavenger hunt.

If you want some semblance of order with color in your garden then a color wheel is your #1 tool. As you can see below, a color wheel shows how colors are related (or not) and can be a useful guide in helping you to mix up your colors. For more insight check out Proven Winners.

Photo courtesy of Sean Hillmeyer via Compfight

Here's some tips for using a color wheel:

  • Analogous colors are next to each other and look good together (red & orange, orange & yellow, yellow & green ).
  • Complementary colors are those opposite of each other on the wheel (red & green, violet & yellow).
  • A triad of colors is formed by drawing an equilateral triangle connecting 3 colors on the wheel (red, yellow, & blue).
  • Monochromatic is using 1 color in several shades. A shady hosta garden or my yellow garden are great examples.
  • Dark/deep colors such as blue, purple, dark pink can create calm when used together. They also make spaces appear larger.
  • Bright colors bring attention to areas, but may make a garden seem smaller. Bright colors are great near doors, decks, and windows. Think red, orange, fuchsia.
  • Neutral colors such as white, gray, black, silver, brown, and green tone down other colors or can be a divider between sweeps of color. 

Most garden designers swear by using a color wheel to pair plants and build new gardens. It doesn't end there. They also make use of textures and other hardscaping (rocks, arbors) features. Gardens need to well rounded with a lot of diverse color and features. Diversity builds character and it's fun to see all the elements play together.

"All the diversity, all the charm, and all the beauty of life are made up of light and shade" - Leo Tolstoy

How are you  doing with building diversity outside your garden? We can all make a difference in the world by building diversity in all areas of our lives.

Life is like a garden. My garden has more shapes, colors, sizes, smells, and textures than I can even count. They all compliment one another and they form a cohesive portrait. A single flower can't make a garden, but a group becomes a  spectacular show. Wouldn't it be great if our world were like this? Our differences are what make us unique and we should embrace all the "smells, colors, shapes" in people like we do in a garden. We all bring something to the whole.

 When I was young, I wanted to change the world. It took growing up and life experience to learn that one person can only be a catalyst, not change everything. We can  make an impact by our actions and hope that we too can be the one flower that unites a garden.

How you can help grow diversity
  • Examine your real feelings regarding diversity. Be honest and ask yourself "why" if you have reservations.
  • Speak out against racism and inequality. Don't let it slide. You can be subtle in your efforts, but if you ignore it you are accepting it. Don't be that person. 
  • If you feel that you can't speak out against some issues regarding diversity, confide in someone else. Let them be a catalyst.
  • Be open and learn about the cultures of those that you work with. Ignorance can breed an indifference to diversity.
  • Reach beyond your circle of friends and work group. Get to know those that are "different" and make some new connections. Accept differences.
  • Avoid hanging with cliques or one group.
  • Watch your words and jokes. So many of us forget the power of words - positive and negative.
  • If you are in a leadership role, encourage diversity and hire diversity. 
  • Request to work with diverse teams.
  • Encourage and attend diversity training. Some communities have some great resources if your company does not have a program.
  • Encourage speakers on diversity or attend a community talk.
  • Volunteer within a variety of communities.
  • Allow or join groups within your company. Many employers encourage groups on site where like members (and you!) can meet monthly, weekly etc.
  • Encourage people to post events from their community to encourage anyone to visit their event or group.
  • DO SOMETHING. Don't wait for someone else to start change. Be a leader.

I love gardening because I gain so much satisfaction from watching my plants grow and blend in with their neighbors to form a magical world. How are YOU going to add diversity to the garden of life???