Leadership Gardening

Take Care of Your "Front Yard"

"In order to live off a garden, you practically have to live in it" - Frank McKinney Hubbard

Photo courtesy of Stewickie via Compfight.com

It’s probably beneficial that I garden in the country with the neighbors close enough, but not too close. I’ve concluded that I could never live in a subdivision because either I would drive the neighbor’s nuts or they would drive me out! I love to have the freedom to plant what I want where I want. It’s tough to keep everyone happy.  I have friends that live in great neighborhoods, but some of their stories about horrid home owners associations give me the chills! Some of the rules are odd and are designed to keep everyone, and every yard, the same with the need to get permission for small changes.  Getting permission to plant a tree or put in a new garden structure would keep any HOA busy and on alert if I lived in the area! 

One trend that is really catching on, but giving some neighbors heart attacks, is front yard gardens.  People are becoming more green and caring more about their environment. They realize that grass is just a huge water sucker and they are replacing yards with drought friendly plants. People in places such as California are being forced to pull out their lawns and replace them. Moreover, people are moving their backyards into the front yard by planting gardens. I’ve seen this movement more in the past few years. People are committed to eating better and demanding organic veggies. They can do this by paying higher food prices or by growing their own food. Many have opted to grow their own and make their gardens a center of attention intermingled with flowers in the front yard. It’s a healthy and proactive trend but not everyone is happy about it – perhaps even you? 

If you have been thinking of joining the front yard garden trend then congrats! Before you kill all your grass you need to check out a few things so that your neighbors don’t riot. First, check with local ordinances to verify that you can plant a front yard garden. Even though it’s your property, there may very well be restrictions. Second, check with your home owners association if you belong to one.  There may be rules against it or you may need permission. Ask first, not dig first. Last, Explain to your immediate neighbors what you are planning to do and why. Don’t surprise them. Offer some of your produce to get their buy in. 
What to consider when you move your backyard garden to your front yard:

  • *      Make it beautiful and incorporate fruits and flowers. Keep it weeded and well groomed.
  • *      Be respectful and don’t keep garden tools and wheelbarrows all over the yard.
  • *      Add some garden art, night lighting, and structures for climbers to grow.
  • *      Have some planted flower containers ready to slip into places where old plants were      pulled or look past their prime.
  • *      Plan for all seasons for your front garden, not just summer. Remember that people like    yards that are easy on their eyes.
  • *      Be courteous and give garden tours to gain buy-in.
  • *      Offer to help others start a front yard garden. Become the neighborhood expert.
  • *      Share share share your bounty.
  • *      Be friendly and positive to those around you. Be prepared to explain and defend your garden decisions.
  • *      Get some local press for your garden or get onto a garden tour to tout your space and gain acceptance.
  •         Be creative, have fun, and make it fun! 

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world” - John Le Carre


Just think about the amount of time that you spend at work.  You are most likely in an open environment or collaborative space because it’s the “in” way to work. You likely spend more time at work than at home.  I hate to tell you but some of you are really bad cube mates and slobs. Your area may be messy, stinky, a bit too personalized, and offensive. Your desk/cubical IS your front yard at work.  It’s the first thing that people see (or smell) and it says a lot about you. You really need to think about how it looks to others and how you can reflect “you” without offending your neighbors. Too many of us move our “back yards” to our “front yards” for everyone to see. Just like people who garden in the front yard in all the wrong ways only to anger their neighbors, think about how to BE a good neighbor with your “front” yard.


How to be a great cubical neighbor: 

  • *      Clean your area weekly – with real cleaning spray or soap. Germs are like weeds – keep them out of your “yard”.
  • *      Dump old food and wrappers. Dump your trash too.
  • *      Watch the desk room fresheners or your heavy Old Spice. Not everyone appreciates it.
  • *      Don’t come in sick and cough or sneeze all over. Ewww! No one likes diseased “plants in a yard.
  • *      Keep your piles neat or go green and have none. Be organized.
  • *      Know the preferences of those around you. If you know a clean freak sits next to you go above and beyond your usual cleaning and keep. Things. Neat.
  • *      Help to keep common areas clean and free of clutter or trash. Think of it as a community garden area and do your part to keep it nice.
  • *      Be flexible and open to change or suggestions. Don’t be “that” crabby ornery neighbor over the fence.
  • *      Personize your space but be respectful. My husband has a mechanical talking parrot in his cube that must drive everyone nuts. It squawks and repeats everything. Augh!
  • *      Be a friendly neighbor without being TOO friendly.
  • *      Bring in treats once in a while and be “neighborly. Bring your garden bounty in to share. No one can eat 35 zucchini and 28 tomatoes. Be generous.
  • *      Keep your voice and personal calls down. Some people drone on and on like barking dogs!
  • *      Knock or follow established polite protocols to talk with someone. Don’t just walk into their “yard” unannounced.
So. If you are going to move your “back” yard into the “front” yard, be prepared. Find out the rules, think of those that have to look at your space and live with it as well, and keep it neat and tidy. That’s what good neighbors do! Happy “front yard” gardening! 

Do you have a front yard garden? I would love to hear your thoughts or see your pics!

9 Reasons Why You Need Sprinkles

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

Photo courtesy of Bill Barber via Compfight
This summer take a breather and when you see a charming garden, look closely. You will probably see a blend of colors, shapes, and textures. Look closer and you may see more of Mother Nature's handiwork - variegated leaves and flowers. These gems really shine after the flowers fade or they light up a shady area. They are an afterthought of nature, an added touch, and special - just like sprinkles on a cookie.

I love added touches in my garden and there's nothing more fun then mixing different leaf colors with contrasting  flowers or shrubs. Variegated plants are either green and white or they can hold multiple colors. Variegation pops up as a freak of nature, a new plant virus, or it's man-made. In some cases a plant or shrub may be appear to have different colors but it's really a fuzzy leaf that plays eye tricks on us. Either way it happens, it's cool! Plant breeders are always trying to wow us and if you look at any plant catalog or visit a nursery, you may be amazed at how many variegated varieties there are.

As with anything, beauty comes at a price. Variegation can have some issues. Genetic changes within a plant, natural or man made, aren't always stable. Parts of a plant may revert back to it's original color and because it's stronger, the plant will eventually be all green. If you own a variegated plant and you see all green within the variegation quickly remove it. Keep removing it. Also, some plants may need more/less light to remain variegated. They often have less vigor or have smaller leaves. Moreover, variegated plants can be more sensitive to heat or cold which means you can kill it easier.

Variegated plants can play a leading role in gardens. They always provide a swath of background color and never let you down. If you have a lot of shade then variegated plants can really jazz up your yard. Don't settle for just any plant. Spice up the look with a sprinkle of variegation this garden season. Have fun and experiment!

"I doubt whether the world holds for anyone a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice cream" - Heywood Brown

Just as variegated plants add a finishing touch to our gardens, there's a lot of other things in life that add spice and that extra "something" to us in other ways. For instance, have you ever had a great customer service experience that sticks out in your memory? Perhaps you had the best sales experience ever when buying a big ticket item. Maybe it was receiving the "unexpected" when you were at a business that really rocked your socks off? I remember when my son had surgery at a small medical facility. After he arrived back into his room there were some flowers and his favorite candy waiting for him from the Doctor and staff that cared for him. Unexpected. I know that I appreciated it more than he did. As you can guess, I have recommended this Doc many times to friends!

"Gourmet service requires innovation, creativity and ingenuity". Uncommon service these days is, well, uncommon. We are all in the sales and service business no matter what our titles.  Service is what differentiates great companies from the rest. I have been in the the service industry in one form or another my entire career. I recently found a gem that gave  me great ideas on how to "top" the service off that I offer. Chip Bell's book Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service really drives home why we need to give that extra "sprinkle" on our service in a fun and delectable way.

Each chapter in this yummy book depicts great service as the unexpected, the extra topping, the best bite. Chip enlightens us with great examples of surprise service. They are sure to get you thinking about how YOU and your teams can top each service experience with that "wow" factor that will delight your clients. Ready to get started on taking in some dessert?

  1. Everything goes better with sprinkles! We all love whipped topping and sprinkles. I love it as an added touch on my coffee! Sprinkles "adorn, enrich, enliven, and excite". They bring good service to great. Offer service that takes your clients "breath away". How about the pizza delivery with a hand written note? Receiving a note from a teller with your transaction?
  2. Make Passion the spice of service: Deliver service with fire. Make them laugh and grin. Have a great attitude and be feisty and have fun!
  3. Always add an extra helping: Over the top service offers generosity. Great service means offering something that is very important to your customer. Deliver a product before it's expected. Include personalized notes. Be generous to a fault.
  4. Put a cherry on top:  A cherry tops off a great hot fudge sundae. It's the first thing that we eat. Strive to make your service a sensory adventure that appeals to sight, sound, smell, and vision. Provoke and use ways to connect that stir the senses. Look at your service through new eyes.
  5. Give the greatest thing since sliced bread: Infect your people with your love of service. Make sure that your people know your brand. That they believe in it. Give them education and model how you want them to feel about your brand. Encourage them to tout it as the next best thing to sliced bread!
  6. Customers enjoy borrowing a cup of sugar: Treat your customers like they are your neighbor. The neighbor serving neighbors mentality is gone. Bring it back! Form relationships and make your service personal and "homemade". We all feel special when we receive neighborly service. Try it!
  7. Let your customers lick the beaters: Some customers love to be included in their service. Invite them in. Ask them to help you. Treat them as partners and created a "co-created experience". For instance, ask them to participate in trying out your product. Ask for feedback. Chip gives some great tips on how to do this. Dig in and see!
  8. Be easy as TV Dinner: Make sure that you are very easy to do business with. Make it a seamless event. Anticipate client needs and think "backwards" to think what they want and need. Be your customer and stand in their shoes. See your service through their eyes. Bell offers some great tips on making service easy for your customers.
  9. Be the icing on your customer's cake! Deliver your service with the ambiance of  bright  candle light. Shine and stand out. Great service is like a light yet awesome service is more like candle light - shimmering and attractive. Add some imagination to the service that you give. Do more than shine like a light. Offer a shimmering  unexpected light.
Chip Bell's gem of a book gave me some new ideas on how to deliver unique service. I enjoyed the examples and love empowering people to give all that they can to clients. This book delivers on how we can add the extra in so many ways. It captures what customers really want these days but can't find.

The book is engaging, whimsical, educational, and inspiring. This is a perfect book to share with employees to help engage them in thinking up ways to offer unexpected service. The book is like an adventure through a candy store where we can taste how it feels to give great service. We can see what real service is through the eyes of others. We smell the sweetness of giving that added touch. Who doesn't want to provide this same experience with customers? You can! Pick up Sprinkles today and start your own adventure!