Plant collections

Who Is In Your Collection?

"What I can say is that there are some collections that come easily, and others that require more work" - Stephano Gabbana 




My latest garden fascination? Conifers! All shapes, sizes, and colors!



If you garden even just a tiny bit you probably have a few favorite plants. Maybe you love a particular plant's colors or they are the only ones  that you can keep alive. Die hard gardeners tend to become a bit obsessive and have particular "collections". A lot of gardeners love Hostas and there are numerous Hosta garden tours all over the country every summer.  Even Prince Charles has a Hosta garden. With thousands of types, shapes, colors, and sizes, you can create a beautiful calming space with them.


A garden collection is devoted to a single genus of plants. They compliment each other, yet can be so different. Collectors love increasing their brood because it can be challenging, fun, educational, and quite pricey to find unusual cultivators. For instance, some rare Hostas can cost you hundreds,  if not thousands, of dollars. It's fascinating to see how they all work together within a planting and how their sizes and colors play off of each other.


 I have two recent plant collections that I have been gathering and growing. I keep digging up lawn for them and carefully adding to the group. First, I have a cactus collection. I have over 20+ cactus plants growing outside year round in numerous shapes, sizes, and flower colors. I love them! They are all hardy to zone 4 and they sailed through last winter. They are maintenance free and the flower colors are magnificent! It's amazing to see cactus standing proud under falling snowflakes. Naturally, I plan to add more next spring.




My other passion is conifers. I love the different weeping, prostrate, miniature, grandiose sizes and colors of conifers (you know, pines, spruces, etc.). They are very low maintenance but are beautiful all 4 seasons. Some of my conifers have their own look and personality. Their branches sweep here and there. A few of them look like people or animals. They come in different greens, yellows, and the needles are all unique. I love the variety, textures, and diversity. Together, they create a beautiful picture and compliment each other. My next collection may be a maple collection... think of the colors and sizes that I can mix together there!




People aren't all that much different from plants. We are influenced by who we surround ourselves with and we offset one another. Most of us tend to hang out with a particular group both at work and play. We have a particular "collection" of friends that we stick with year after year or job after job. We are comfortable and relaxed in our groups and stay with them for that reason. But is that REALLY a good thing? Do yourself a favor...look very closely at the groups that you hang with the most.

"You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with" - Jim Rohn


Most of our parents  told us that we needed to be careful who we chose as friends. If you fell in with the wrong crowd you were likely to follow in their footsteps and become a trouble maker yourself. I know I saw that happen time after time - although I never said a word to my parents. Who wanted them to be right?

The start of my cactus garden with over 20 plants

"Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher" - Oprah Winfrey


If you look back at some of the groups that you hung out with in the past or current friend groups that gel well, they are likely very much alike and probably have the same interests, lifestyles, and paths in life. That's not necessarily the most effective way of meeting diverse people or learning new ideas. As Jim Rohn pointed out above, you become like those that you hang out with. Think of all the life experiences or changes that you can make happen in your life if you make a concerted effort to hang out with different people. The unique exposure to others, learning, and new opportunities are priceless gems in life. Grab those gems in any way or form that you can! Jump out of the crowd and swim with the fish! Form several new groups in the next few months.


Here's some ideas on finding some new "Collections" in your life:


  • Be with people who truly make you feel happy and confident.
  • Find groups of people who share a similar journey in life to share experiences and glean ideas. If you are an entrepreneur at heart and tend to have a group of number crunchers around you, you aren't likely to feel inspired.
  • You need to find the right people to help you grow.
  • Form relationships with some strong role models.
  • Find like minded folks that can help you want to learn or raise the bar. If you really need some presentation skills join a group of Toastmasters. You will quickly raise your skills and aspirations several notches.
  • Find groups that have a variety of thinkers, innovators, listeners, and achievers. It would be a life changing goldmine!
  • You may be able to find a mentor when you seek out other people in your collection of people. This is a priceless opportunity to grow under someones wing who has been there and done what you dream to do.
  • Diverse groups will challenge you. They won't let you get "comfortable" and laid back. To grow you need some conflict and others to encourage you to jump up a step.
  • Try to be a part of groups with different professions. Expose yourself to career disciplines that you never have before (or feared!).
  • Be daring, look for out of the box, become a "new" you within new groups.


Your mission for the next 3 months is to get out there and find new "collections" of people to interact with and form new relationships. The upcoming holidays are a perfect time to seek out some new "friends" and find people who will challenge yet support you, in the coming year.


Happy collecting!






Got Your Scared On This Week?

"I think on some level, you do your best things when you're a little off balance, a little scared. You've got to work from mystery, from wonder, from not knowing" - Willem Dafoe
Photo courtesy of Electricity Mule via Compfight
Photo courtesy of Samlavi via Compfight
Photo courtesy of Michel Taggart via Compfight



Halloween is one of my favorite holidays of the year. The season is still colorful, the snow hasn't hit, the spooky shows are all on, and I love seeing people dress up for fun and adventure. Halloween brings out the creativity and inner child in most people. I also love chocolate which I can conveniently pull out of my kid's trick-or-treat bags, and drinking warm spiced wine.

In the Midwest we love to decorate the outside of our homes with corn stalks (we have a lot at our disposal!), mums, pumpkins, grapevines, and colored corn cobs. Some people take it a step further and add graveyards, spider webs, and ghosts. Turn on the Travel Channel this time of year and see what outlandish creations that people have come up with. This is the season for all things scary! This is the perfect time of year to introduce you to some of the "scariest" and oddest plants around. Perhaps you will choose to add them to the exterior of your home this season or invite them inside......


Plants that dare you to bring them home

  • Venus Flytrap: Many of us had these vultures as kids and read scary books about them. They quickly close and trap bugs to digest them with powerful enzymes. Imagine the stories that you can tell your kids!
  • Pitcher Plants and Monkey Cups: These are equally as frightening because they also eat bugs live. Some of these plants are blood red or almost black. They are sure to ward off .. your bug problem.
  • Black Bat Flower: This gem is tropical and near black. It has "ears" and "whiskers" sure to intrigue.
  • Chinese Lanterns: These perennials are available at nurseries and resemble actual orange lanterns or tiny pumpkins. Beware.... they will pop up where you least expect them!
  • Black Mondo Grass: This is an awesome all black perennial that adds drama and mystery to your gardens. You can cut some and bring it inside to add fright.
  • Milkweed pods burst outside this time of year and resemble tiny ghosts floating through the air.
  • Many of us plant Cockscomb in our annual gardens every year. These plants come in different colors and resemble fuzzy, odd shaped brains.
  •  Amaranth: These annuals come in a variety of tones and sizes. They can often be found dried for inside decoration. They have a unique fuzzy texture and resemble long pulsing blood vessels.
  • Tropical Orchids: Orchids come in so many sizes, colors, and shapes. The spookiest ones are black with white tendrils like the Octopus Orchid. Some Orchids prefer to grow without soils and have creepy thick fleshy roots. Yuck!


The list of spooky plants go on and on - just use your imagination! For more ideas and pictures go to Vegetable Gardener.com or Sunset Freaky Plants. View at your own risk!



"It is not what we know that scares us, it is what we do not" - A.G. Phillips

Scary plants are unique, unusual, and fun. Fearing leadership isn't. Everyone has their fears, some people just excel at covering them up. At one time or another we have all been scared to death when we started new job, been promoted, or been thrust into a management or leadership role that we just didn't feel ready for. We are all human and there's no harm in admitting that you have your scared on! In fact, admitting that you are scared and looking at why is a healthy and natural thing to do. What scares you?


Let's get it out in the open. This is what scares us when we think "Leadership":
  • I'm just not ready! Most of us ever are. For instance, did you feel ready to be a parent? Really?
  • I don't have enough experience. No one knows everything. Leaders lead - they aren't the know it all.
  • Lack of confidence. We all feel deflated at one time or another. Trust me. A lot of people fake confidence. A lot.
  • What if I fail? You earned your spot. Keep showing 'em what you've got!
  • Public speaking and addressing groups scares me! Practice, practice, join Toastmasters.
  •  What if my people are smarter than me? Leading isn't just about smarts. It's about connecting people, empowering them, and encouraging people to achieve.
  • It's a lot of responsibility. 
  • Forming the right team and a strong team. How do I that that? 
  • Will I make the right decisions? We all make mistakes and can learn from them. Publicly learning from your mistakes is one of the best leadership traits.
  • It's scary managing people older than me. Been there and done that. That's YOUR problem, not your team's. Not everyone wants a leadership position and some peeps are content just doing what they love in their job. 
  • I'm not good with criticism. You have been dealing with it your entire life. You've survived and will persevere. 

Being scared is healthy and human. It's what has kept us alive and thriving going back to the caveman days. Being scared keeps us on our toes, propels us forward, and forces us to look at why we are scared. Being scared makes us deal with what we don't know or can't control. Being scared can be a leaders best friend!
Photo courtesy of Husband Unit via Compfight

How do you deal with your fears?