At various times during the past 25 years people have said to me, or written, "We like your approach and advice, but it's different. We're a little unsure whether to go your way. So tell us more -- how is it that you're in this position, giving that advice?"
If that's the question that brought you here, then here's an answer.
If what you want is just facts rather than a story, click to my bio, in our press package.
When I was a kid I was a tomboy and an inveterate questioner who wanted to be a teacher, and a writer. I was a lover of books, the library and climbing trees. In high school I fell in love with art -- ceramics -- and discovered the thrill of debate, on the improvisational speaking team. In college to become an art teacher, on a scholarship for improv speaking, I sidetracked into love, and a job too good to turn down installing telephones and lines, which eventually became a career teaching telephone company management people how to speak and write.
Through all this I was a gardener. It was a glorious time. As a kid I was dad's helper during his off hours, as he handymanned in neighbors' yards. I was the one of their seven children that took most interest, so mom let me redesign her gardens. Then just before college I spent a summer in England, and remade my gardening world view as I worked in a 300 year old garden in Shenley Church End, Buckinghamshire. On my return, I began to inhale gardening magazines and books. Not too long afterward, it became my daily routine to stand 25 feet up on a pole in the corner of four yards. What I saw was test, confirmation and expansion of what I'd been learning -- landscapes laid out as if they were plan view drawings.
This gave me a very high opinion of gardeners and refined my approach to gardening. I decided, and still hold, that gardeners are the most helpful people on earth, based on the fact that everyone I approached was happy to talk to a voice from the sky asking, "Excuse me, what is that shrub over there?" Every day I would come home to my own garden -- our own garden, my husband Steven's and mine -- with pieces of plants. Every year the landscape design ideas I gathered and tried became more practical, more varied, and fit more comfortably into what I'd learned in school about art and design.
About this time, people who knew me as a gardener began to ask questions about how to and what if. I was thrilled, and so I cracked my books and racked my brains to help. When people wondered "could we?" I showed up with garden spade to make things happen in other's yards. This time-consuming sideline might have bothered my husband except it came to our aid, not too much later.
That is, when we had children, we wanted to raise them ourselves. My telephone company position was the better fitting job, in terms of how happy and challenged I was, physically and mentally. On the other hand, my husband was not only ready for a change but eager to be our child rearer and housekeeper. So we became a one wage-earner family. That situation fit us and our children so well that the glory days continued and shone brighter.
Yet they were economically tough times. So my gardening sideline became a second job. It helped make ends meet. It was also exhilarating to have so much new ground to develop and so many different growing situations to figure out.
When the kids were in school full time and Steven went back to college pursuing a degree in photography, we collaborated to make the gardening business our full time work. It's been that way for the past 24 years.
In the winters I taught classes about garden design and care, and wrote a book on each topic. Then I did two things when it occurred to me that working full time for myself had eliminated the time I'd once spent attending classes. (Where? At every place in the country I could find that offered practical training.) First, I accepted an invitation to write a weekly column in The Detroit News, as a way to continue the discipline of learning. People sent in questions and I dug up answers, delighted with the doors that opened up at queries from a newspaper columnist.
Second, with Steven's help now that he had a college degree in horticulture, I started a school for gardeners that we ran for 12 years. We did it to have our own, hands-on curriculum but more importantly, so we could invite experts in to teach us, and our community.
During those years I hosted a weekly radio show and led our school instructors on a website Q&A forum. Newspaper, radio and school connections caused an exponential growth in the network I could draw upon and the number of situations I could learn from. At the same time my conviction grew that with greater experience we have that much more responsibility to give back to others in this wonderful community.
That's why today we have this website, and how I -- and Steven, too -- keep up the pace and maintain the enthusiasm. This work is energizing, compelling, and there is no end to the learning.