Frances Hopkins, creator of the STEPABLES plant line gives advice about how to maintain STEPABLE plants in the garden.

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Changing the Game

Changing the Game

Every so often you decide a change in the game is needed. Either you determine it is time to change the game you are personally vested in called your life, or you determine your business needs an attitude adjustment. Either way, sometimes it is the one solitary move that seals your fate and dominoes a change so radical that the ripple is colossal. Well that was me 15 years ago. With one fell swoop, I changed the direction of my life and my business and nothing has been the same since.

15 years ago I developed whole new concept in gardening and changed how people all over the world look at plants on the ground. STEPABLE plants have revolutionized gardening. 15 years ago you could not find a book that said you could walk on a plant. In fact, the top rated ground covers books declared that foot traffic was not even advisable, stating the plants would never be able to withstand the pressure. Well, we proved them wrong! In fact, we proved that our plants actually grow BETTER when you walk on them!! So 15 years later, thousands of articles have been written on the subject, tons of gardening books now use foot traffic as part of a plant’s description, and dozens of copy- cat companies have sprouted up to take on STEPABLES as rivals.

You might think this was one a one and done concept, but I wasn’t finished!

For years the common verbiage was to call everything growing at ground level ground cover. However; since the inception of STEPABLES, I have always insisted on calling our genre of plant material creeping perennials.

Why? Because not all ground covers are created equal!

There is a huge difference between a plant used for a pathway and a plant used for a hillside! You can step on a thyme all you want, but ever try to walk on a hen n’ chick? Ha! They become a squishy mess!

That is why we have spent the last 15 years honing our craft to bring you another exciting plant line.

We would like to introduce to you


Project Perfect All-Terrain Ground Covers

All-Terrains are our yin to our yang, our ebb to our flow, the salt to our pepper.

Other companies have copied our plant list to fool consumers into thinking they have the same product, but they truly have no idea what they are doing with this category of plants…besides selling them. However, when I started STEPABLES,  I had a vision.  I saw a need for application marketing. I saw a need to teach, not just to sell. It’s not just about getting someone to buy a plant, it’s about solving their landscaping problem with the RIGHT plant. We have these amazing green heroes that people can use to find solutions to their landscape woes. These are not just pretty plants, but something that solves their real-life landscaping issues. These plants are problem solving, ecologically sound choices for today’s landscape. They have qualities that may include taking on some foot traffic, but for many others, their uses reach far more than being able to trounce on them to get your mail.

So what’s the difference? Why does it matter?

Assorted All-Terrain Ground Covers

Assorted All-Terrain Ground Covers

Ground covers can include just about everything you can plant in a landscape. From junipers to hostas, to sedums and ferns. The list is endless. They can range in all shapes and sizes, colors and textures, but most importantly, they range in an abundant amount of growth habits.  Fast or slow, short or tall, you can pick a ground cover that will grow 12”, 24”, some even 36” in a year. I’d like to see a creeping thyme do that!! Creeping perennials are more diminutive in style. Not so with a general ground cover.


Ground Covers by their very name cover a lot of ground.

The big question is…What kind of ground do you need to cover?


Determining the purpose of your planting will be an enormous help in your mission to determine the right plant for you.

Hypericun calycinum ST Johnswort

Hypericun calycinum    St.Johnswort

Questions to ask:

  • Will you be planting a steep hill or a flat area?
  • Do you need to plant for drought tolerance or is the area always damp?
  • Is this a transitional area between you and your neighbor?
  • Will you need to create a walk-though area or a complete division of space?
  • Are you planting a simple pathway to your front door or a large patio area for your family to entertain?
  • Are you planting a dry culvert by the road or one that fills with water every winter?
  • Will you be planting a curbside hell-strip that you will hardly ever maintain or water, or will the area be used for your friends and family to enter your home?


    Thymus Psuedolanuginosus     Wooly Thyme

These are just a few of the questions one needs to ask to determine whether you need a creeping perennial or a ground cover.

Creeping perennials can do just about anything and be put just about everywhere…but ask them to grow 24” in a year, or get 24” high and that would be far past their limit.  Just as a general ground cover can grow that tall and that wide per year, they will not stay small in stature. You can’t make a plant shrink and you can’t make it grow faster than it is genetically programmed to do.


So you must know the difference between these two plant genres to be able to determine the right plant for your problem area. Neither side can accomplish all feats so you must educate yourself on the choices at hand to determine what the best plant option is for your particular landscape issue.

Being knowledgeable about what type of  plant you will need is critical.

Vinca minor Bowles Periwinkle

Vinca minor   Bowles Periwinkle

Understanding the differences between a creeping perennial like Corsican Mint and a general ground cover like Periwinkle is imperative. Corsican Mint will grow 1-2” inches high a year and spread 4-6” wide on average. Periwinkle can grow anywhere from 12- 18” high over a two year period, and spread 12-24” inches or more.

Mentha requienii Corsican Mint

Mentha requienii   Corsican Mint

Corsican Mint will take quite a bit of foot traffic and release a lovely fragrance, however, Periwinkle will not. The Periwinkle can take some foot traffic, but will not look pretty doing so. Water will run off Corsican Mint, but the Periwinkle will act as erosion control on a large hillside.

Basically, Corsican Mint is no match for a steep hill, but it is a perfect fit for a garden pathway, as it will not grow too high and can absorb the foot traffic. Periwinkle is perfect for a steep hill, but an absolutely horrible idea for a pathway plant.




Ground covers and creeping perennials are wonderful plants to use in your landscape. They are the living carpet to your outdoor rooms. Knowing the difference between the two plant genres and planting wisely will lead to years of satisfaction from your beautiful handiwork.

Breathtaking beauty with ground covers

Breathtaking beauty with ground covers

Are All –Terrain Ground Covers 

game changing


We think so.  We are pretty big fans of any plant material that makes our life easier, brings about a sense of harmony in the landscape and creates an environment rich in creature activity, low in chemicals and high on beauty. Combining STEPABLES and All-Terrain Ground Covers in your landscape will create the most perfect living carpet for your yard and turn any landscape into a Dreamscape!


Stay tuned for more blogs on ground covering plants, and a new section of our website developing over the winter months that will become an invaluable tool for your landscaping needs.

Now go get dirty out there!

~Fran White

President- Under A Foot Plant Company


What do I want to be when I grow up?

Over the past Christmas holiday, my son Mitchell came home from college with his new girlfriend Sarah (who is splendid by the way and I completely adore her). They are both music majors and way over worked with courses and practicing their craft. This got me thinking of career paths and how we choose them…or for some of us, how they choose us.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of being a baseball player. Yup…this little tomboy loved the game, loved the smell of the grass and loved diving after every fly ball that found its unfortunate way into my outfield. Every night I closed my eyes and pretended to be the most amazing left fielder ever. That happy place got me through many, many a lousy day.

As I grew older though, things changed. In high school my grandmother gave me the book All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot and that was that!

I instantly knew I wanted to work with animals, but not sure how, where or which animals.

So I started at the top I suppose…I decided to try my hand at training wild animals my first year in college. That is, until I got bit by a lion (no real damage-just a bruised stomach & ego).  That little exchange changed my mind pretty darn quick about that!

I immediately change my major to pre-vet and started working with large farm animals. However, they still were ten times larger than I was and shoving a thermometer up a horses you know what wasn’t exactly what the “major plan” in my head looked like. Definitely still not my deal.

Harrumph! I changed my direction once again, and moved into pre-vet small animals. This I liked. Got a great job at a veterinarian hospital as a vet tech, reworked my curriculum at school and was on my way…so I thought.

I really liked the whole concept of being a vet, but I was years away from wearing the white coat. And, as low tech on the totem pole, it was my job to euthanize the animals. I really hated that part. It was depressing and so not  in the major “Fran plan”.

Now, I was one of the fortunate souls who had to put themselves through college and desperately needed two jobs to pay for tuition and bills. I tried my hand at shipping-receiving/ forklift driver/ selling Princess House crystal door to door/selling vacuums door to door/delivering newspapers at 2AM—yes-door to door/working in a sewing factory and waitressing.

I finally got a job at Builder’s Emporium in the paint department, and shortly thereafter became an assistant garden center manager.

I had an amazingly cool boss and I really took a shine to horticulture. I juggled both jobs and school for quite some time until I got pneumonia and nearly landed myself in the hospital. Both employers had had enough of the “wonder woman” complex and made me choose one job or the other. The decision at the time was a no brainer.

At 21, I really had no clue how that one, single decision would completely shift my life forever.

Since you are reading this blog…I guess it would be apparent that I chose the garden center–mind you I am writing this next to my reef aquarium, with two dogs on my lap and the cat sitting on my shoulder! I will never stop being an animal lover, but plants really became a passion for me.  I literally did everything under the sun in horticulture to find my niche. It wasn’t until I got a job as an assistant grower that I found my happy place again. There is nothing like walking into a greenhouse that has just been freshly planted. There’s an earthy, barky smell that fills the air, mixed with a flowery bouquet of goodness.

All in all, I changed my major six times in college. I never did finish with a degree. My ex husband and I bought a little nursery and I had no time to go back. No regrets though…the school of hard knocks has given me more insight over the years than a college degree ever would have, so I am good with that.

However, watching Mitch and Sarah, and even now, watching my step son AJ (17) daughter Rachel (16) trying to decide on a future path of life…I wonder—-do any of us really have a clue where we will find our happy place?

So, am I what I wanted to be when I grew up? Hmmmm… I used to be of the mind that I would make my own future. I would be the driving force that would make my path. Funny thing is, no matter how determined you are, eventually you find out that you are never the person in control of your own destiny.

16 years ago, God threw me a major curve ball with my first back injury. I had no idea 16 years later I would have been through 5 back surgeries and have an implant in my back.  Could this have been avoided? Could it have been my stubbornness that pushed my body too far, or my passion for my work and play? Still not sure, but having a decrepit back was always in my cards…and in my genes. Nothing I could have done in my life would have mattered…be it a baseball player, veterinarian or horticulturalist…nothing would have changed my outcome. I just have bad bones.

Did this change what I wanted to do with my life? Yes, most definitely.  I can tell you that a year and a half later after my last surgery to implant this funky device in my back, I find myself 50 pounds lighter and a lot smarter about my “physical well being”.

I work out every day to stretch and keep my body strong. Sorry to say however, that diving for fly balls is not in my future anymore, nor is rollerblading in the park.

My goals and my dreams look a lot different now. I will always keep my body and my back in the best shape that I can. This is a top priority for me. I want to be able  to accomplish those small, everyday “feats of glory” that most people take for granted. Just being able to take a long walk with the man I love, or go for a long drive and still be able to get out of the car and function like a normal human being keeps me going day after day. Stupid stuff like that, because for about four years, those silly, easy to do things became impossible and highly unlikely to ever do again.

Everything in my life is a work in progress right now. I have no predetermined answers. I have no clear path of what my world will look like in 2013–provided we all make it past Dec 21!

What I do know is this: At the ripe old age of 46…I am feeling pretty good about where I sit. 2012 will mark my 25th spring in the nursery business. Holy Cow! I can’t believe I have been at this that long!!!

Still, there are so many things I want to do with my life.

I would like to teach. I want to learn how to play the saxophone. I have always wanted to be a chef (which is what I am working on now in my spare time now) and I have always wanted to write a book.  I also want to be the most kick ass grandma ever and be able to teach my grandkids how to throw a baseball, and how to make a kitty burrito when they need to pill their cat.

There are so many things I want to do when I grow up. I have never been tied down to any one thing…my inner Gemini just wouldn’t have it any other way. The possibilities are endless. What could tomorrow bring? I’ll let ya know!

Until then,

Go get dirty out there!