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


So I have been thinking a lot about my life lately. Lots of new beginnings, lots of ends to things as well. I have said goodbye to a lot of relationships that needed to end and hello to many that have been chomping at the bit to start. Passing of time is relevant, don’t you think? It’s always the view from 30,000 feet that makes you scratch your head and say…what was I thinking??!!  butch-cassidy-and-the-sundance-kid Staying in one place has never been good for me. I am quite fond of the clip from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ( had a Sundance poster on my closet door forever as a teen!) when the old guy in Bolivia is thinking of hiring Sundance and wants him to shoot at the target…of course, he can’t hit a thing. Guy thinks he’s bad. So Sundance asks if he can move…before the old guy can say anything, Sundance swings around, pulls the gun out the holster and hits the tin can dead on…then says “I do better when I move”.
Well…that’s me. I do better when I move. I am as sharp as they come and can outmaneuver most, but I need to be able to move: physically and mentally. Get me in quick sand, or bureaucratic red tape and I am a goner! For the past seventeen years I have been stuck with this bad back…and the last three had seen me house bound. Now I finally seem to be on the right path again. My path. I spent the summer traveling to promote our new programs. First time in years on an airplane…that part still kills my back, but seeing the world again was lovely. Being with my guy through most of my journeys was wonderful and even included a proposal in which I happily said yes!! craig-and-ism Now this is where time is relevant. Craig and I were at a trade show on Navy Pier this last August in Chicago, when I happened to look up and see a couple that I had been friends with years ago, but had lost touch. Chris and Lynnette Shonnard own a wonderful garden center that I used to call on in Philomath Oregon. We spent the next 5 hours catching up at Margaritaville (which included a conga line……don’t ask), which led to an offer to stay at their condo in St. Thomas in January. We were thrilled and happily accepted the offer. This then apparently motivated Craig to ask me to marry him during the seventh inning stretch at a Cubs game a few nights later. Again, yes was easy to say. Fast forward to the holiday’s being over and preparing for our trip, when we ridiculously contemplated that we could pull off a little wedding in two weeks! Again, the answer was a resounding, yet slightly nervous yes.
Here is what I am trying to say… Don’t worry about a thing, every little thing is gonna be alright. every-little-thingSay yes, and see what happens. Change happens when we are at the end of our comfort zone. If I had never said yes to this crazy surgery that put this neuro-stimulator in my back, I would have never been able to take a trip to Chicago, to meet up with my old friends, which in turn was a chance meeting that changed Craig’s and my life forever.
Being open to change is scary.  I know, because on St. Thomas, I had to face my greatest fear in life. The ocean. It’s funny, ever since I was a kid, I have been terrified in water. This is so ridiculous, since I grew up a beach girl in Southern California and even have a salt water aquarium. A few bad haunts early in life really made it impossible for me to enjoy one of my greatest loves. This fear has made me hyper-nervous to be in a boat, or to go into a pool, or even step foot in the ocean. It has always been a love-hate relationship with the ocean. There is no place on earth I would rather be than on the beach with the sand between my toes…but Lord help me if you asked me to go in the water. Even when the water was so smooth and so clear you could see forever in it. st-john-sm
So here I find myself, getting married on a boat, planning a deep sea fishing trip and a snorkeling trip…all of which I am pretty terrified to do! But again, the mantra of the trip was to let go and go with the flow. Don’t worry, bout a thing, cause every little thing gonna be alright. cf2                                                  Besides…saying yes to Craig on a sail boat, at sunset in the Virgin Islands was more romantic than any girl could ask for; so I needed to overcome my fear.

As I look back on our trip to St. Thomas, the man above was working his magic long before Chicago; long before my implant, long before I met Craig, and long before I ever met Chris and Lynnette. So for whatever reason, it was my good fortune to have looked up that fateful day to see Chris towering over the crowd ordering a drink. How funny that in one particular single moment, a fleeting second really, my life was changed forever.
When you open yourself up to change, the world is at your finger tips. Anything is possible. I have learned that, and am repeatedly reminded to move, to say yes, to be open-minded and let things flow they way the universe wants them to flow. When you do that…let go of control, everything is gonna be alright.

I handled our wedding sailing trip easy–peasy. It was a night to remember and what fun we had!four-sm


The deep sea fishing trip was awesome and I suspect there will be a boat somewhere in our near future, I’m hooked!!  

Now, the snorkeling was a whole different story. Craig knew I was nervous, but had no idea how bad this was for me. I was a rock during the flood, never batted an eye during all of my surgeries; but petrified doesn’t even come close to what I was feeling in 4 feet of water. I couldn’t breathe. I barely could handle the fins, much less the mask and snorkel. We were in the shallow water forever just trying to get me to calm down. I have never hyper-ventilated before, but I now know what that’s like. Holy cow what I was putting my groom through!! But ya know…I married the right man, no doubt about it. Craig never let go of me. He stayed calm through ever cuss word and freak out moment I had. He helped me breathe and would have happily taken me back to shore…but finally said “As long as I’ve known you, you have wanted to swim with the fishies…you’ve come all of this way to do that. We can go back to shore if you want, but I’ve got you, so don’t worry…let’s just swim a little bit and see what happens.” And as terrified as I was, I clenched even tighter to his hand and took the biggest breathe I have ever taken in my whole life. I said a little prayer, and let my feet go behind me and floated to the top to start swimming. In a few minutes I was way out in the ocean and had never realized he had let go and I was swimming on my own!!! He told me later he had to laugh, because I was going so fast, he couldn’t keep up with me! The best moment I had on the entire trip was when he snuck his hand gently into mine over an entire wave of sea fans and we swam together. What a moment of sheer bliss. Swimming with the fishies, with my new husband was the coolest thing I have ever done.

               I am so glad I said yes…to so many things last week.


Craig and Frances White


I’ve climbed the Sydney Bridge to get over my fear of heights. I have swam with the fishies in the Virgin Islands to get over my fear of the ocean. I have had surgeon’s put some bizarre implant in my back to give me every opportunity to live my life to the fullest.
Give me any opportunity to say yes to change…to move in any direction the universe calls me in. To trust that the world is bigger than I am and that I can take that energy, channel it into strength and overcome anything. I can do it now. I know I can.

 Every little thing is gonna be alright.

Now go get dirty out there!!

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!