All I wanted to do was garden

If you’re familiar with High Hand Nursery, then you know we are always changing. We are continually trying to come up with new ideas that can change your perception of the nursery. Kind of like, “Hmmm, there’s something different about you, but I really can’t put my finger on it.”

Has your husband or wife or significant other shaved off their beard or mustache, shaved their head, changed their hair color or whacked off their pony tail lately? And left you standing there thinking, “Hmmm, what’s different about you?”. Isn’t it funny how this works?

Relationship Tip Number 1. If you’ve found yourself in this situation wondering what was different, but can’t figure it out, refer to Relationship Tip Number 2.

Relationship Tip Number 2. Just throw out the “You look great” compliment.

I took my hat off one day and my kids started laughing at me. They said my forehead looked like a porpoise. Not the compliment I was going for. But as my son saw my smile disappearing from my face, he remembered Relationship Number 2. “You look great, dad.”

As the days count down to October 24th, the Vintage Harvest is right around the corner. You can imagine the work that goes into keeping our garden growing.

Two days ago, I decided that I was going to walk Maple Rock. I had set out to garden. In my head, I was going to cut back the dahlias, plant some pansies, pinch back a few succulents and deadhead some roses. All I wanted to do was garden. When I came upon this.

At first glance, you may not see anything wrong with this picture. The grass is showing an autumn leaf and the “rubber ducky” is sitting in the pond (can you see the duck?). As I approached this scene, something bothered me about it. That blue spruce is the wrong tree in the wrong spot.

Did any of you watch the movie “Up”? Do you remember the dog? Do you remember that no matter what he was doing or saying, whenever he saw a squirrel everything stopped as he yelled out “SQUIRREL!”. Well, this tree was my squirrel that evening.
So I went to work.

All I wanted to do was garden.

Now, let me give you a moment to collect yourself. That’s right. I chopped the top off this tree. My son, remembering Relationship Tip Number 2, simply said, “Looks great, dad. Good job.”

You see, I only had two choices. If I’d left the tree in, it’s eventual size would have been 10-15 feet by 6 to 8 feet wide. It would have grown to impede the plants around it, covered up my water feature and hidden my rubber ducky. We can’t have that now, can we?

This is where it’s gut check time. Do you take it out or do you look beyond what is to what can be? Normally, I would not advise you to cut as big as I did. I’ve just been doing it for a long time. I continued to cut and thin and prune, cutting small and then cutting big. Walking in circles, reexamining the direction I was going and changing course if necessary.

And, voila! After about forty five minutes of whacking, hacking, nipping and tucking, my creation was finished. A tree that had been growing for the last ten or so years was not sacrificed. It may not look like much at first glance. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I understand that. But I’m not looking at the tree as it stands today. Knowing what I know after thirty years of gardening, I’m actually proud of my work. I am enthusiastically looking forward to the next two seasons of nipping and tucking. I am looking forward to hearing people say, “I wonder how long that took to grow?”

Gardening is not hard and neither is 8th grade math, but when I sat at the bus stop as a first grader and opened up an 8th grader’s math book, I thought to myself, “There’s no chance that I can ever do 8th grade math.”

So, if you’re in your garden and you see something you don’t know about and you don’t know what to do, look beyond what is to what can be.

If you’re a non-gardener, you need to come to Maple Rock. It will inspire you. If you are a gardener, we will see you at Maple Rock.

Vintage antique dealers from across the state will be arriving to help celebrate the harvest season. Come and enjoy a great day in the garden. Great barbecue sandwiches and salads will be available. Live music and my squirrel, Mr. Spruce. Tickets are available at High Hand Nursery and online at Tickets will also be available at the gate.

Directions to Maple Rock Gardens can be found on the High Hand website. Do not GPS the location of Maple Rock. You’ll end up somewhere else. Maple Rock is located at the corner of Highway 193 and Clark Tunnel Road, Lincoln. Seriously, trust me. Do not GPS the location.

If you’re not a Garden Rebel, don’t fret. We all have to start somewhere. My advice to you is very simple. Don’t be afraid to fail. Gardening is something you get better with over time.

– You can garden in any space. You don’t need a huge yard.
– Stick with the seasons. Use High Hand Nursery. We are local. We will help you navigate the seasons. If you garden against the season, it’s like swimming upstream. It won’t work.
– Soil is king. You can’t just stick it into the ground, unless it’s a silk flower.
– Involve your family. Gardening is a great time to spend time together.
– Above all, have fun. Don’t take on more than you can easily manage.
– Jump in and enjoy your time outdoors.

High Hand Nursery has over 300 accumulated years of nursery and garden experience working here. High Hand Nursery is a place of passion and we who work here are extremely passionate about what we do. We want you to be just as passionate.

Sign up for our Garden Rebel email list. It can be found at our This email, sent out every Thursday, outlines tips and tricks and seasonal advice for your garden. Join the Garden Rebel email list and we will navigate the seasons for you.

We have been receiving fun entries for our contest. Don’t have a camera? No problem. Sketch it. We received a sketch of Grandpa Ben and his grandson in the garden. Very cool.

So, here’s the contest. Send us a picture of you working in your garden. You have until October 31st. We will select a winner. The winner will receive a gift certificate for $100 and a personal consultation in your garden. We will bring tips and tricks to your home.

We’re looking for real Garden Rebels. Go to and register for our Garden Rebel email.

Come and experience our passion for gardening at Maple Rock this Saturday. See if you can find my “SQUIRREL” in the garden. Keep doing a rain dance. It works.


Change is inevitable

Change comes in many ways. When I was younger, I didn’t quite understand change. It was a huge shock to my system when my brother (caution, spoiler alert) told me that Santa Claus wasn’t real. My world had just turned upside down. My mother tried to smooth it over by telling me that Christmas was about the spirit of giving. Nope. Christmas was about Lincoln Logs, Playdo and Legos. But I had already been tipped off to the fact that Santa Claus isn’t real. As I was browsing through the family albums I thought it was odd that at about age 4 there were no longer any pictures of me sitting on Santa’s lap. Odd, I thought. And, then when my brother lovingly told me the truth, my suspicions were confirmed.

Today, as I am much older, decades past, and in the retail business of High Hand Nursery, I have watched Christmas encroach in our lives from the retail front. As I walked through a local big box store, perusing the plant selection as I always do, I had to stop and laugh at the sight of a Grim Reaper statue standing next to Santa Claus. I have fought for years internally not to roll out Christmas before Halloween or Thanksgiving, for that matter. But, with the change of the season comes change at High Hand.

So, I wanted to send an email out to all of you to explain the changes we are implementing this year as well as next. So, here it goes.

I sat at lunch today with my assistant of eight years, Janie. We talked about where we were at when she first started, how old my kids were and how sometimes change is orchestrated and change comes from places you never thought it would. It was a time to reflect, laugh and, for me, tear up a bit. You see, today was her last day. For those of you that didn’t know Janie worked here, she was not only the administrative backbone of our entire company, the nursery and the cafe and the landscape company, but she was my assistant. She was the first person to answer the phone when you called to schedule an appointment for a landscape estimate or to simply seek out information about High Hand. She ran my schedule, kept me current, and, occasionally, ran bird dog for me when I was behind on my work. She set all my travel plans and assisted and accomplished anything I would ask. She was a very trusted member of our company and my family. She was grace under fire and always had a smile in her voice. Janie, you will always be a member of the High Hand family. I can’t thank you enough for helping me grow the business and for keeping me in check as a person. Janie, I wish you nothing but the best. As we said our final goodbyes, all I can say is that I’m jealous and envious. I want to retire, but my work here is not done. There’s more to build and more to grow. I am very happy for you and your family. Please keep in touch.

We welcome Nichole (the new Janie). Good luck, Nichole. I can be a handful.

In the nursery business, change is inevitable. The seasons dictate what we do. The drought dictates what we do. We have decided this year not to have our tree lighting ceremony. We have also decided not to be open for dinner during the holiday season. I want to explain why. It has nothing to do with anything other than family. The staff at High Hand Nursery and Cafe have been selflessly setting up for the holidays every year and serving families throughout the holiday season, foregoing activities with our own families. You can say we’ve been like a runner in the starting blocks for the last 10-12 years, waiting for the gun to go off to start the race for the holiday season. We will still decorate the cafe, of course, but for all of us at High Hand who have worked here for years, I have decided that we are going to take ourselves out of the starting block this year and simply be with family and rest. By being able to step back, it will give us a new perspective that I think will be a game changer for us and a new experience for you.

Are you ready for more change? We are contemplating not opening Maple Rock next year to the public. Again, not for any reason other than we might take a pause to allow a new perspective to drift in front of us. We are making changes at Maple Rock (top secret) and it might take me a year to do. If we do have an event next year, it will most likely be an early spring and a late fall, while we spend the summer in between quietly farming and growing vegetables for the cafe. I tell you this not because it’s pertinent to your landscaping or new information about the drought, but there are over 5,000 people who open this email and I just thought you would like to know. We are excited and completely engaged and jazzed about the upcoming season.

Are you sad about Maple Rock? Don’t be.

Join us for a great day with vintage antique dealers from across the state, great food from High Hand Cafe and live music. Walk the garden and enjoy as it transitions to Fall. Tickets are available at High Hand Nursery and online at Directions to Maple Rock Gardens can be found on the High Hand website. Do not GPS the location of Maple Rock. You’ll end up somewhere else. Maple Rock is located at the corner of Highway 193 and Clark Tunnel Road, Lincoln. Trust me.

As Fall continues one of the big questions in everybody’s mind is when will it rain. We’ve heard about El Nino. The experts say it’s the most intense ever. When will it rain? Well, I have the answer. November. It will rain in November. My NASA friend said so. My builder friend said so. My banker friend, who lends money to the builders, says so. And my instincts say so. November. Put that on your calendar.

One of my fears about this winter is that I don’t think we’re done losing trees. Over the thirty plus years I’ve been a landscape contractor, I’ve cut down many trees. Sadly, these trees had been growing for a lifetime, but were doomed from the beginning because they were the wrong tree planted in the wrong space. Now, I’m not particularly emotional about cutting a tree down, but when you cut a tree down that cannot be replaced in your lifetime, then it drives home the fact that picking the right tree and planting it in the right spot is paramount. Having to cut down a tree when the wrong tree is chosen can be a life changer.

I think at this point in Tiger’s head is that somebody planted the wrong tree in the wrong spot. I think Tiger would agree at this point the only good tree as far as he is concerned is on the woodpile.

Sign up for our Garden Rebel email list. It can be found at our This email, sent out every Thursday, will talk in great detail, I mean really big detail, I mean in such great detail that I could not put it in this email, how to pick out the right shade tree. The Garden Rebel will go into great detail on the art of tree picking, not to be mixed up with cow tipping. The Garden Rebel email on picking the right tree will be posted on our Facebook page. Get caught up on past emails as well.

There is still time to join our contest. Contest, you say. Send us a picture of you working in your garden. If your clothes are perfectly matched to your surroundings, your hair perfectly styled or combed (gentlemen), you might be our friend here, a Garden Rebel.

We’re looking for real Garden Rebels. Go to and register for our Garden Rebel email.

So, here’s the contest. Send us a picture of you working in your garden. You have until October 31st. We will select a winner. The winner will receive a gift certificate for $100 and a personal consultation in your garden. We will bring tips and tricks to your home.

I hope to see you at Maple Rock, October 24th. They say El Nino is going to CHANGE everything. Do a rain dance.


Rhubarb isn’t my thing!

I have spent the entire last two years obsessing about a few things. If you are a Garden Rebel, a.k.a. a plant freak like me, we probably have the same obsession.

On the retail nursery side, I have been cool, calm and collected, positive and upbeat. The language of my emails has been tailored to do the same thing for you. Take it easy. Be calm. Be patient. It’ll all work out. We have been giving you tricks and tips to navigate the drought and ideas to help recalibrate your approach to gardening. We’ve even changed the way we grow plants. We’ve changed our soil mix and, yes, the varieties.

On the personal side, my garden, Maple Rock, well that has been a little bit more of an emotional rollercoaster. While I will never let you see me freak out in public, I would be lying through my teeth if I were to tell you that everything in my garden has been a smoooooth ride. I have thrown things, been angry and even cried. In short, just as frustrated about my garden as you have been about yours at times. But, here we are, October. If your wall calendar is like mine, it probably has a picture of beautiful fall color and below it a boat on a river and an old deck with two bright red Adirondack chairs. Okay, maybe your calendar doesn’t have two red Adirondack chairs sitting by a river.

See, two red Adirondack chairs on a deck by a river with a boat. I think this symbolizes the end of the road. No, that’s depressing. I think this symbolizes we’ve made it to the end of the road and the boat is the only way out. Who knows? Who cares? But here we are.

So, by now I’m sure you’re wondering why rhubarb isn’t for me. On the nursery side of me, October represents the time when we get back into the starting blocks and start sprinting towards Spring. The gardener’s side of me says that October is the time to clean up your summer vegetable and flower gardens, start shredding the fallen leaves into your compost pile, plant daffodil bulbs, trim spent flowers from roses, plant radishes and all of your basic root crops, fertilize established lawns and reseed bare spots and get your rhubarb planted. That’s where the fingernail chalkboard sound rips through my spinal column.

Remember in English, “i” before “e” except after “c”? It was a rule. And in gardening if you are a Garden Rebel you live by nature’s rule. Here are some of Scott’s rules. Or you can call them drought rules. I’m going to hold off planting root crops until the first rain soaks the soil. I’m not going to fertilize my lawn or plants for that matter. I just don’t think they need a reason to grow right now when I’ve been asking them all summer long just to survive. I’m going to keep my water regimen up that I’ve been successful with, being acutely aware of the declining temperature and increased moisture or increased rains. And I will not be planting rhubarb.

Our cool nights will prevent evaporation and while I want to cut back my water, I’m going to hold on for a little longer. The trees are busy transferring sugar, i.e., sap from their leaves. This anti-freeze, if you will, will protect them from the cold. And millions of little holes where the leaves fell from the tree will close themselves up, trapping nature’s anti-freeze.

Still confused about why rhubarb isn’t my thing? First of all, I don’t like the name. It is less than appetizing. You generally cook it with sugar to make it taste good and it really wasn’t considered a fruit until a court decided in 1947 to change it from a vegetable to a fruit. It all comes down to money. They changed it to a fruit to reduce the tariffs. It’s as if someone found a tough plant that really didn’t taste good so they added sugar and changed it’s name from a vegetable to a fruit. All of a sudden, it’s appealing.

Do you think if they invented a red kiwi that kiwis would gain in popularity?

So, based on this, rhubarb ain’t my thing. I just used it to get you to open up my email. It’s the only useful thing I’ve ever been able to come up with to date. Sorry rhubarb fans.

In the news at High Hand, this weekend check out the flyer below.

The flyer says it all. Tickets are on sale at So join us October 9th, 6-9 for our Fall kick-off party. Art, music, wine, cheese and more art. And the pottery of Gladding, McBean. If you can’t make it this evening, the art gallery exhibits will be up for several weeks.

The last event at Maple Rock Gardens will be held Saturday, October 24th.

We have invited over 30 antique pickers from around the area to join us. Tour the garden, enjoy the views and live music. We will be serving lunch. Join us one last time under the apple trees as we march towards Winter. Tickets are available at High Hand Nursery and online Directions to Maple Rock Gardens can be found on the High Hand website.

Look at this happy lady.

She is remarkably clean for being a gardener, isn’t she? With her little painted fingernails. We’ve made her the face of our Garden Rebel email, which is an email sent out on Thursdays. This email talks less about the general happenings of High Hand and Maple Rock and more about getting down and dirty in your garden. But, for some reason, at this moment in time I’ve decided to pick on this lady. Who gardens with three layers of clothing on? Painted nails, perfect hair and she is perfectly color coordinated with her surroundings.

We’re looking for real Garden Rebels. Go to and register for our Garden Rebel email.

So, here’s a contest. We just thought this up. Send us a picture of you working in your garden. You have until October 31st. We will select a winner. The winner will receive a gift certificate for $100 and a personal consultation in your garden. We will bring tips and tricks to your home.

In celebration of making it to the October page in your calendar, mention the phrase “rhubarb ain’t my thing” and receive 20% off your tree and shrub purchases this weekend, October 10 and 11th at High Hand Nursery.

You did it. You made it. We made it. Rain is coming. See you at High Hand Nursery.


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