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Tales From Aster Gardens

Amanda Thomsen
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Every May, I decide that you’re too busy to ready a pithy column, so I try to shake it up and keep it light. I’ve made crosswords, Mad Libs, a quiz and more. I couldn’t think of anything (except just now I thought up a word jumble! But it can wait for next May), so I’m sending you some super-relatable conversations from the shop.

Customer: “Dear Amanda, you did a design for me two summers ago. I haven’t moved forward on any of it, but I did remove this yew (see photo) that you told me not to remove. Please give me a thing I can buy and plant in its place RIGHT NOW because that’s what I want. Don’t forget it’s rather shady there and I need something low-maintenance.”
Me: “The best thing for that space is a Taxus × media Densiformis. They’re very expensive in the size you need. And you just ripped yours out.”

Customer: “Do you have summer camp? My daughter would love it there.”
Me: “We are a shop, though.”

Me: “Aster Gardens!”
Her: “Yes, I’m just calling to see if you’re open because I Googled you and it said that you’re closed now and that you open at 11:00 a.m.”
Me: “Yes, it’s now 12:30 p.m. and we did open at 11:00 a.m.”
Her: “I Googled you this morning.”
Me: “Bet.”

Customer: “I bought a ricrac cactus here a month or so ago and I’m killing it. Can I bring it back here for you to nurse back to health and then I promise to do better?”
Me: “Totally. And it’s really cool that you’re asking for help before it’s too late! Can I ask, how often are you watering it?”
Customer: “I give it ice cubes a few times a week.”
Me: wretching
Customer’s friend: “Oh, Dolores, it’s a CACTUS. Don’t water it with ice cubes and water it, like, once a month.”
Me: stops wretching “She’s right you know.”

Rrrring rrrring
Us: “Aster Gardens.”
Customer: “I’d like to buy a Christmas tree—how much are they?”
Us: “Ma’am it’s January 6—we have five leftover trees and they are free.”
Her: “Well, I just can’t drop EVERYTHING and come in today! Can you put my name on one?”
Us: “I can assure you that’s not necessary.”
Us: “You got it, Carol.”

Customer: “Hello, I’m looking for a plant for my sunroom.”
Me: “Oh, fun! All our plants that enjoy a lot of sun are over here. So many really fun options for sunrooms!”
Her: “Let me show you a photo.”
Me: “Hmm, that’s not what I think of when I hear ‘sunroom.’ What direction does it face?”
Her:  “Northeast. I call it my sunroom because a single beam of light shines through a sliver of the blackout curtains over the one solitary window at 6:45 a.m.”

Customer: “Plant cleaning wipes. What are these for?”
Me: Really quietly waiting for her to figure it out because it’s not a puzzle.
… waiting
… waiting

Me: “They are for wiping your plants’ leaves.”
Her:  “Fake plants or real plants?”

Customer: “Do you have the kind of moss you can burn?”
Me:  “Wut.”
Him: “Like in Ireland? It smells so good.”
Me: “No, we do not sell Irish turf.”

Rrring rrrring!
Me: “Aster Gardens”
Her: “Do you have carnivorous plants?”
Me: “Definitely.”
Her: “You do! How many kinds?”
Me: “Uhhh … at least four.”
Her: “I’m not going to ask you to name them because the names mean nothing to me and I won’t remember them.”
Me: “You’re the smartest customer I’ve ever spoken with.”

My gynecologist: “So I bet you know the answer to this! I have this fern …”
Me: sighs in horticulturist

Remember to take time for yourself this season. Stay hydrated. And, hey, it’s a race ON TOP of a marathon times 12 plus garden hoses. You’re amazing and you’ll get through it! GP

Amanda Thomsen is a funky, punky garden writer and author now with her own store, Aster Gardens in Lemont, Illinois. Her blog is planted at and you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter AND Instagram @KissMyAster.

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