My garden has expanded.  It has gone beyond my 1/4 acre cottage garden to a 4 acre container garden.  Within it there are many different kinds of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and in all different sizes.  However, there is one difference between these two gardens; The small cottage garden is for me to enjoy and the large container garden is for others to take home to enjoy in their gardens.

What I like to call my container garden is also known as a plant nursery.  Although, this is a very special plant nursery unlike any other.  Six months ago I began working at this special place as the nursery manager.  Also six months ago, my life went in a different direction.  A direction that I did not see coming.  In fact, I am still in awe of how everything transpired and still astonished that this amazing opportunity presented itself to me.

Around 3 1/2 years ago I was laid off from a job that I did not particularly like, but was too scared to leave and lose the security it provided.  Losing my job devastated me at the time because I was afraid that my career was over.  I had no idea what to do next that didn’t involve a great deal of risk.  However, this event set into motion a path bringing me back to what I loved most about horticulture.

For some time I had been thinking about starting a business where I would offer garden counseling to those that wanted to create their own gardens, but didn’t know how.  I also wanted to grow all of my favorite plants organically in a greenhouse at my home to sell at a local farmer’s market and festivals.

A little over a month after being laid off I did just that.  Being the owner of Darlene’s Garden was a wonderful experience.  It brought me back to the elements of horticulture that I wanted to be involved in.  I was able to speak my real opinion about plants, design, and help people who greatly appreciated my advice.

Many of my clients are now my friends.  I was not expecting people to see something in me that I didn’t.  What they saw was my passion for what I do.  It was like they knew something about my future that I did not.  They saw bigger things for me.  Being invited into their homes and having long talks at their kitchen tables was one of my favorite things about my business.  Those relationships gave me the support and confidence when I felt like I was going nowhere.

As with any independent business owner there will be tough times.  In my blog post, A Dream in the Making, I was beginning to have real fears about where my future was going, but I still had hopes that I could make it work.  By July 2013 I had accepted that I needed to start working towards something different, which I wrote about in my post, A Welcome Change.  Not long after that I was offered to teach for a semester at a local community college.  However, I dreaded the end of the semester because my future was uncertain.

At this point I was very scared what would happen next.  I knew I was going to have to seek employment.  The same thoughts would wander through my mind: “Would I have to work somewhere that did not fulfill me? Had I come this far all for nothing?”  I asked people I know in the industry if they knew of a place that might be a good fit for me.  I was sent to one place that offered me a job, but I could not see myself there.  I thought I was crazy to turn down financial security when money was so tight. I looked through the job openings online.  I went to an interview and for the first time ever I didn’t get a call back.  I think even he could see that the job was not for me.

I was offered to teach again, but the courses were not subjects that interested me.  Then one day I received a call from a fellow horticulture professional asking me if I could speak at a local garden club meeting.  The person who had originally agreed was getting ready to start a new job and was not available to attend.  She was leaving her job as manager of a nursery that works with individuals with developmentally disabilities.  I said I would be happy to speak at the club meeting and as soon as I hung up I checked their website to see if they were still hiring for the position.  Sure enough, it was still listed.  Immediately that day I sent them my resume.

I remember it was a cold winter evening.  My husband and I decided to have a fire in our back yard that night.  For the first time in a long time I actually hoped that I would get the job I had applied for earlier in the morning.  I felt like this could actually be a step forward in my career.  Very early on during college I had stumbled upon the concept of horticultural therapy.  It was what I wanted most to do in my horticulture career.  I often told people I was planning on building gardens at retirement homes someday.

Another interesting element to this story is that around this time I was making plans to volunteer in a elementary school garden and a greenhouse at a school for children with developmentally disabilities.  I knew that if I intended to pay my bills I would have to get a job and it might not be something I like, so I wanted to be sure I still was able to contribute to what I believed in.  The day I took a tour at the school for developmentally disabled children was a day I will never forget.  I knew that I wanted to be a part of these amazing individuals lives.  It was like the outside world and all its drama had no place there.  I had already applied for the job at the nursery, so I now wanted it ever more.  However, I had been told that someone else had accepted the position and was going through background checks.  If something fell through they would contact me.

I figured the job was lost to me, but I didn’t scold myself for having hope even though it didn’t work out.  Optimism had not always been one of my strong suits.  My last resort was to work part time at a box store garden center and do my business on the side.  It would also give me an opportunity to still volunteer since I would have the time.  I applied, interviewed, and got the job.  The first time I walked in I gulped.  I did not want to do this, but I was willing to do whatever it took to get by and still be involved in the plant business.

During this time I prayed a whole lot.  I was praying for faith that everything happens for a reason.  I still told myself that I was grateful.  It doesn’t matter where you work, it’s what you make of it.  The day before my first day I took a yoga class to calm my nerves.  By the end of class I was sobbing because I was dreading the direction my career was going.  I kept saying I was perfectly okay, but inside I was unhappy.

My first days of training I felt numb.  Everything seemed like an out of body experience.  Then one evening I signed into my Facebook account and there was a message from a friend that said, “I know you started working at             , but I saw this online and thought of you.”  It was a link to the listing of the manager position at the plant nursery that works with developmentally disabled individuals.  I couldn’t believe what I saw.  I made a phone call.  I gave the interview of my life.  For the first time I did not have to put aside any of my values to fit the job I was seeking.  I waited to hear back.  I had originally claimed that I was going to be cool about it and not tell anyone in fear of jinxing my chances, however, I told every single person I knew how excited I was about the job.  Then a few days later, I was told that the position was being offered to me.  I said yes.

So, here I am literally living a dream that I rarely told anyone about, but somehow it found me.  The people I work with are more than just employees…they are my family.  They are some of the most incredible individuals I have ever had the pleasure to spend time with.  My days are full.  I feel as though all of the experiences I gained throughout my career have been preparing me for being the manager of this nursery.  I am fulfilled and I am very happy.

It has been a huge transition, hence why I have not posted in 6 months.  My husband has been right by my side the entire time.  In the post, A Dream in the Making, I mentioned that I was on a path trying to catch up to my dreams.  I finally did catch up and we’re walking side by side.  Only now the path has widened and my stride has slowed down to a stroll because there is so much to see along the way.  For some this may seem like the end of their journey.  They got to where they wanted to go.  How many can say that?  Although, my journey is far from over, for there is still so much to experience along this path of mine.  But for now, I can take a break from wondering what is up ahead.  I’m too busy enjoying all that I see around me.