Small but mighty.

At her tallest, my mother stood a very proud 5 feet, 1 inch tall – on her tiptoes – and especially during her waning years, she appeared to be someone who could be blown over with a sneeze. (Her sneeze, by the way, was so powerful that we relied on hearing it as a sort of echolocation trick when we lost her in a crowd, which was not uncommon, considering her stature and her affinity for talking with every single stranger she ever encountered.) But tiny as she was, she was raised to be a Viking (as she raised her children), and very little could shake that woman. Her physical, spiritual and psychic strength were legendary, and we – her family as well as her friends – came to refer to her as “Peg, the small but mighty.”

So I have a rather fond appreciation of small creatures and things that make a big impression. With gardening spaces trending toward the urban scene and available acreage shrinking, we’re looking for outstanding plants that fill in vertically – or make smaller footprints. Check out the selection of small grasses beginning on page 8, and you’ll see some impressive plants that pack a wallop in the landscape, without overwhelming the space or their garden companions.

Can’t complain.

A swift moving, violent storm hit my suburb recently, and once the wind subsided I walked out back to assess the damage. A major limb on my Siberian elm had snapped (no surprise there), but the damage appeared to be minimal and no structures or people were affected. It took a couple of days for the tree company to arrive – trees, houses and vehicles just a minute’s walk north of my back door had been devastated – and when they did, it looked like an easy job. Five limbs later, their work was done, but not before I watched the arborist, held high in his bucket, very carefully inspect a nest. He checked from all angles, then determined that it had been abandoned – and consulted with me – before he sheared the limb.

Thank you.

It’s the people.

For several years it was my privilege to present to the (former) ANLA board of governors the annual Necrology Report. Yes, you read that right. Throughout the year I would gather the obituaries of those industry members who had passed, and for a few brief moments on a summer morning, we held a quiet reflection of people we’d known and people we’ll miss. Each and every time, I was approached by someone who’d say, “We talk about the plants, but this industry is really all about the people.”

Tom Ranney, whose work is profiled in this issue, has a fascinating job and has contributed to this industry so much critical research – and so many successful plant introductions – but he’ll tell you, it’s all about the people he works with.

A few moments of Zen.

Now that I’ve said that this industry is really about the people, let me say that we’re also all about beauty. Physical beauty, natural beauty, the beauty inherent in the responsible stewardship of a precious environment. Once you’ve read Tom’s story, please visit his flickr page at His photos will take your breath away.