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Garden Spotlight: Whitney Hawkins of Peonies & Peppers

I couldn't be more excited to feature Whitney Hawkins of Peonies and Peppers for this week's Garden Spotlight Interview. Whitney's garden in High Point, North Carolina is a dream and I myself have learned so much from her gardening tips. Whether it be growing flowers to tomatoes, she has so much knowledge to offer. Whitney and her husband even made a free flower stand to give away extra plants, flowers and veggies. Keep reading to find about more about Whitney and how her love of gardening has flourished over the years.

1. Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started in the garden? What zone are you in?

I'm the Creative Director for Simplified and mama to two little ones. My husband and I built a garden not long after buying our first home, but I didn't really fall in love with it until after my son was born. I was diagnosed with postpartum anxiety/depression in the months following his arrival in June and was really struggling to keep my head above water. Then one day in January, I got a seed catalog in the mail and it was like something clicked. I suddenly had something I was excited about doing again! As the months passed, planning and working in my garden became my therapy, and my very favorite creative outlet.

I am in zone 7b (central NC) and with our relatively mild weather we can grow almost anything. Every year gardening feels like a fresh start with almost endless possibilities!

2. You're creative director for simplified planner, so we know you're a planner. How do you plan out your garden and what/where to plant?

Throughout the year I save varieties of veggies and flowers I see and love on Instagram to collections (that little ribbon icon). When December rolls around I make a big list of the plants I liked during the year, and then get to work determining what's realistic to add to our space. With that list in hand, I get to work plotting out the garden! I use Adobe Illustrator and draw out (to scale) the garden dimensions, and then add in plants based on their ideal spacing. Planning like this helps me maximize every square inch!

3. What is your favorite thing to grow? Why? What is something you'd never grow again?

Favorite: Ranunculus! I start them in the fall and I love having a garden project to work on through the winter, and then a sea of color in early spring.

Least favorite: Hmmm this is a tough one! Maybe Opal basil. I love the purple color but not the flavor, and just discovered that purple italian basil exists - so I can have classic basil flavor with pretty purple leaves!

4. Tell us about how you started your flower cart. What piece of advice do you have for planting flowers, what's the easiest one to start with?

It all started with just way too many flowers! Many annual flowers benefit from being cut all summer, so one day after going through and cutting I thought how fun it would be to give them away to my neighbors. I flipped over a crate we had (to use as a table), filled some old Starbucks cups with blooms/water, and put them by the street. The flowers were gone in less than half an hour! I had more flowers than that little crate could hold so the next year my husband built me an actual table to hold mason jars for the flowers.

I think if you want to grow flowers that are super prolific for sharing, I'd start with zinnias. They come in a whole rainbow of colors and are super fast growers!

5. What is your favorite tool in the garden? Where are your favorite places to buy seeds and bulbs from?

LOVE my pocket snips from Gardeners, they're my go-to all summer long. I love buying specialty colored seeds from Floret Flower, and buy most everything else from Johnny's Seeds, Park Seed Co, and Baker Creek.


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