Peggy Hill is a garden consultant, writer, speaker and plant ho. She blogs about her garden shenanigans at Peggy is also working to preserve 435 acres and 25,000 feet of magnificent shoreline on Smith Lake in North Alabama as part of the Forever Wild Land Trust. For more information and to register your support, visit


I’m a Writer, Speaker and Plant Ho
by Peggy Hill - posted 09/08/13

Hi, my name is Peggy Hill. I’m a writer, speaker and plant ho. And if you’re unfamiliar with the term plant ho, I have a quick question for you. When you visit your friend’s garden and see a spectacular plant, do you coyly suggest that it looks a bit crowded, and you would be glad to help divide it? Well then you might be a plant ho too. But I’ve taken it to a whole new level. Let me explain.

I credit Jean McWeeney, who worked at State by State Gardening, for giving me mad-crazy plant ho abilities. I’m not sure she realizes the Pandora’s Box she opened when she suggested I attend the 2011 Garden Writer’s Convention. It was awesome! I walked through the exhibit hall and people gave me little bags of free plants. And not just any plants. If you are a grower or promoter, you are giving your best stuff to 500 garden writers from across the country. When the convention ended, the writers pleaded and begged for the larger display shrubs. I was caught up in the frenzy, “Just give me that shrub. I know I don’t have any more hands. I’ll clench it in my teeth if I have to.” Then I dashed up the stairs to drop my load and came back for more. Here’s my haul.

Free Plants

It included some fabulous plants like this pretty Echinacea ‘Southern Belle’, which I used in several flower arrangements last fall.

Echinacea 'Southern Belle'

Plants Nouveau handed out this Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Everlasting Garnet’.

Hydrangea macrophylia 'Everlasting Garnet'

They advertise it as “Better than re-blooming, they’re Everlasting™!”. Young flowers look like that one on the top, they mature to a solid color, and then slowly transition to lime green as they age. Very nice, I’m impressed.

One of the people I met at the convention was Dan Heims, president of Terra Nova nurseries. He will always have a special place in my heart because he was the first person to call me a plant ho. And because he sends me free plants like this wonderful Echinacea ‘Coral Reef’. - This picture of my Echinacea ‘Coral Reef’ was taken by Kristy Lapenta.

Echinacea 'Coral Reef'

Dan’s business card wasn’t the only one I collected at the convention, so when I was working on a Hot Plant article for the February 2012 issue of Alabama Gardener Magazine about Southern Living’s dwarf nandina ‘Flirt’,

Nandina 'Flirt'

I knew just who to call for more information. And while I had Buddy on the phone, I mentioned how interested I was in their new Southgate™ rhododendron and the Early Bird™ crapemyrtles. Three large plants arrived the following week, and you can read about the rhododendron in the February 2013 issue of Alabama Gardener Magazine.

Southgate rhododendron

Same song different verse when I called the nice lady at Briggs Nursery about an article I was working on for the October 2012 issue of Alabama Gardener Magazine on the new pink blueberry ‘Pink Lemonade’. We had a pleasant chat, and she sent me all these plants to try.

Free Plants

Fast forward two years to today. I’ve been writing a Hot Plant article in every issue of Alabama Gardener Magazine for the past two years, and unless I mess up somehow, that should continue through 2014 and beyond. Breeders and promoters want that type of publicity, so they send me boxes of free plants each spring.

This Brunnera ‘Sea Heart’ was part of the 2013 package from Skagit Gardens. I wasn’t very excited when it came because Brunnera always dies for me. - Boy was I surprised. - Pick up the October issue of Alabama Gardener Magazine, if you want to know more.

Brunnera 'Sea Heart'

I don’t know what’s in them, so opening the boxes is like Christmas, and I have 5 or 6 Christmases every year. Proven Winners sends me their brand new plants a year before they release them to the public.

Hibiscus 'Full Blast', rose of SharonHibiscus 'Full Blast', rose of SharonNothing puts a smile on my face like hearing a garden visitor say, “Wow, that’s a pretty plant.” And I reply, “Yes, it is pretty for you to look at here in my garden, but you can’t have it in your garden until next year.” Uh-oh, I think my competitive side is showing.

This rose of Sharon (Hibiscus ‘Full Blast’) grew more in its first season than any other shrub I've ever planted. It went from under a foot tall in spring to 5 1/2 feet by September. But don't waste your time looking for it this fall, maybe next year.

I don't want to give you the wrong impression. This blog is not just going to be about my free trial plants, I’ll talk about whatever gardening thought floats out of my crazy head onto the computer. I'll also feature some of the spectacular plants I buy with my hard-earned writing income, like this amazing Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline’ in the next picture.

You can read my article in the September 2012 issue of Alabama Gardener Magazine to learn everything you need to know about growing it.

Pennisetum 'Princess Caroline'

But if you want to grow that pretty superbells® (Calibrachoa, ‘Pomegranate Punch’) in the foreground, I’m sorry, it’s not yet available to the general public, but you can admire it here, in my garden. smiley

In addition to writing this blog for Alabama Gardener Magazine, I also have a personal gardening blog, You can also get there from a link on my website, which has a much easier name to remember, I alternate my weekly posts between the two sites. 

I just started a Facebook page for overflow pictures, and I have an embarrassingly few likes, but if you'd like to see more, you can 'like' The Plant Ho on Facebook.

Anyway, that’s who I am, and I hope you’ll come back often to hear more tales from the plant ho.



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Christopher (Louisiana - Zone 8a) - 09/12/2013

Hey Peggy, Glad that you're blogging for Alabama Gardener now! I look forward to reading your posts.
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Peggy Hill (Alabama (Zone 7b)) - 09/15/2013

Thanks. I think it'll be fun to have another blog. Glad that you're out there.
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