Spotlight: Susan Dorris (Gardenersdetective)

By Sharon Brown (Sharon) on September 27, 2010

Let's venture into the realm of gardening with a lovely lady who has provided us with a wealth of resources. Once you've discovered what she's created, you might never have to Google again. Come with me and meet Susan Dorris...

When I approached Susan about this article, she wasn't hesitant, but she seemed a bit reluctant. She kept telling me that there was nothing really interesting about her. She even presented me with this challenge:

Sharon, this is my challenge to you. You are the storyteller. Use your writing talent to make the ordinary extraordinary. This is your day to shine.

2010-09-25/Sharran/6ab65fNow right up front I have to tell you that when presented with a challenge I dive right in and never look back. So I dived head first into a most interesting website and became so immersed I lingered there for hours. This ordinary woman has created a masterpiece of gardening information. I simply couldn't believe what I found there. But stop!! Don't look at it yet, read the article first so you'll know the source of all the information you find there. It is truly ... ummmm ... extraordinary!

Thanks Sharon, sweet of you to say. I volunteer each week for a gardening answer service in my community. Seemed a shame to waste all that research and I started adding it to the free website as a way to organize all the information. I am not a plant expert but have become a pretty good gardeners detective

I didn't know anything about creating a website and I am not a web designer or writer, so some of the pages are pretty sloppy from a website 2010-09-25/Sharran/f9ee97design perspective. As I learn new things I try to clean it up a bit. As much time as I dedicate to it, it's too bad it isn't generating income. 

It is my pleasure and joy to share my gardening research with anyone interested in reading it.

I have been enjoying your cubits and articles as well, Sharon. I really love blue plants and elephants.

Thanks, Susan. Sad to say the extreme heat and drought of this summer very nearly wiped out my blue plants, but my collection of elephants didn't suffer a bit! Now that we know a little about your website, tell us more about you, the one who created it.

I lived in the St. Louis, MO area, home of the Gateway Arch and Missouri Botanical Gardens for 50 something years. I worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad which was bought out by the Union Pacific Railroad and I took an early out when UPRR relocated their office to Omaha, NE.

I spend my time as a domestic goddess learning to cook and I ofte2010-09-25/Sharran/d84a80n find myself singing in the kitchen. Since retiring I've cruised over 23 times which has turned me into a citizen of the world. I truly enjoy traveling to learn about other people, their customs and lifestyle. I prefer warm islands and sandy beaches. I'm married and we're cruising at the end of the year to celebrate 25 blissful years. We share a home and king size bed with a yorkie and rescue bichon, my two canine garden companions.

I've been flower/container gardening for 23 years, a master gardener volunteer for four years. I am project manager of the hortline a gardening answer service in my community and have created my website to organize my gardening research which allows you to use the internet as another way to learn, and as a tool to learn about gardening. Gardeners Detective is a website full of interesting and informative gardening links and lists of links from the best of gardeners to just about the best of gardening for horticultural enlightenment.

Thanks, Susan, as I said, I love the website. So how did 2010-09-24/Sharran/575a5byou find Cubits?

I found Cubits through Katg's Crazy Cranium Family and have been a cubiteer addict and Charley's Girl since March 2010. Cubits is filled with kind, funny, talented, interesting, and smart people who bring me joy and inspiration everyday. It is a pleasure and a privilege to share time with them.

Susan, I truly agree with your feeling about Cubits and I'm glad to see that you have joined many of them. Tell us now what influenced your interest in gardening?

Gardening reignites my connection with the earth, is a portal which enables me to share experiences, plants, build friendships, and allows me to give back to my community. I'm the first gardener in my family and it seems to have rubbed off on my mother and siblings just a bit.

I enjoy touring gardens but there is simply nothing that compares to a great plant sale!!!

I know you love container gardening and I really love your picture collages of your plants. In spite of what you say, you very definitely are creative with those collages! I enjoy when you share your photos with us. Now tell us a little more about your furry friends.2010-09-25/Sharran/732e6f

We have no kids so the dogs are my babies and canine companions. I'm never lonely with them around to protect me and the garden from bunnies and squirrels. Too bad they're not allowed to cruise. They definitely have me trained, as chef mama (that would be me) cooks up a batch of grilled chicken or hamburger and rice every day for her girls.

You've told us all about your grown up years. We'd love to hear more about the little girl you once were. Would you share that with us?

Growing up my father worked two jobs and my mother also worked full time. It was my responsibility to care for my three brothers, cook dinner, dust the house and clean the bathrooms on Saturday before I was allowed to go out with my friends. Sometimes I'd help out at Soulard Market selling watermelons and honey dews at Uncle Vince’s stand. You see in those days the reward for hard work was a huge banana box full of fresh fruit and vegetables that would feed our family for a week. At the age of 18 I moved out and began working. Jobs were plentiful then and I had no problem getting clerical positions. I became very interested in interior decorating, antiques and budget decorating, or as I called it 'Early American Garage Sale'. I especially enjoyed going antiquing, to garage sales, craft fairs and auctions.2010-09-25/Sharran/750525

I've always led a simple life of simple means and learned to appreciate and enjoy the simple things that so many take for granted, things like sunrises and sunsets, backyard bird watching, a full moon, shooting stars, running in the rain on a hot summer day, those kinds of things. 

At the age of 32 I married my hero and the love of my life. We bought a house and The Victory Garden on PBS caught my attention. I couldn't believe regular folks could have such magnificent gardens. Flower gardening is a great stress reliever, good exercise, and my opportunity to express creativity. It sparked an interest in nature and wildlife. From gardening, I have a collected a decent garden library, visited fabulous gardens throughout the world, taken many fun road trips, and developed great gardener friendships. It's the source of my volunteer work and a way to give back to my community. I am fortunate to live in a city with plentiful resources and spend most of my spring shopping for new plants. I get a lot of satisfaction out of picking out my new babies that is just indescribable joy.

And now, here is the rest of the story, the part where we see beneath the surface and hear about the real Susan. This is my favorite part about 2010-09-25/Sharran/07b719her, the reality of a lovely woman.

Having the ability to enjoy the simple things in life and distinguish between what I need and what I want enabled me to take advantage of a buyout offered by my employer who was relocating out of state. Living on less a nd learning to downsize became a challenge that kept me very busy. When you have the time to become resourceful and persistent it is amazing what you can accomplish. I was oblivious to how often I wasted money. I became my own hair color expert, manicurist, housekeeper and chef. I remember hating to cook and now I catch myself singing in the kitchen. I'm learning all about trading and swapping plants with cubits friends.

I've gone full circle and my house of 25 years needs a budget redo so I trade at the many resale shops in my area to update my decor and downsize and declutter. Less is more. Painting, removing wall paper isn't a lot of fun for me but when I've finished decluttering and redecorating a room it offers a sense of space and relaxation or what I call good Chi. M2010-09-25/Sharran/e7fa02y favorite room of the house is my home office that overlooks the garden with a big six foot window with lots of light. I'm surrounded by garden books, and pictures from some of my favorite experiences like zip cording, swimming with dolphins, petting penguins and parrots and meeting the Three Stooges at the circus when I was 9, along with photos of my spouse and furry friends.

I enjoy trying new things and am forever in search of my undiscovered talent. What I know for sure is I have a lot to say so I've channeled that into teaching people how to garden and answering gardening questions. It is important to me to offer sound gardening advice which requires a lot of time online researching. Looking for a way to organize my gardening research, my website was born. It's a fun challenge and another way to share gardening information. Next month I will be featured in our local Gateway Gardener Magazine as a runner up winner in a container contest.

I have been extremely blessed with good health. I have never been sick or hospitalized nor do I take any medicines. 

Ten years from now I'd like to see myself in a small ranch style home, location TBD in an active over 55 community with a tiny maintenance free yard and a few containers on the patio or deck. I'd like us to become snowbirds spending December through April in Florida and taking a couple of cruises while we are close to a port city. I'd like to be swapping stories and ex2010-09-25/Sharran/2c09dcperiences with old and new friends I've made along the way about gardening, travels, and cruising.

I must admit when Sharon approached me to do a story I wondered how a simple woman of simple means living a quiet private sort of ho-hum everyday life would make for an interesting story. I asked myself, if this is my one and only chance to share valuable information what do I want to convey and what is my stamp on the world?

This is what I know for sure. Everyone has the best regards for people who demonstrate character, honesty, persistence, patience and a great sense of humor. Rewards are plenty by volunteering even in a sm2010-09-25/Sharran/059ee6all way. I have never felt less than equal and am always aware I am the cute one in my marriage of 25 years, even if I have to remind him often. The most beautiful feature of a woman at every age is self confidence. Do your very best to lead by example. When you surround yourself with the things you love, accepting no substitutions, you will be surrounded by friends, family and opportunities which will pour in bigger than anything you could have ever dreamed. Be open to receive them.

Susan, thank you. I hate to tell you this, but writing your story was not a challenge. The challenge was in not being overwhelmed with the beautiful life you live...the lovely person you are. You are not living a ho-hum everyday life if you swim with dolphins, pet penguins and parrots, go on 23 cruises and have your picture taken standing in front of Stonehenge. And then, there is your picture with 2010-09-25/Sharran/d28daathe Three Stooges. Ho-hum? No, I don't think so.

Thank you so much for sharing your life with us. Your stamp on the world is very important, and it will linger long after we are gone. Thank you for being you, Susan. I'm very happy to count you among my friends. 

Folks, be sure to click on the pictures to enlarge them, and when you run your browser over them, you'll see their descriptions. We'd love to hear your comments, too. 

Ummmmm...petting with the Three Stooges...Stonehenge...a simple life?? Sure2010-09-25/Sharran/3b1ecbly she jests! 



Related articles:
container gardening, cruising, Gardenersdetective, gardening resources, interview

About Sharon Brown
I am a retired Art and Humanities teacher living in western Kentucky. I love writing and art with equal measure, but I also have a passion for nature and plants.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
I Love this Article! Katg Nov 4, 2013 6:02 PM 5
Ha!Ha! Ridesredmule Oct 1, 2010 4:20 AM 8
Brilliant Lady! NEILMUIR1 Sep 30, 2010 2:20 PM 5
No more than I expected kareoke Sep 28, 2010 10:45 AM 2
You've done so much nap Sep 28, 2010 10:07 AM 5
Nice to meet you! weeds Sep 28, 2010 7:05 AM 12
Wow!! jeri11 Sep 28, 2010 6:30 AM 0

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