She Gardens in Stilettos

Saturday night, in lieu of catching some fantastic waves after weeks of anemic shore break, my husband and I went to have dinner with our friends Barbie and Jerry. My twinge of selfish wave envy disappeared and became monstrous, ROARING, Plant-Geek envy when I saw this:


in Barbie’s back yard in Kure Beach.

Now, Barbie always posts pictures of fantastically weird and wonderful plants on her Facebook page.  A professed “cheapskate,” she has generally grown these from seeds she’s scrounged or cuttings taken from client landscapes.  She’s posted pics of carrion lilies, dahlias the size of dinner plates, and Voodoo Lilies that would make any garden club lady blush.  I had no IDEA that she had a greenhouse.  Much less a funky, MacGyver greenhouse!


I was immediately in lust.

While giving me the garden tour in four inch heels, Barbie told me that, basically, they’ve spent $36 on this greenhouse.  They got some kind of frame from somebody they know.  Then, they picked through building sites around the beach (of which there are many), and found enough other stuff to build windows and doors and shelves and a SINK.

Barbie got a small solar panel which she says “I hooked up to this big battery sitting on the counter and the panel powers the battery, which powers my fan.”


You can’t have a perfect greenhouse without a sink, so she rigged up a rain barrel to collect rain from the greenhouse roof (camouflaging it with some kind of giant creeping plant),  hooked up a pump to the barrel on one end and a pipe to feed the sink on the other end, so she has a working, reclaimed-water sink. GENIUS.

rain barrel

You might be wondering, “What is so extraordinary about this setup?”  Well, without getting into TOO many details, I met Barbie through a friend with whom I do a fair amount of web work, and those two know each other from a completely different group of folks.  Those friends probably have no idea that Barbie is a top-notch, self-taught, horticultural plant fanatic of first order.  They might NOT be surprised, however, at her choice of garden footwear.


In Barbie, I feel I’ve found my plant fanatic yin to my yang, or whatever.  Her garden is an exuberant riot of one of this and one of that, and “I snipped a piece of that plant off of so-and-so’s such-and-such,” or “I had to dig that out of somebody’s yard to put in something else, so I just brought it home.”  I’m the person who tries to work the unusual specimen into an orderly display border, while Barbie’s the curator amassing one of everything.  We would end up in a spike-heel kicking, hori-hori stabbing match if we tried to garden together in the same yard.  As gardening buddies, though, we’re a perfect match.

How it all Started

Barbie moved to Kure Beach in 2001.  She was unemployed with lots of time on her hands and an interest in plants, so she started teaching herself about them.  She rooted cuttings, germinated seeds, researched and read and gave herself a thorough horticultural education.  At this point, she can propagate almost anything, which is more than I can say for myself, and I have a couple of horticultural degrees!

The benches in the greenhouse are filled with magnificent and strange wonders like this plant, which she calls the “slut plant” because it reproduces like a rabbit with the little babies budding off of it:


She has dozens of palm seedlings sprouting in her little container nursery behind the greenhouse, and a gorgeous green border along the side of her house-filled with philodendron, cycads, palms, hibiscus and other plants that shouldn’t be hardy here but love her green thumb.


I asked her if she belonged to the local Hobby Greenhouse Club, and she said she doesn’t–keeps meaning to join, but never gets around to it.  She is a member of the American Horticultural Society, primarily for their seed exchange.  I could go on and on about how impressed I am with her entire operation.  I think you get the idea.

It was MORE than worth it to skip the waves and have a wonderful dinner with friends and a sneak peak at the greenhouse.  If you’re looking for REAL gardeners, gardeners who aren’t seeking the spotlight and are quietly amassing a giagantic body of knowledge about specific regional garden tasks–Barbie’s the real deal.



Filed under Garden

8 responses to “She Gardens in Stilettos

  1. I am officially pushing you aside to get to the head of the Envy Train here! So groovy. Also, I love the “slut plant”–I have several myself, but had not yet renamed it because of its promiscuity. Love plants that creep out and touch one another anyway! ; ) Thanks for sharing!

  2. personalgardencoach

    Super idea for a post!
    I love being introduced to others like me who are plant centric in an almost OCD kind of way. Self taught no less- that’s my kind of lady!
    The heels, the do it yourself tenacity and creativity is very impressive indeed.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. i love this post! how fun to read about the groovy plant lady with the funky greenhouse. i always envy people like that – with the skill (and even more importantly, the patience!) to propogate exotic things.

  4. Barbie is a groovy lady! Love to see what she did with all of the recycled materials.

  5. Thanks for the great story on such a fascinating gardener! High-Five to anyone who can garden in heels – I can barely even walk down the street in them, much less tromp through a garden! Lovely, lovely post….

  6. Barbie

    Barbie here!
    Having a G&T or glass of wine in my hand does make it easier to walk in my heels – balance and all that.
    Thanks for all the great comments.
    The items I recycled for the greenhouse are:
    All the windows and sliding glass doors
    Shelves – my husband found the long blue table
    at the Kure Beach dump.
    Wire shelves – Habitat for Humanity
    Desk where the sink is – was in the house
    Double sink w/ faucet – side of the road
    Yellow paint (inside the GH) – leftovers from a friends paint project
    Rain barrel – a 6′ length of 3′ diameter culvert pipe and friend got from his construction site (they were going to throw it out). Hold a LOT of water!
    One of my fav things – half a coconut shell from a coconut we bought to eat a few years ago. I use it as a scoop when I pot up plants.

  7. My grandmother has a very similar greenhouse. I would never tell on her, but I think she may have even taken some people’s “trash” and made it her treasure to complete her greenhouse. There are some gently used and over used items in it, but she loves it non the less. It is a very comfortable place. I love it. Glad to see she’s not the only one who doesn’t want a huge expensive one!

  8. Shelley

    My curiosity wonders, what did she have to spend the $36 on? The battery and solar panel?

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