By Toni W. Riley
As she works through her greenhouse, gardener Cheryl Boren tends her plants, pruning and checking for insects and disease. The C and G Greenhouse is 100 feet long and 30 feet wide and filled with plants for sale at Exit 23 on Breathitt Parkway, or the Crofton exit.
Cheryl is one of the lucky people who have turned their love for something into a career. She always loved gardening, beginning when she was a child caring for flowers and a garden at the side of her grandmother, Ann Pyle.
As an adult, she worked at West and Witherspoon Florist and was an aide at Indian Hills Elementary School while her husband farmed in LaFayette. However, it was always her dream to have her own greenhouse business, and when Larry stopped farming in 1998, it was their goal to find some acreage to help her build a greenhouse and her career.
The couple found 25 acres right at the Crofton exit of Breathitt Parkway with a little farmhouse. She started with an 8-by-12-feet hobby greenhouse, and she and Larry steadily worked on evolving into a full-scale greenhouse.
In 1999, they built a 45-by-28-feet greenhouse and, in the next two years, two 100-by-30-feet greenhouses were constructed, along with a fern shed to comprise her C and G Greenhouse business.
Cheryl credits Larry for his help and support in developing the business, especially as the greenhouses are readied for planting each January.
“I couldn’t do it without him,” she said. “His concrete work slows down in the winter and he can help me bring in all the potting soil and supplies.
Cheryl purchases all of her bedding and perennial plants from “Proven Winners,” a company said to offer the best in new plants and production materials, according to its website.
Along with her assistant, Stacy Hight, the duo is certified Proven Winners design specialists, meaning that she and Stacy go through training courses with the company every year to learn new products and current trends.
Each plant she purchases comes as a “thimble size” plug of potting media with a tiny growing plant. Each plug is planted by hand into either a 4.5-inch pot or a six-plant compartment tray.
When asked how many plants they plant, Cheryl exclaimed, “Oh WOW, probably around 10,000.” They plant continually to ensure a greenhouse full of plants continually through their sale season.
While Cheryl said the greenhouses have the typical bedding and perennial plants seen at any greenhouse, she takes a tremendous amount of pride in designing hanging baskets and container gardens.
“I don’t do typical,” she said. She falls back on her days at West and Witherspoon to help her with the floral design of each container or basket.
Cheryl scours garden and home magazines to see what is trendy and then creates that look for her customers. As she and Stacy plant the containers, she keeps a notebook of what plants are in each container. This enables her to know what combinations work best and what the best-sellers are.
A new section of plants for this season are succulents. She and Stacy have designed an array of containers with themes that hold the easy care plants. Themes included a desert, a beach and even some head sculptures that contain plants that will resemble hair as they grow.
A peak into one greenhouse will show hanging containers at various shapes and sizes, brightly colored watering cans that are container gardens, and even a basket imbedded in a tiny wrought iron bicycle. During the season, she and Stacy will plant 1,000 baskets.
Cheryl is very happy to work with customers who bring in a photo from a magazine and say “I want this.” She also helps customers select plants to design their own gardens inside containers they might bring with them or for containers at home. She works hard to educate her customers on how to keep their plants looking great all summer and not just when the plants leave the greenhouse.
As soon as her sales season is over she and Stacy attend a large garden show in Ohio and start planning for next year. She wants to be sure that when a customer sees something in a magazine she can say “Yes, we have it and we can help you with it.”
Over the 17 years she has been in business, Cheryl has seen steady growth, not only with local customers but with customers from as far away as Evansville and Nashville, she feels, because of the wide selection, quality and price of her plants as well her willingness to help her customers.
Cheryl summed up her growing career by saying it allows her to enjoy her two passions, gardening and trail-riding. When she closes up the greenhouse, she hits the trail and rides.
She really enjoys the people that come in. She enjoys meeting them and is excited to see new faces. It’s like a reunion when customers return.
“When you do something you love, you never work,” she said and smiled broadly.