No-Fuss Flowers

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, confessing to the sad truth that I have a black thumb. That’s right. Every plant I’ve ever owned has withered and died. Every attempt to plant a rock garden has ended in disaster—even the rocks failed to thrive. Plant bulbs? Forget it. Ditto for flowers bought from a nursery. This is especially galling when I remember that my mother had the magic touch. Her flowerbeds were a work of art. At one house she lived in, she covered the entire front lawn with flowers. Below is a photo from 1976, when Mom and Spot were offering advice for planting a rock garden at the house we’d just moved into. Below is that rock garden three years later, proof that I did not inherit the gardening gene.

I don’t even do well with cut flowers, although that may have more to do with owning cats than with any aversion a florist’s arrangement has to me.


Fortunately, since I live out in the country, Mother Nature is kind to me. Without any effort on my part, flowers appear. Every year the lilac bush blooms. Almost every year the forsythia does too. And, of course, the apple trees and crabapples blossom.

Years ago, I brought forget-me-nots to Maine from my parents’ house in New York State (I had some in my bridal bouquet, too). Although they didn’t thrive in my miserable attempt at a rock garden, they did naturalize themselves. Every year, they are a much-anticipated sign that late spring is on its way to turning into summer.

With no help at all on my part, what I assume are some kind of roses blossom every June. They provided the backdrop for this publicity photo I had taken back when I was writing the Face Down series, set in sixteenth-century England. The costume, by the way, was borrowed from the Theater at Monmouth, where Shakespeare’s plays, and others, are performed every summer.

At this time of year, early to mid-July, day lilies brighten roadsides all over Maine. I’m fortunate to have a particularly abundant batch right in front of the screened-in porch where I like to sit to edit manuscripts by hand.

Identifying flowers isn’t one of my strong points—a definite disadvantage for a writer—and I certainly didn’t inherit my mother’s green thumb, but even a gardening failure like me can enjoy the beauty of nature’s many no-fuss flowers.


Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of more than fifty traditionally published books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (X Marks the Scot—December 2017) and Deadly Edits series (Crime and Punctuation—2018) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” mysteries and is set in Elizabethan England. New in 2017 is a collection of short stories, Different Times, Different Crimes. Her websites are and

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6 Responses to No-Fuss Flowers

  1. Beth Clark says:

    A friend once said to me, when I was cursing weeds, all flowers were once weeds. When my weeds do better than my flowers, I try to remember this!

    • Good point, Beth. And I’ll let you in on another little secret: I’ve always thought dandelions were pretty. I once took a bouquet of them to my third grade teacher. Sadly, the gesture was not appreciated.

  2. dragons3 says:

    The only thing I seem to be able to grow is a bumper crop of dandelions. I’ve even managed to kill coleus, which my gardening friends assure me is unkillable. My poor kitties are deprived of fresh grown catnip because I can’t manage to grow that, even in one of those pre-planted pots. You know the ones. Just water and your cats will have unlimited catnip at their pleasure. Well, not mine. I’ve never tried a rock garden, but I doubt I’d be able to grow rocks either ;>) .

  3. John R. Clark says:

    Trial and error have taught me which flowers I can count on. Lupines, Nasturtiums, Calendulas and Tithona are all trustworthy. I’m still experimenting with flower seeds inherited from Mom. Some grow, others refuse to play nice, but that’s part of the learning process.

    • I think the other part of my problem with gardens of any kind is that I have no patience. I just throw in the towel (or the trowel) and go inside to spend my time reading or writing. On a hot, humid day like this one, there’s no way I want to be outside trying to coax flowers to grow.

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