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CALABASH—Lois Wilkinson brakes for plants, especially those she saw for sale at Carolyn’s Flowers on Persimmon Road last week.
“I just heard about this place,” Wilkinson said, browsing the latest spring array of potted flowers and plants Calabash native Carolyn Schreiber has cultivated to sell for another season at the roadside stand in front of her house.
“I need flowers that need a lot of sun,” Wilkinson said as Schreiber, a natural-born gardener, assisted her.
Well, Schreiber said, that applies to just about all the plants she has for sale this sunny spring.
Now that the traditional “second week of April frost” has passed, Schreiber is confident her prized cultivars are ready for display and new, caring homes.
It’s finally warm “and everything is OK,” she said.
The roadside plant stand at her Persimmon Road house has been gradually filling up with vivid hanging baskets of red million bell petunias as well as potted yellow million bells, pink petunias, daylilies, blue aster, Shasta daisies, penstemon and coreopsis.
Annuals and perennials, she said, are her specialty.
You might say Schreiber’s roadside business is an offshoot of her passion and knack for cultivating plants.
“I enjoyed it so much, I started rooting things,” the cheerful redheaded gardener said at the home she shares with her husband, Chuck, a poodle named Squeaker and her mother, Alice Reeves.
“I can’t throw a plant away,” Schreiber added. “I just got overcrowded with plants and decided, well, I think I’ll put some out front and sell ’em, because I had way too many.”
That was three springs ago, and Schreiber’s business is still growing and thriving every spring with her “homegrown babies,” as she calls the plants she cultivates in her small backyard greenhouse.
She said she gets lot of customers from Carolina Shores and Brunswick Plantation, as well as Seaside, Shallotte and from people coming across the state line from Little River, S.C.
Some residents stop by just to get Schreiber’s plant advice.
The biggest problems she sees are people who overwater houseplants or neglect outdoor plants by not watering or feeding them enough.
“A plant is like a person,” she explained. “You’ve got to feed ’em, or they’re going to starve.”
Schreiber said she got her green thumb all on her own.
“I think it’s just in your genes, don’t you?” she said, sitting still for a moment in her kitchen where, just that morning, she’d gotten up at 6 a.m. to bake Amish bread before tending to her plants.
Schreiber said she grew up on a farm, which has its effects “when you come from growing things. I’m like a squirrel when spring gets here. I’m out digging, digging, digging.”
Schreiber’s mother, Alice Reeves, said she used to be a planter, too.
“She had dirty fingernails, didn’t you, mama?” Schreiber said. “Dirty fingernails make you happy.”
“Someone drove by the other day and yelled, ‘do you have a green thumb?’” Schreiber said. “I said, ‘No, but I’ve got a dirty one.’”
To prove it, she held up one soil-hued thumb for the passerby to see.
Schreiber’s daughter, Lisa Shealy, has the family “plant gene,” too, and operates a thriving commercial greenhouse business in Prosperity,
“She’s just as good with plants as I am,” Schreiber said. “Oh, honey, she grows anything you can think of—potted, hanging, vines. Just anything you can think of, she’s got.”
Every February, Schreiber visits her daughter to help her get started for another season. It’s hard work, she said, but lots of fun for them, too.
Between Schreiber and her husband, their home is an oasis of plants.
Chuck, she said, helps out by moving heavy stuff around the yard. He also built the raised flowerbeds in their backyard.
“He’s a good man,” she said.
When frosty temperatures descended last week, Schreiber said she and Chuck arose at 6 a.m. to water all the plants down to protect them.
“He [watered] at the front, and I was at the back,” she said. “You always get that frost the second week of April. And then it’s summer and everything is OK.”
Schreiber’s peak selling season will continue through June, before it gets too hot. She said her hanging baskets sell best around Mother’s Day.
So what’s her secret for growing beautiful, healthy plants?
“Miracle-Gro,” she said. “And loving them. I love every little plant that leaves here. I told a woman the other day, these are my babies, and you’d better take care of ’em.”
Schreiber said she loves “everything with a bloom on it. You can see God’s color in it, God’s paintbrush. He just does good work.”
Schreiber said she just tries to help.