Meet Your Gardener: Cat Donohue

If you’ve been to Sargent’s North in the last couple of years, you’ve probably seen Cat tending to our annuals. If you follow our Instagram, you’ve also probably seen Cat imparting her gardening wisdom on the world. Either way, her passion for the natural world is obvious through the care and attention she gives each and every plant (and customer) at Sargent’s. We sat down with Cat to learn more about her journey and passion for the horticulture industry. Read on to get to know a key member of the Sargent’s team!

When and why did your passion for horticulture begin?

I’ve always been very drawn to nature—just like a lot of kids, I loved being outside and turning over rocks to find bugs and all of that. I just never really grew out of it. Working at Sargent’s is one of the ways it’s expressed in my life now. It’s never made sense for me to pursue anything that isn’t directly connected with the natural world.

I went to college for environmental studies, and I guess it was during that time that I developed a focused interest in horticulture because of what a positive, beautiful expression it is of the connection between people and our environment, and how it can blur the perceived separation between humans and nature.

I think that gardening is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for the environment—it’s so rewarding in so many ways to build a relationship with the land you’re living on and to play an active role in an ecosystem, even if it’s small.

What's your favorite plant or flower, and why does it hold a special place in your heart?

I don’t like picking just one favorite so I might have to give you a few. I’ve always loved red columbine. It’s such a unique beautiful spring bloom, it reminds me of Minnesota’s forests, and whenever I see it growing it feels like a gift. Pretty much all the native perennials are special to me.

Two of my favorite trees are bur oak and white pine. They’re so stately and awe-inspiring. A lot of what makes certain plants special to me is when I associate them with places or times I’ve gotten to know them in certain places, which for me are generally places in the northern forests, and the prairies and savanna in the driftless region here.

What is your favorite part about working at Sargent’s?

I love when I get to work with people to plan a garden. When people have questions or want help with choosing what plants will work best for them, whether they’re putting in a whole new garden bed or just looking to add a few plants, it’s really enjoyable to me to help them plan out what to plant and where. It’s satisfying to me to send people off knowing they have to right plants and the knowledge they need to succeed with their gardening. 

I also love that there’s always more to learn, and I’m constantly learning here. It’s also pretty nice that I get to spend my days outside moving around, and feel especially connected with the seasons.

As someone who works with plants every day, do you have any secret gardening tips or hacks you can share?

I often hear people say they “just don’t have a green thumb” or they can never keep plants alive. My advice would be to avoid thinking as if it’s an inherent trait to be “good” or “bad” at caring for plants. It’s all about having the right plants for the conditions you have, and knowing what care your plants need. If something in your garden isn’t working, be willing to try new things, and ask questions!

What is something unique about you that few people are aware of?

I don’t react to mosquito bites! They bite me, but I don’t get the red itchy bumps.