Robert E. Lee is a plantsman from Independence, Louisiana (no relation to the General.)  He is famous for creating the encore azaleas—a hybrid between a standard azalea and a Fourth of July Rhododendron. (I am not making up any of these patriotic metaphors.)  The result of his cross-hybridization, patented in 1998, was a gorgeous plant that blooms in the spring, summer, and fall. 

We have them all around our yard. We live on the shores of a large lake. That means we share the territory with sometimes naughty critters—deer, rabbits, raccoons, and coyotes-all of whom are tough on these beautiful plants. Armadillos will uproot them in search of grub worms. We do all we can to protect them with a lawn maintenance professional, proper sunlight, and a closely monitored sprinkler system. They are properly trimmed, fertilized, and watered.

One year, early in their tour of duty, the critters almost won the war between the species.  We thought the encore azaleas were goners forever, and we would never have a shot at getting “yard of the month.” But, in sync with the name on their “battle flag,” they refused to retreat and grew back, even more beautiful. Today, they are strong, giant plants with hundreds of blooms. 

Just like loyal customers, these beauties were determined to be their radiant best despite the circumstance of not-so-nice rabbits and deer that had no regard for their beauty. We felt a giant payoff for all of our TLC. We take great care of them; they take great care of us. Customers today are at great risk of all manner of danger–physical, emotional, and financial. The TLC you provide them will determine if they are encore customers, returning with their patronage, and bringing along customer seedlings to brighten your reputation and enrich your revenue. Never forget they sign your paycheck with the ink of their patronage.