Wowzerz! Week 15! Need to catch up? I recommend starting from the beginning with week 1.
Hi! I’m Jenn – botanist, CEO, potty mouth.
This is my “plant diary”, where every day for the entire year I will log my experience with plants. I’m not sure what that’s actually going to look like, but it doesn’t really matter – I just want to talk plants.
But first, here’s a little context about me: I fucking love Champagne. I don’t really like reading fiction but can digest it in the podcast form. I listen, read and observe a lot. I happily overeat carbs. I call myself a botanist because I have been a professional (as in, I pay my bills by) horticulturist for the past 15 years. The past 4+ years I have been researching plants with indigenous Mayan and Garifuna cultures in Belize – mostly focusing on organically farmed Cacao theobroma and jungle-grown Yam root. This means lots of time spent working on family farms, lots of jungle hikes, lots of eating weird things and even a bot fly in the arm (I dare you to google bot fly). Vanilla planifolia and Crocus sativus are my jam right now. My hands-on background is florals, farming, herbalism, horticulture and jungle growth. I’ve dabbled in greenhouse growing (3 years in community college, greenhouse management degree), grafting and stone work. I’d like to practice bonsai more. I’m terrible at grammar. I love holistic approaches, but loathe buzzwords and “internet experts”. I could spend less money on crystals. I should do more yoga. I am meditating more. I get angry at Terry Gross, but then fall back in love each week. Reality TV shows are a must. Woodford on the rocks with a twist and a cherry. Hip hop keeps me human. Kale is king.
Why write this? Because I want to remember and reflect on the time I spend with plants.
Ok. Here we go.
Thursday, April 9th 2015 – HMB
Today is the first day off of the big job. It’s a double-edged sword, since it’s nice to take a breather from the dynamics of working with a contractor, a crew and around someone’s home – but at the end of the day I actually find myself missing the plants. There’s a strange, emotional, irrational feeling I get the very next day after being off a job. I wake up the next morning and feel compelled to drive there to check up, to spend time. I feel like I have transitioned little baby plants from their snug spots at the nursery and moved them abruptly to a property they have never known. I feel like the mother hen that needs to tuck everyone under my wings and nest with them until they are brave enough to poke out from underneath me and venture out on their own.
I know they are fine. I just have that feeling.
Friday, April 10th 2015 – HMB, Hillsborough, Monterey
Escaping! I am escaping this weekend as a r & r treat to myself. “Treat” is an interesting way to describe a much, much needed, survival rest. Like, this weekend I can actually shower! Or find a clean towel. Or brush my hair. The simple things that get lost thought the cracks when I’m working 6, 12 hours days a week.
The simple pleasures will restore me.
So will wine.
I’ll miss my BB roses… They are fully budded and starting to bloom.
Saturday, April 11th 2015 – Monterey, Carmel
The grounds of the Old Monterey Inn are definitely enchanted. Nestled in a dry creek and a messy tangle of native Coast Live Oaks, the gardens are a nod to an older way of gardening. Boxwood. Camellias. Even ivy – the ivy is manicured here!
I could wax poetic about how they rake even the open, unplanted, forgotten areas in the garden – but I think I did that in a previous post. Either way I like it, and I can smell the dirt.
(Smelling the dirt is something that everyone forgets about how wonderful it is, but no one remembers to do.)
Sunday, April 12th 2015 – Monterey, HMB
Driving back to Half Moon Bay is like leaving one vacation destination for another. Seriously, you can have a vacation by just driving down the Highway 1 and seeing the blooming wildflowers; Lupine, Artemesia, Mustard. The California Poppies have amazing contrast from micro-climate to micro-climate. The closer they are to the sea, the smaller and more stunted the foliage the buttercup petals are. Also, you get an adorable half yellow, half orange color on the petals. The leaves are a sea foam blue/green… And they seem more curly then the normal Cal. Poppies. They really are a special variety.
There was one year when I was going through a break up that wasn’t fun (I guess, like, every break up), I needed to fill my time with something – something that was silent and soulful and related to plants, a place that comforted me. Believe me, I fully believe in the old adage, “The best way to get over a man is to get under another one”, but during the times you need to be alone, those are times I like to foster. Instead of hittin’ dem clubs, I spent 6 Saturday’s driving from Pacifica to Santa Cruz on Highway 1. I’d wake up around 7am and get dressed, gas up my truck, then drive. I stopped off at any new cluster of California Poppy I could find off the highway. I parked on the bluff, by the beach, in tiny dugouts off the busy highway. Sometimes I’d have to get out of the truck through the passenger side in order to not get smashed by traffic. The first couple of weeks I took pictures of the spots (13 in total) and took notes. I wrote about the soil structure, the wind, the sun, the other plants in the surrounding area, the nearby traffic, any animal prints I saw, anything. I logged everything. Later in the Spring, when everything was in full bloom. I picked one flower for each site and pressed it in a book. From there I logged the flowers, petal colors, swollen buds, foliage, etc. It was a painstaking process that actually took me away from my relationships pain, and planted me firmly in the world of coastal wildflowers.
I still have the pressed flowers in between pages of Annie’s Annual catalogues, sandwiched in between thicker garden books.
It’s been about 6 years and I still haven’t opened them yet.
Monday, April 13th 2015 – HMB
A few weeks ago I planted some 4″ Pansies in small terra cotta pots. The pots are from who knows where… I salvage countless terra cotta containers from clients and jobs. Sometimes they are fancier, embossed pots. Other times they are worn and soft, crumbly clay. I love reusing the pots that have already been used and loved. In the terra cotta the Pansies are planted in, the rim is starting to crumble and break away, but most of the pot is still pretty sturdy. The compost comes just to the rim, some spilling out when I water. I turn the hose on, fold over parts of the hose so that the stream comes out tumbly and gentle. My goal is to let the water saturate the compost just enough to lift it to the rim, but then back down so it doesn’t go over the edge. It’s that ebb and flow, like the rise and fall of your chest when you are breathing deeply.
Tuesday, April 14th 2015 – HMB
Difficult work day.
It’s amazing the ways in which some people chose to communicate – or not. No bother, though – plants are what’s important.
Wednesday, April 15th 2015 – HMB, Hillsborough, Saratoga
Welp, my OMI (Old Monterey Inn) glow is officially gone and it’s back to work – and a lot of it. I try to remind myself it’s not heart surgery, it’s working with plants.
Speaking of OMI, I am sending them an email proposing a garden restoration, based on the history of the property and home. I am so excited! I’m hoping it’s well received.
There’s something about this property that completely draws me back to it. It’s not the largest property or even on the beach or anything… It’s just very nook-y. There is a dip in the landscape that draws your eyes from the lawn to the Oak trees and it makes my stomach fluttery and warm. I look at the bed of Ivy under the established Cedar tree and just want to curl up in it. The brick laid in the worn pathways are lust worthy. When I bend down to feel them with my fingers, Matt grins at me.
There’s authenticity here and some interesting tales. I’m looking forward to finding out more…