Happy week 13 y’all! Oh, and by the looks of it, week 14!
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, March 26th 2015 – HMB, Montara
The parrot Tulips in the window display are so heavy and fat. I just want to pop their fat little butts. I’ve been having to teach the girls to leave them when they cascade and get messy… But only for a certain amount of time. They can go from looking like a moody Dutch painting to a hot mess, real quick. But if you leave them for that day or so, they look incredible. Super pouty. Moody.
Friday, March 27th 2015 – HMB
After the shop work today, Matt and I tried to get drunk at It’s Italia. I say “tried” since we got caught by a local farmer friend from my past, who locked eyes, sidled up and started a rant. Matt is slowly learning that when we run into old farmers I have worked with, you have to chew your arm away to escape the endless farm-talk. They also share ridiculously intimate details of their life – like an old best friend you haven’t seen in years. I love it. I find it endearing and nostalgic – nodding at the time in my life where I farmed. Shout-out to the hipster hobby farmers that are all exactly 29 years old and cropping up (pun!) everywhere… But this story is not about you. I’m talking about the 4th generation Italian or Portugese farmers who live, breathe and drink farming and plant talk. And the Cal. Coast is filled with them! When Louie waxed poetic about his most recent dry bean crop, Matt’s eyes glazed over. I leaned in, like my spirit animal Sheryl Sandburg would want me to do. I relished every detail of soil structure, water use, what seed germinated better, what tractor died out and when. I loved hearing about how if he gets a good crop this Spring, he’s going to spend some of his Summer tending to grapes at his farm house in Lucca, Italy.
“Jenn, you would love it”, Louie said.
“You would love it” is a phrase everyone says to everyone, mostly based on their own enthusiasm then anything else. But as I sit there listening, and he unapologetically went into detail about his cover crop schedule, I realized he was right. I would fucking love it.
Saturday, March 28th 2015 – HMB
The garden is blooming! The BB roses are amazingly abundant, but my bearded Iris are showing barely any signs of spiking. What gives?
Sunday, March 29th 2015 – HMB
Today was a treat – a photo shoot with Rob. We were feelin’ the Parrot Tulips, Nasturtium, Narsissus, Chocoate Cosmos and the Tillandsia Xerographica. My Citrus Peel Bath Tea was the star of the show, looking marvelous next to the bright colors and natural textures. My products look damn fine through the lens of Rob Co. We like to sexually harass the models, often shouting things like, “yaaaa, you like that? You dirty little Tulip!”
Monday, March 30th 2015 – HMB, Hillsborough
This week and next I am onsite at a big job. A hot and dry slope that was designed for a drought-tolerant Japanese inspired garden – and the client just informed me she doesn’t want any “of those trees”.
Translation – the lovely and unique dwarf and weeping conifers that were supposed to be our drought-tolerant and native-ish aspect of the entire design, is now in the garbage. The entire garden was designed around these trees.
I need to pivot.
Tuesday, March 31st 2015 – HMB, Hillsborough
Conifers have been replaced with Bamboo, more Maples and weeping Cherries. Maybe a Gingko biloba ‘Autumn Gold’. Not sure…
Wednesday, April 1st 2015 – HMB, Hillsborough
Yep. Planting a giant Gingko.
Thursday, April 2nd 2015 – HMB, Hillsborough
Dude. My fears have been realized and there is only 1 spike showing from the bearded Iris in my front garden! Seriously what the fuck?!! Previous years have produced upwards of 15! It wasn’t snails cause I plucked those fuckers myself… And I fertilized at the right time and exposed the rhizomes like they were Paris Hilton with no panties.
The foliage is happy. No chlorosis.
Friday, April 3rd 2015 – HMB, Pescadero
It’s my mom’s birthday and we are all headed to a beach house in Pescadero. And when I say “all” I am including the best part of my family, the magnum of Veuve Clicquot that was in my display window for New Year’s. It is now snuggly packed in my truck for the trip.
Grapes are good.
Saturday, April 4th 2015 – Pescadero, HMB
At the beach house there are struggling succulents everywhere. It’s amazing how they survive at all with the lack of rain and nothing but salt and wind pounding them constantly.
I was walking around the garden that borders the bluff with my niece and told her one of the succulents’ names (Aeonium).
She looked away and said, “I don’t care”. Malia is almost 5 years old and she keeps it real.
Sunday, April 5th 2015 – HMB
Mentally preparing for another busy week on site. Garden designing can be surprisingly stressful! I remind myself that essentially, I am just buying plants. It’s mostly all good.
Monday, April 6th 2015 – HMB, Hillsborough
Has anyone noticed how insanely wonderful Japanese Forest Grass is? It’s gorgeous in so many ways. I love the color… Solid chartreuse, no variation. I love how it bounces in the wind or when you brush by it with your pants or when you twirl it around like a pony tail. I wish my hair was as bouncy as this grass! It’s also just a hardy plant – my dogs trample it, chew it, pee on it and do a whole host of god knows what with the stuff – and it lives! It’s beautiful in ground or in pots. I need more, I’ve decided.
If only I could propagate it…
Tuesday, April 7th 2015 – HMB, Hillsborough
I have been preparing a tea tasting for my employees, so they have a better sense of the teas we sell in the shop and online. We will go over Neem, Dandelion, Peppermint, Lavender, Cacao, Belizean Cinnamon, Cardamom and Lemongrass.
Wednesday, April 8th 2015 – HMB, Hillsborough
Today was stressful. For a few reasons.
The good part of the day was purchasing some flowering bulbs for a client from a Rocket Farms (formerly, Nurseryman’s Exchange). Once strolling the empty aisles and not finding what I needed, I found myself freezing fucking cold in the cooler. The cooler is filled with racks and racks of already blooming plants that they obviously haven’t sold yet and want to keep in some sort of suspended and freezing alternate universe.
For my purposes, I found some flats of Muscari (the blue and the purple, Eeee!), Iris, and Tulips. I picked the black plastic flat up and it cracked in half and plants went toppling… Did I mention they keep it too cold in there?
While driving to my job, I heard a faint rustling sound. I looked to the passengers seat where the flats of flowers sat and saw nothing.
I quickly turned my head, guessing it was some stowaway bug that I would see a glance of before they flew back into the mess of foliage.
A third time. Rustling.
I pulled off the side of the road to figure out what the fuck was making that sound… And to determine whether or not I was having a stroke. Only to realize it was the unfurling of Iris petals from the heat of the car.
You know how mom’s like to say (especially on Instagram), “It filled my heart with joy” about their kids? Well, I get it. This filled my heart with joy. Hearing and seeing the tiny petals swell, rustle and burst open with little sounds of celebration, filled my heart with joy. It seriously felt like the flowers were telling me to stop, chill and enjoy how beautiful this world is. Or… At least, that’s what I’m taking from it.