Plants 365, week 10

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 5th 2015 – HMB

Today was the first day of the year that I rushed to soak my garden.

I’ve been watering as needed of course, but nothing has been in real dire straights. Today, though, I looked up and noticed my salvia (something – I forget the name which is a disgrace since it was a plant gift from a nurseryman and long time friend) was weeping incredibly. I hate to see my plants really wilting. Sometimes I let things dry out for a little while – but it’s for a reason and I always remember to get back to them the next day or so. Alas, that salvia is so hardy and is turning into a bit of a water hog – so I’m sure it’ll be fine. It really should be put in the ground this Spring.

I’ve been reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying – and now am deeply obsessed with the authors whole outlook on how and why we have possessions. I’ve always considered myself someone who mostly only has the things she loves in her life – but once I opened my pantry closet, clothes closet, bathroom cabinets – I saw something much different. Garbage bag after garbage bag have gone to the thrift shop, to be recycled and to the trash. I even set up a table outside with a “Free” sign, for people who want to pillage. I call it my Free Business – and it’s my most successful business venture to date! (If you cut out money, business is really easy and fun!)

The book got me thinking about the plants in my life. Says the book, you are supposed to hold an object and – without challenging yourself with anything like, “Is this functional”, etc. – you are to ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?”.

But how does one do that for a garden?

Hmm. This might need to be a longer blog post subject.

To to be continued…


Friday, March 6th 2015 – HMB, Pescadero, Monterey, Carmel

Today I am escaping! (This morning.)

I’ve escaped! (Now, around 4pm.)

With the weight of the world back in Half Moon Bay, I have fled to Carmel for the weekend. Lucky is stable, Matt is taking care of the home, and Glenda and Apryll are covering the business.

I decided to take a drive back to Carmel, where Matt and I visit every once in a while… The Old Monterey Inn – a historic mansion on the cusp of Monterey and Carmel, featuring my fav linens and a giant bed. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be here alone. Just a little time to breathe and relax and not take care of anything.

The fire is going in the downstairs living room – a common area to the guests – people checking in and rushing to a dinner destination. But not me… I’m mostly keeping to myself and reveling in the Downton Abbey qualities of the home. I’ve made the Innkeeper adequately uncomfortable, by telling him to be sure not to let my husband see the various lovers I accept into my chambers. I asked him if I could call him Carson or Mrs. Hughes. He didn’t get the reference and just asked if I needed more Port.

Why yes! Yes, I do need more Port!

I told him I am assuming the house is haunted, and might I be able to borrow a Ghost Busters outfit for later in the evening. He chuckled, a generous and fake gesture. I told him not to worry, that I wouldn’t be a bother – if he could just direct me to the nearest strip club.


Saturday, March 7th 2015 – Monterey, Carmel

It’s just so much more cilivilzed to live this way! I have quickly acclimated to fresh towels, fluffy beds turned down when you ask, mints on pillows and a clean room the second you depart.

Last night I made a picnic on the bed, of cheese and crackers and artichoke hearts. I streamed Girls on my iPad and took a long bath in front of the fireplace. I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the jets in the tub, so that was awkward.

Port spilled all over the shower floor – Don’t drink and shower!

I used loofah in some new places, so that was interesting self exploration.

Its amazing how good some alone time feels… Especially when you are some where really good. Decadent show be in my life, even more.

The grounds here are gorgeous. Messy, clearly unplanned, but generally happy plants. You can tell which have been with the house for a long time, and which are new perennials some gardener pops in and out when the whim hits them. There is lovely Ivy clinging to the sides of the house and entrance – a perfect example of how and where Ivy should live. I can lay in bed and see a cluster of old Oak and Redwood trees. Crows are flying back and forth playing with the nuts and leaves and detritus they find. A fountain babbles in the back ground. The entrance pathway is brick (traditional red, white mortar, herringbone pattern) and makes a clickclickclick sound when people walk up. There is just enough moss on the edges of the brick to fall in love. It feels good to walk on the old, steady, grounded brick.

On the way to the side garden, there are little pockets of planting beds nestled between the brick of the house and the brick of the pathway. The soil looks silty and thin. Camellias, Agapanthus, Yew, Pittosporum and Hydrangeas grow well here. Other annuals that have been tossed in, seem lack luster – but the knobby stems of the out-stretched Impatients have a charming quality. White Impatients are pretty tolerable to me… Almost sweet.

A gardener has chosen to meticulously rake out the planting bed of any Pine or Oak leaves, the silty soil still has thin lines running through the whole bed and around the plants. The thing that is funny, is they have left half dead plants, spent annuals and small terra cotta pots that are desperate to be filled with fresh soil and new plants. Aesthetically, I wonder why the hell you’d spend any amount of time raking when there is other super obviously work that needs doing. Physically, I understand the desire to just rake, no matter the need. Sometimes it just feels good to get an old rake and run it over the smooth soil. Watching the lines accumulate, walking backwards and raking yourself out of a planting bed.


Sunday, March 8th 2015 – Carmel

My escape has been extended to include tonight and tomorrow. I drank a huge glass of Fuck It, and booked another night. I feel lucky to have good friends and employees to hold down the fort. Matt has found me out – and is now here.

Today I noticed that there is a medium sized but old Coast Live Oak tree in the entrance of the property. Unfortunately it’s close to dead. I spent some time looking for obvious reasons – any over watered lawn nearby, a soggy area by the house, infestation of some kind. I’m guessing it was systemic. They have left it standing and nailed some pots on the poor thing… So I’m guessing it’s staying. I’m not sure if I would keep it or grind it out.

There is a lot of to be said for leaving dead, rotting trees in a garden. Again… Maybe for another, lengthy blog post.


Monday, March 9th 2015 – Carmel, HMB


Driving back to Half Moon Bay. I miss Dillon, the innkeeper, already. Dillon really got me. It’s like he saw into my soul or something… Or at least knew the kind of red I wanted during the wine and cheese hour. Alas…

My last little pot of Muscari is in bloom. In about a day it will fade from purple to sun-bleached purple, then it will start making those flat but fat seed pods in place of the once lovely and fragrant flowers.

Spring is almost here.

I think I’m starting to feel OK. Even good about it.


Tuesday, March 10th 2015 – HMB

I gather all of my pots that have spent bulbs in them, and pulled them away to a different, less prominent part of the garden. They will live out the next few weeks of foliage life, slowly gaining energy and rehabbing the bulbs, in peace. No bulb-foliage-pruning here. It was a smart idea to have all of my bulbs planted in small terra cotta pots. They are easy to move around, I stack them when they are died back, then I pull them back out a few weeks before they start to sprout again. It’s been a good system – but this year I need to add some bonemeal to the soil… Somehow without the dogs eating it off the top!


Wednesday, March 11th 2015 – HMB 

I splurged on some lovely 4″ Annie’s Annuals: Cal. poppies (butter yellow), Cal. Buttercup, black Columbine, black Viola, Nigella and some other stuff I forget. I filled up about 8 medium terra cotta pots I got free from a job. It’s the terra cotta that has aged to perfection – crusty, dark in color and solid. They feel good to hold by the lip and move around.

They are all filled with good soil, planted and top dressed with fine cow manure. I used my vintage hose nozzle to gently water. It felt really good.


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