Plants 365, week 9

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, February 26th 2015 – HMB, Hillsborough

Spent a lot of time thinking about an upcoming design job in Hillsborough. I’m swimming in thoughts of variegated Japanese Grass, Gunnera, Daphne, black Mondo Grass and deciduous Rhododendrons. Dwarf Conifers need to be layered in some how, too…

Brain won’t turn off. I think in a good way though.


Friday, February 27th 2015 – HMB

Lucky is very sick, so he’s laying on a heated blanket in my office while I keep watch and work on the landscape design. In between checking dimensions and reading about dwarf Conifers, I look past my desk and see him laying there, slightly struggling. Whiskey curled up by his side, while Patootie has found every single toy, ball and stuffed animal that was littered around the back yard and has now placed it at his feet. A pile of dirty toys is her way of asking what’s wrong. She seems really frantic. Whiskey is calm. Sprout doesn’t seem to notice like the other two do.

Canceling the Oregon birthday trip.


Saturday, February 28th 2015 – HMB

Worked in the shop.

The 4″ organic herbs we have are so gorgeous right now. I have been babying them for the “Winter” and now they are looking sturdy, vibrant and healthy again. All fresh growth. I walk by the flats of Chives, Strawberry Mint, Bronze Fennel and Oregano and rub their tops with both my hands. I love inhaling the mix of scents – ranging from spicy to floral. It’s not the most well suited combination of smells, but anything alive and growing is so heavenly to breathe in. The Strawberry Mint is almost too much, very full and sweet fragrance.

“Thank you”, I say out loud to the plants, as I inhale. The Chives leave my finger tips green every time.

Keeping an eye on Lucky.


Sunday, March 1st 2015 – HMB

After working in the shop, I came home in the afternoon and dusted some of my potted plants with some of PRC organic cow manure (Bob’s Best). I normally prefer my compost and manure to have big chunks that I can crush with my fingers – but this manure is pretty refined and loose. But I really like it. Their Mary Jane’s Blend potting soil is fucking amazing – but has way too much perlite in it for my liking, so I always top dress with a manure. With the manure on top about an inch, it’s hard for the perlite to rise to the top like it normally does, unless we are really careless and water too hard. Mostly the potted plants just stay that nice medium brown color. In ground, my favorite application is using a mix of steer and cow manure. You cultivate, plant, add compost and water – after about a week it will form a nice crust.

God I love manure.

Still looking out for Luck-monster.

Gardening to do tomorrow, mostly in HMB. Looking forward to it.


Monday, March 2nd 2015 – HMB, Hillsborough

Lucky has been diagnosed with renal failure. Matt and I are deeply sad.

Violets are in bloom. Same with last years Poppies. I need to add some color to some of my smaller terra cotta pots… Not sure if I feel like it though. The dusty calcium and moss accumulating on the outside of the clay is beautiful enough for right now.

Working late tonight and submitting the Hillsborough design. I feel really good about it, but my technical drawing skills are rustler then I can to admit.


Tuesday, March 3rd 2015 – HMB, Hillsborough

Hillsborough went awesome! So happy to be working on this interesting property.

Really shaken up about Lucky. And still finding myself having a hard time without a real Winter. It’s supposed to be 70-fucking-degrees this week. Fuck you. Fuck that. Where the fuck is the rain? And if it can’t be rainy, can we at least have the fog or some cold? Fuck 70 degrees, for real.

My seedlings need to be moved into part shade. Yep. It’s March and it’s too hot.

Zeus help!


Wednesday, March 4th 2015 – HMB

Today is my 33rd birthday. Holy fucking shit ballz!

Today I got up and planted some 4″ little guys from Annie’s Annuals. I bought them yesterday as a present to myself, and delayed the gratification by waiting to plant them today. My garden is in a nice and tidy state, with a swath of black bearded Iris about 6″ high in foliage (no bud spikes yet). The BB Roses are just lovely medium balls of fresh growth – and the perfect red/green leaves are ready for harvest for my Rose Leaf bath tea. There are dozens of lovely buds all over each plant, some even have tinier side buds. These Roses are always ready to bloom, finding resilience and energy no matter what the season.

These are good fucking Roses.

I just planted a handful of simple flowers that will grow and bloom quickly; Nigella, California Poppy, Sweet Peas. I even underplanted, giving them ample room to fill in – unlike my normal flower hoarding.

For a while before I planted, I just sat on a redwood stepping stone and starred at the soil. It felt great to hunch over and feel the sun on my back and relax my eyes to the brown of the soil. I sat in plain view of the sidewalk, but no one walked by or bothered me.

I felt sad.

I kept reaching for my phone, then put it down in disgust over my obvious addiction to simply holding the stupid thing.

It took a while to get into the groove of doing nothing.

I poked the dry soil with my copper trowel, like a kid half trying to plant something. Where ever the tip of the trowel gripped, I dug further, revealing nice lemon-size clumps of moist soil under the initial layer of dry compost. I flicked them up, then chopped them into smaller pieces, then wiped them back into their hole with my bare hands. Feeling the warm soil and crushing the clumps made me feel better.

With Lucky feeling bad, Matt and I are definitely in a funk. It’s hard to watch the other dogs looking so vibrant and strong, and then see Lucky energetically feeling low. You can almost physically see the bursts of energy he has throughout the day, then notice it subside into gentle listlessness. He’s worn out and tired, mostly.

His little flame is slowly petering out.

From working with plants, I feel so keenly aware of the seasons for everything. It’s a fact of life and something that I respect – almost enjoy. But when it’s so close to you, it can feel sudden and shocking. Lucky is our little being – the grumpy old asshole in our family. The mild curmudgeon lurking underfoot, sniffing the floor in the kitchen with no regard to where you’re walking.

He’s our little dude, and I’m not looking forward to saying goodbye to that piece of our world.


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