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 5th 2015 – HMB
Preparing for the storm. Making sure the Crocus Sativus pots are all secure and low enough. Leaning over tools and unsteady pots and miscellaneous garden ornaments. Giving my crystals a good soak in the rain. Laying more straw in the chicken coop. Sweeping out the lab and office and shop with my favorite broom.
Friday, February 6th 2015 – HMB
Today was a shop day – super stormy and rainy. Grateful for the rain!
It was a rare slow day to just fuss around the shop. I didn’t need to do much, so I lit a candle in the window display and rearranged the already lovely flowers. The Tulips had started to arch down in the evening, and the sterling purple Roses were opening up and looking nice and fat. Three sturdy branches of Magnolia (arranged in a galvanized watering can) were buds the day before yesterday, and are now opening nicely, with the casings falling off of the folded petal tips. The windows look lovely and moody and romantic.
I’ve created a huge display of all of our Rose Leaf products; bath teas, massage oils, perfumes, mists, drinking teas, petal and buds for the bath. They line up so perfectly together and smell intense but inviting. My favorite are the simple brown tea bags of Rose bud drinking tea… The tight little pinkish red beds are still so fresh in the bags. You can almost imagine how lovely the scent will be when the hot tea kettle water hits them the first moment of brewing. There is no better steam to experience than Rose steam.
Penhalagons (London) makes a classically beautiful Rose fragrance… but I can say with confidence, mine is better. Not just because mine is organic and not synthetic, but because the scent is more creative and developed. Since we use the waxy resin distilled from the leaf of the Rose, it adds a fruity aspect when carefully blended with the pink petal oil. It’s full without being cloying. Cloying is good with Citrus and Jasmine, Vanilla and Marigold – but not Rose. You need deep and crisp with Rose.
Saturday, February 7th 2015 – HMB, SF
BAPP’s party! My first time over at Megan and Matti’s new house in SF. Their aesthetic is so bright and always variegated – a good reminder for me to be braver when it comes to plant choices. Left to my own devices, I would probably never plant a variegated Fuchsia – but after seeing that tiny variety (Megan, what is it again?) against the red fence – it made me want to grow more contrasting color in my garden. I can plant things like Cineraria for my clients, but not for myself for some reason. (I know Cineraria is not the bravest plant choice, but it’s intensely colorful and sometimes loud) I stick with solid colors and profuse bloomers. I’m not afraid of muted greens, greys or pale anything.
When I came home for dinner, I talked with Matt about their lovely newly planted garden, and what it was like. “So, what is their garden like?”, Matt asked.
“It’s Megan and Matti’s.”, I said – figuring he would know exactly what that meant.
For better or for worse, all of us gardeners (professional or “amateur”) have a style. M&M’s style is bold, bright, courageous and big. They don’t give a fuck. Is there a 3′ wide strip of planting space? Whatever – let’s slam a monster in there. Need some vintage thrift shop containers of a seal or kangaroo? They have it! It’s gorgeous and abundant, with little room for your eye to rest. You can rest when you’re dead, says their garden.
Derek and Rob, I’m not sure of just yet. I know they are indoor tropical hoarders – which I love. All of their plants are happy and well cared for and weird. Dahlia’s Dahlias are lovely. Saying the Asylum is impressive is an understatement. I’m looking forward to Rancho Fraying, and what will be planted in his newly cultivated perennial beds. Will there be perennial beds? Will it be a technology-free moated domicile? Is it a nudist colony for small dogs? We are all scared and excited for the impending visit. We must remember to bring burritos to Oregon.
My garden trademarks are obvi:
Cerinthe like a motha fucker.
‘Benjamin Britten’ Roses, exclusively (in the front).
Remnants of herbs tossed in the ground, Mint, Thyme, Chamomile – always half clipped from my last round of tea.
‘Alpine’ Strawberries scattered in weird places.
Agave attenuata like a boss.
But now… I might need to add a variegated Fuchsia.
Sunday, February 8th 2015 – HMB
Raining. Hard. Grateful.
Monday, February 9th 2015 – HMB
I’m mourning a true Winter.
A Winter with cold days that are short and dark. Where it might rain, but at least it’s chilly. Where you can wear a scarf and you don’t take it off by 10:30am because it’s “unseasonably warm”. Where people (your sister) don’t make fun of you for wearing leggings and Uggs day after day because it’s “what white girls do” – they understand it’s fucking cold and leggings and Uggs are god’s gift to women as a, “Sorry boo“, for having to get our periods each month.
Today, I’m missing a real Winter. My plants are missing it, too.
Tuesday, February 10th 2015 – HMB
I love having my crew in full effect. We start the day early and get a ton of gardening done. Today was a combination of short, fun, simple projects – stealing Succulent cuttings from client’s gardens, stealing Lemons from client’s gardens, and stealing Rose cuttings from client’s gardens.
Client: “Hey Jenn! I didn’t know you were coming by today!”
Me: “I’m not, you don’t see me. I’m stealing.”
Client: “Will I be getting invoiced for this then?”
Me: “Not sure yet.”
We planted a couple small slate planter boxes for a client in Ocean Colony. I picked what I thought was adorable, but in her eyes – not mine. Normally, I happily take a client’s opinion into consideration, but ultimately it’s up to the space and the existing garden to decide what it will be hosting. But, if the client suggests planting something like Hebe, I might strongly suggest we do better. Strongly suggesting we do better might or might not sound like, “FUUUUUUUCK no”. Today I bought outside of my taste, but adorable.
Baby pink Canterbury Bells
Deep purple Hyacinth
White/Cream Lantana (the annual version, not the dreaded woody perennial. I hate how they smell.)
Deep blue/purple Pansy
They were planted tight and traditional and came out lovely.
Wednesday, February 11th 2015 – HMB
Up at 3am for the SF Flower Mart. Got to play with garden Roses, water Lilies, scented Geranium and Rosemary all day. I ended up buying scented Geranium at the market for $4.50 a bunch – then was kicking myself later in the day when a client asked me to trim hers away from the driveway low lights.
“Arrrg”, I said out loud to no one.
I clipped Rosemary and scented Geranium and stuffed them into mason jars and tiny bottles, a The Horror played in the background. It wasn’t until the third shrill scream came booming from my iPhone, that my bookkeeper leaned her head in my studio space and asked, are you ok? I paired green Roses with blooming Rosemary, and pink cabbage Roses with the Geranium. I popped in some blue Senecio to add a bright color to the middles. They turned out so cute – and it reminded me of how much I loved to flowers for a living, back in the day. Wedding were no fun, but flower arranging was a dream. They are headed to the shop for sale for Valentine’s Day… hope it’s not too warm in there for them.