Plants 365, week 2

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, January 8th 2015 – SF, HMB

The Boxwood on Presidio above Sac. Street are amazing. Just Boxwood in a garden is totally OK.


Friday, January 9th 2015 – HMB

Day two of no sugar, wheat, flour, processed food, alcohol and little dairy. Attitude, not amazing.

Me. Want. Wine.

I worked in the shop most of today. The Tillandsia xerographica are so adorable… I found eyeglasses from the 17/1800’s and have been making little “Tillandsia Therapists”. It’s hilarious how people react to them. I love feeling their little “butts” – when they have been appropriately watered, they have firm butts and bouncy curls. I’ve found the best way to tell if they need water is to pick them up and weight them in your hands. They feel so much firmer and heavier when they are fully saturated. These guys are fun, but I always feel a little bit bad because I know they belong in the jungle.


Saturday, January 10th 2015 – HMB

Matt and I went to the San Mateo Farmers Market this morning… Day 3 of my health kick. I must have told Matt, “I fucking hate you”, about ten times this morning. He sipped hot coffee and took big bites of an egg, cheese and sausage sandwich. “It’s OK if you just have a bite”, he said, cheese oil streaming down his hand and wrist. I could smell the warm bread, and sadly said no. Clutching the Cara Cara Oranges, I turned away, dejected, and lonely for the feel of fattening foods in my mouth.

Why Zeus! Why.

We walked through the bustling stalls of the market and were a little surprised that there is a ton of stuff in season right now. Kale, Collards, fresh Peanuts, Persimmons – were all gorgeous. I smiled at my favorite homemade granola guy. I bought raw, organic Almond milk mixed with Vanilla seeds. I flipped-off the Heidi’s Pies booth when they asked if I wanted a free sample. I saw someone deep throating a hotdog (actually a fresh sourdough roll, spicy mustard with an Italian sausage) and almost started to masturbate. Things are hard sometimes.

We bought a few armfuls of fresh veggies and fruit, and I splurged on my most favorite citrus: Buddha Hand Lemon. $9.40 for a giant, gorgeous twisted citrus. Matt laughs at me when I buy these fruits, as I tend to carry it around the house like a baby. I bury my face in the inward curling fingers, inhaling the sugary passion fruit scent. Goddamn these are great fruits. Each year I try to grow the tree, and I have one growing in my garden now, but they don’t love the coast and never really thrive. If I had more heat they would be really happy. Until global warming gets worse, I will make due with a straggly little tree and keep buying the fruits from the guys at the market. One sits on my living room table now, and when we go upstairs to sleep it’ll come up and rest on the night stand. I love leaving fresh, over-ripe fruit on my nightstand… They smell lovely when you sleep. Try sleeping with a bruised Peach in the Summer-time. Magical.


Sunday, January 11th, 2015 – HMB

The Buddha Hand Lemon is starting to ripen.


Monday, January 12th, 2015 – HMB

I did a lot of plant shopping today, but feel too bored to write about it. Although I did find 4″ Echium gentianoides and a new Echeveria I had never seen before, “Ghost”. Echeveria ‘Ghost’ is almost identical to ‘Lola’, but a tad wider, I think.

Mostly what’s amazing about today is how beautiful my bedroom smells right now. The BHL has been quietly resting on my nightstand all day, warming from the sun coming through the east facing window. Last night I was burying my face in its weird clutch to get a small amount of fragrance, but tonight it’s completely filling the room with tropical scent.

It smells citrusy. Definitely citrusy. But also very much like passion fruit and warm strawberries. Maybe a bit like rum-soaked pineapple on a super hot day. Its sticky and sweet and almost too cloying.

This is the time in my BHL relationship when I have to restrain myself from picking it up every time I see it. Each time I hold it, it gets slightly bruised and effected by the oils on my hands. This will lead to it rotting early. But if I leave it alone, it should last without molding for another week or more. Then it will start to mold and I’ll keep it for another few days. And if history repeats itself, I will sadly bury it in the backyard. The chickens will look on, pecking scratch and silently judging the emotional girl burying the moldy Lemon.

For tonight, I will smell.


Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 – HMB

At 5:15pm Matt and I drove to my little farm on Lobitos Creek Cut-off. I was racing with the sunset and wanted to get there before it was too dark to harvest. Years ago I farmed the entire property, but the past few years I have just used it as a mother-garden for succulents (fabulous little garden) and done plant propagation there. Earlier this year I planted 4″ Lavender ‘Grosso’, Pineapple Sage, Echium, Rosemary, Oregano, and a few fruit trees. To my shock, about 50% have lived! Despite deer, gophers, zero water from the terrible CA drought – these little guys rooted and maintained. From the field I can see the sea and its a gorgeous place. We walked around a bit and smelled the fresh winter air. I clipped some bunches of Pineapple Sage to bring to the shop, as well as a handful of sprigs of the wild Narcissus that grow around my water tank. Originally that land housed a school and little cottage for the school mistress. She drove the canyon picking up the students each morning and brought them to class. The outline of where her cottage was, is now lined with double-pedaled Daffodils and naturalized Narcissus. I have pictures from when the school house was there. An arson burned it down (long after it closed) in the early 60’s. I acquired the lease from the school district when I was just turning 16 years old. It was an empty 4 acres and I wanted land to grow things on.

The rest is history.


Wednesday, January 14th 2015 – HMB

Fine. I admit it.

I ate on piece of chocolate today (raspberry filling, made by Go-To Chocolates over in San Carlos. The best.). It’s been a week of eating zero of the “bad” stuff, but then I made the mistake of going through my old (well, from 9 months ago) videos of my last trip to Belize where I was studying Cacao. Cerilla makes the best chocolate, and we watched her churning the warm liquid chocolate in a small, heated vat. She’s located in a tiny village in southern Belize, and when you enter the building the scent of Cacao is engulfing. It’s so beautiful and rich and deep. It’s not sugary, just very oily and nutty. A great scent to spend sometime with. God I love Cacao theobroma.

It’s hypnotizing. It hypnotized me. It made me eat the chocolate.

Normally I would not think twice about eating handmade, organic chocolate – but I was trying to go for the whole month. Trying to master resistance… Or at least hog-tie it for a while. Fuck it, at least I’m not doing meth.


(The Buddha Hand Lemon remains my fragrant sleeping partner.)


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