The Zoom Office: Video Socializing with Garden Designers in the era of Covid-19


While I’m not a garden designer or landscape architect, I guess that I play with them on the same playground. What they may call “plant materials” or even a “plant palette” has to come from somewhere. I help to make the plants so why not invite me into the circle?

This does not look like the garden of a designer. That’s because it’s my lab-or-a-tory with an emphasis on the lab-or.

While there are many who work in these professions who don’t think a lot about where their plants come from, there are still others who care a lot and want to know everything they can about the plants they use in their work. To be honest, time and time again I’ve been shocked when I’ve met professionals who just think plants come from massive wholesale nurseries and that they seem to appear for their asking. In my honest opinion, I think they don’t want to take the time to care about the labor and environmental issues of that entire process—but that’s just my opinion based on the impression I’ve been given. This has just been my experience.

If you care about where your food comes from, then you should care about where your landscape was grown, how it was grown, and by whom. That too is just my opinion though.

Oliver loves the summer office.

So, thanks to my being a hands-on propagator working at two small nurseries in the PNW I’ve met some great plant folks. With an academic background in science and the arts, it’s honestly a lot of fun for me to meet and talk with these designers. Many are very engaged in their work, so much so, that it’s personal to them. They want to create beautiful spaces, but they also want to do so responsibly. I enjoy hearing about their processes, and hearing folks discuss how they do their work.

I must confess that I skipped the first few invitations that I was sent. I had things that I was doing and will write about those next time, but then I committed and I’m glad that I did. Since then I’ve participated a few times and have talked to several folks in this ongoing group roundtable. Today though I kind of forgot that it was happening and was late so I just showed up looking like this…

My back hurt. This was about as much as I could muster. Luckily, we had yet another great discussion and I continued to learn while at the same time staying home and safe. I mentioned that I needed to post something here, and it seemed like a good idea to discuss these meetings.

This COVID-19 thing is still afoot and my autoimmune issues caused by a blood disease that I have are not getting any better. So, until the vaccine comes along, you’ll typically find me socially with friends in front of a screen, and this summer, I’ll be doing that a lot out here in my summer office.

If you want to organize something like this, just be sure to have a moderator who keeps you sort of on track. Thanks Caleb!

Begonia dregei with Agapetes hosseana.

Columnea schiedeana


I had a longer post planned for today but it turns out that I need to do more research on the subject. I arrived home late last night from the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival so have not had a lot of extra time this week to write.

So, in the meantime, let’s talk a little bit about a Guest Gesneriad that I like enough to recommend as an unusual plant to try out. This one is known for its pretty flowers and the fact that it’s fairly easy to grow. I think that it has handled regular indoor conditions well, but it needs to be kept moist and placed in an east facing window.

I have to say that my Columnea schiedeana languished for months but it was likely due to its change of residence. Last year I took on the care of a lot of plants when a long-time Mt Hood Gesneriad Society member sold his home and greenhouse. This was one of his plants that came home with me, and for a long time I wasn’t even sure it had the correct ID since nothing changed—but then this happened.

My plan now is to keep it where it is, and in a few more months I will grow it outdoors once we warm up a bit more. This is one of those plants that fits perfectly into my patio plant category.

(Columnea schiedeana is originally from Mexico.)