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.

Before returning to Italy, let’s review last winter…


About last winter, well, it was divine. Between the fair weather, a class in horticulture, and time spent with friends over long meals, it was a time to indulge in additional personal growth and discovery while lingering to get to know those around me better.

What I mean to say here is that my new mast cell medication was working mightily well—as were all of the other therapies. This plant of mine felt like its backbone was strengthened and buds began to form. (Now months on, I can see the growth.)

When we left for Italy, my health was better than it had been in some ways for years, but I know now that the neuropathy medication I was just given upon my return should have been instituted before our departure. Years of swelling have definitely taken their toll on my nerves.


Agapetes serpens.

This winter was about propagation. Much joy was had when these Agapetes serpens cuttings taken from my friend Kate’s plant continued to bloom and bloom under lights in my basement.

They’re still alive and have hardened off outdoors and I look forward to potting them up this week or the next. Bloom on little troopers!


Not such a bad year on Instagram.

This winter I continued to socialize on Instagram with other garden and plant lovers. It was through this platform we ended up meeting my new friends in Venice.

For anyone who has a difficult time falling asleep it can be a tool that can successfully create thoughtless thoughts. You can count sheep, or scroll through plant pics. Take your pick!

Many of the people I chose to follow are in Europe and I look forward to seeing their mornings as I slowly let the weight of my head really force itself into the pillow. Ok, maybe seeing their delicious morning repasts may sometimes widen an eye and a growl may grow from somewhere deep inside of my stomach, but then I move on to the next photo and set aside that fleeting idea of a sunny morning in Greece.

This past winter Kate and I decided to take a little coastal garden tour in January. We met up with Flora our friend over at Tangly Cottage Gardening Journal. (If you follow the link, you can read more about the gardens we saw that day.) Surprisingly, the weather was decent for us and in the end I was able to eat my beloved oysters.

From there we travelled south to Yachats and the Gerdemann Botanic Preserve.

If you’d like to read a great blog post about that location I suggest this post from my friend Evan over at the The Practical Plant Geek. (He wrote several posts about it and of course I’ve yet to post any photos at all.)

While preparing for departure, the garden grew and things bloomed while more botanical Latin was memorized and I worked to pass my plant ID course in the horticulture department at Clackamas Community College.

Friends were made, I hosted a talk here in my house about rare ferns given by an expert in such things, and the anticipation of the impending journey grew in me, the deviation from my medical routine grew more exhilarating, and soon we crossed the big pond.

More on that next time…