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

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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.

The New Edible Garden Plot at Mt. Tabor Community Garden

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I signed up for a plot at this Portland Community Garden site back when it was created in 2012. At that time I was placed on a waiting list and there I sat waiting year after year. Much to my surprise, just months ago, I was granted a spot and it was an exciting day when I heard the good news!

Since I’d had a plot at a different community garden location in the past I knew that it would be a lot of work. I was worried. Fresh produce is a wonderful thing to have on hand, and yet, here’s where I openly admit that the other plot ended up being abandoned by me.

I was worried I’d fail again.

Let me explain…

This blog began in December 2007,  not long after I’d started to recover from a fall I’d had down the basement stairs at my house. It’s kind of incredible for me to think that it’s 2017 and I’m still struggling with the effects from that accident, but it’s true.

For the last decade I’ve been dealing with nerve damage and chronic pain. I originally created this blog as a kind of pain relief and pain management therapy. The fact that I even attempt to garden is sort of goofy since I’ve sustained damage to both the cervical and lumbar regions of my spine. (If you don’t already know I had back surgery 3 years ago to correct damage done during a second fall.)

Yet, the trouble caused by my first fall has taken longer to correct. For the last two months I’ve been in physical therapy and soon I will be getting the first MRI to look more deeply into my lower back. Things have not improved. I’ve walked the long and painful plank to this point. In the coming weeks I will be told if additional surgical intervention will be necessary and I already know that I will be in physical therapy for a long time. (I’m also dealing with damage done to my hip from the impact sustained when I hit the wooden steps.)

So why oh why did I want to get another community garden plot!?! Shouldn’t I be taking it easy?

I said “yes” to the plot because I don’t believe in a magical future when everything will feel better. Deep down I believe in trying again, and again. I believe in living my life no matter what comes my way.

Nowadays I’m remarried and my husband lives and works here (and not in another state) so I have more help. I also have more friends and they’ve become an important and necessary network of support as I live with my chronic health issues. (Many of them I met through writing a blog and because I’m a garden blogger.) They’re my community now, my people, my group, and I’m devoted to helping them in any way that I’m able to do so. They aren’t out there actually toiling with me, but they support my efforts, and that helps me feel embraced and lifted up. We all need that in our lives. Just as we build supports for our vines, our veggies, and our blooms, we can do this with (and for) other people.

During my time working as a caregiver—before I “retired” recently—I often worked with hospice clients. I also said “yes” because of them. It will be messy, imperfect, crops will fail, and it might even get ugly at some point. I promise to share those failures with you—along with the successes! My Sicilian family took great pride in their perfect produce and I will try to do my best, but it will take work, experience, and time. I’m living my life though, making memories, taking chances, and I hope to reach out to even more folks.

Even if I need surgical intervention, this garden is going to grow.