It Only Took 30 Years…

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This blog has been criticized in the past for being too personal, and to be honest, it was started because I couldn’t work, was too disabled to work, and I longed to be working outside, to be free, and to be healthy. My feelings and personal life were bound to leak in. And yet, somehow, creating this blog has led to many opportunities over the years.

Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’ in the garden at Secret Garden Growers. This plant was selected from seed by my other employer and mentor Sean Hogan. It is so great to work in a community that appreciates the skills and accomplishments of one another.

I wanted to live with dignity. I had spent a long time working hard to receive an education, to find flexible employment, and to be creative. It’s been a slog keeping it all together. There is A LOT of ugly that I’ve had to pass through. Through it all, I’ve become stronger and wiser.

Felix was a bit chilled this last weekend when it was cooler. He enjoyed having the frost cloth made available to him.

Several weeks ago my life changed in a big way. I didn’t immediately announce anything here, and it will take nearly 6 more months until we see the full changes, but I’m happy, and my body is changing.

Finally, I’ve been given the right pill to help that which ails me. It’s a new medication. “ORLADEYO┬« (berotralstat) is a plasma kallikrein inhibitor indicated for prophylaxis to prevent attacks of hereditary angioedema (HAE).”

So far, it’s helping me. 

Streptocarpus UA Tiramisu.

It is difficult to not be angry about losing so many opportunities, and to have faced challenges I failed at, and to not like what illness has done to me physically, but I ran out of anger 11 years ago.

Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ look great when planted in a large open bed with tons of sun.

My immunologist let me know that she’d be resubmitting a request for me to receive the new pill for my condition. It’s a very expensive treatment, and up until now, I was never ill enough for anything other than anabolic steroids and other meds that have acted like bandages.

I didn’t expect that I’d be approved immediately. Over the years, we’ve tried, and always had to resubmit, and I gave up any expectations.

So just to stay calm, I planned my trip ahead of time not knowing what would happen.

I wonder who the crazy lady is who lives here with all of the plants in her window…

I have a blood disorder and it causes me to swell, a lot. It has wrecked havoc on my life since I was 18 but it wasn’t diagnosed until I was nearly 30. No treatments have really helped, but we were able to reach the point where I could work in horticulture more and more. This has not been easy though.

Pelargonium ‘Xochi’ is a stunner.

There are no savings to take a month off, but I’m working like crazy so that I can go on a plant vacation soon. Right now, I’m adjusting to the new medication and I’m walking a lot at night to process how I feel. These last few months I’ve been flooded with emotions. I’ve had a lot of medical appointments leading up to this, all in the hopes that I’d gotten worse so we could prove somehow that I needed help.

We’ve been doing this for years, and it is not a process I’d recommend. This time, though, I got help.

Aristolochia fimbriata in the garden.

Overall though, I feel calm now. Swelling in all of us sets off alarm bells. I’m not dealing with that daily anymore. I’m taking one day at a time. I’m living in the present. I am enjoying a calm and quiet mind.

Yes, one of those Monstera deliciosa ‘Albo Variegata’ plants. I’m selling a few of these that I never got around to unloading after my LAST trip to California last fall. This is the most lovely one.

Each day now I’m just kind of letting things flow and I’m not pushing hard. I’m focussing on eating a large dinner so that the new pill won’t make me ill, and I’m sleeping a lot more. I am soooo tired.

I have fought so hard, and it has been a very lonely and isolating experience.

xGlokohleria rosea given to me by my friend Derek.

There is time up ahead to spent with my dad, I’m getting the garden under control before I leave, and I’m making plans with friends. I love and adore those who’ve been by my side for so long. They’ve helped me so much, and so often.

Seemania ‘Little Red’ aka Gloxinia ‘Little Red’.

At work I’m paying attention to the plants, but I’m also trying to notice if there are any changes I’m experiencing that I should tell my medical team about. No one is certain how this will change my other conditions. I’m hoping my lungs are better, and that some of the circulatory issues improve, but we need to wait and see.

In the meantime, I’m trying to buy more clothing and take care of me. I don’t know what I will do next.

“You shall not pass!!” Felix blocking Alfie from crawling up into his personal private area in the Seed Studio.

Spending time with the cats at home is kind of what I focus on now. I’m working so hard so I can travel and live my life, but I miss the cats a lot when I am not here.

This last weekend Felix, Alfie and I started to sort out the Seed Studio a bit for an HPSO Open Garden this next weekend. (It is Saturday and Sunday from 10-3 if you’re local.) I’m not at all ready for it, but I will do it anyway.

I seriously cannot believe that I’m at this point in my life.

I have cried so many times about not getting the medical help that I needed, and now, here I am, at 48, finally getting some help. They made the process for approval very easy and I was told that they were aware stress could cause problems for my health, and that they wanted to alleviate that.

Seems like something I would have loved to have heard for decades.

Me on a good day. Not all days right now feel this good. But this day, it was nice.

It only took 30 years, but here I am, unsure of what I’ll want to do next, but at least I have finally been given the medical opportunity I’ve waited so long for…

Gesneriad Society Convention, 2022 (Tacoma, WA)

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For me the event began on the 4th of July. As usual, I was behind schedule, so I planted plants and watered the garden all morning and into the afternoon. I then loaded up the Jeep to head north and was excited to have a “working vacation” for the rest of the week!! Woohoo!!

Felix and Oliver helping me to plant more plants and weed before I left.

It’s not the kind of working vacation where I’m paid to go though. For me at least, this is more a continuing education as a horticulturist and it was important for me to learn as much as I could since I’m a chapter president too. I needed some guidance! I mean, I always do, right? The work really involved getting all of those plants to the sale while they still looked great. We wanted our goods to go to market and we wanted people to WANT them. I mean that’s what this is all about. WANT!!

Just a few of the 12 flats of plants I brought up for the sale from our Mt Hood chapter.

We also earned some money by being a local chapter that grew a lot of plants for the sale. We weren’t sure if they’d sell, but we took the call to propagate seriously and I wanted any funds back that I could earn to pay for the whole thing. (Yes, going to a convention is NOT cheap but you can do it if you plan wisely and share travel and hotel costs with a friend or two.)

To improve as a grower, and just out of curiosity, I decided to sign up for judging school. In all honestly, I’m thrilled that I did! While I’ve grown and cleaned many crops of plants at both nurseries, I’ve not yet grown to “show” and it’s a thing.

Lots of houseplant folks do this so that they can impress others online, but I think it means a lot more to have the guts to show in public. I enjoy competition, but I like for it to be fair, and I don’t think that social media or the internet is fair at all. A flower show, well, it can be if you know what you’re doing. Anybody can do it.

Culturally, it’s not something we seem to enjoy as much out here on the west coast, but I wish we could get more into it. I ended up just seeing the whole things as one of my favorite philosophical exercises.v”What is the Platonic ideal form of this plant?” It was not nearly as bad as I had expected it would be, and in truth, I had a lot of fun. By questions the plants, there was a lot of discussion about how plants grow, and that just tickled this horticulturist’s little soil-encrusted heart.

Good thing I met folks from the other chapters too so maybe I can join a show in Seattle or San Francisco sometime. That is the rough part about being accepted as a student judge. I have to participate to do and learn more.

Our example from a practice judging. We were given random sale plants to score and I learned a lot with the help of a more advanced judge going over the process with me.

Learning to follow the sheets for the different categories was an important practice run too. I’m so glad we did this and went over our sheets with the entire judging group so as to discuss different points. Being in person doing so was a huge help.

After that second session I took a test later in the day but I still don’t if I passed. I hope so! Even so, if I did, I will only be a student judge and I will have that status for a few years. (I plan to take the same class in Atlanta at the end of September at the Begonia Society convention too. Seems only fitting to compare how the two different groups do it.)

Back in the room I saw that there were two plants from another member of our group that I wanted to keep to buy. The one on the left is a Gloxinia perennis and the one on the left is a Kohleria hybrid developed by Derek Johnson now name Kohleria ‘Hummingbird Feather’. (More on them below.)

I kept taking flat after flat down to the plant sale room since that’s the big draw at the end of the week for participants as well as the public a day later. It was a relief once that was all wrapped up.

The next day I took a break in the afternoon to relax a bit and calm down. I went for a walk to see the W. W. Seymour Conservatory in Wright Park. It had been closed for renovations the last few times I’d been in the area so it was a lot of fun to see it open again. I even bought myself some jewelry to support their program. I just couldn’t stand the thought of buying a plant at that point. I really don’t need any more.

The handiwork of a new friend from the Puget Sound chapter. He sat in on talks during the event whipping little crafty things up with ease. I could never do this with my hands. I admire those who can.

Part of the convention is also networking and sharing stories about what you grow, where you grow, and who you are and what floats your boat. This part if fun for me. I love people if they’re nice, so I met lots of folks! (Turns out lots of plant geeks are super nice.)

Some of them I’ve only seen online, and I made several new friends from the Puget Sound chapter so I’m excited that we can join forces soon. I don’t know what that will look like, but I like the idea of us sharing resources and maybe having a combined show and/or sale.

On Thursday my friend Evan joined me and before we knew it we were plant show participants. A friend had seen the plants I’d kept in my room and he said they were “show quality” plants. Well, honestly, that was good to know. I had no idea.

Then another friend said that they’d like more entries, so I mentioned I might have some.

Well, it turns out, that was a great idea! Evan and I learned the process of cleaning and trimming the plants to make them look perfect, and Derek, the actual grower and hybridizer of one of the plants, was given some much deserved credit for his skills.

We had to wait though to find out. Judging occurs the day after the plants are entered, and the awards are not announced right away.

The sale came next on Thursday but it was late at night. This photo only shows half of the room! Of the many flats I brought up to the convention, I came home with only 1/2 a flat left. I was thrilled we did so well.

I was also thrilled to have spent so much money buying a lot more plants to divide and sell and also to share with our chapter. I really hope that we can begin to have a regular plant sale somewhere in town. It would be so nice to have a set regular schedule and routine for the group again. These last few years have been rough but Zoom has been good for the group nationally.

On Friday Evan and I went to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium to see the gardens but I will post about it separately. That day was quite a lot of fun, but a bit off topic for the conference.

Another benefit was having a McMenamins up the street from the hotel. While I loved where we stayed, my mast cell activation disease and asthma did not like the fragrance that they poured into the lobby. This meant that I could not socialize in the bar and going into the lobby meant running through it as quickly as possible.

I also cannot buy hotel food made in a banquet facility. My black pepper allergy makes that a serious crap shoot so I brought a lot of my own food with me and I supplemented it up the street at the pub. (I also had Japanese food a few times to round out my diet.)

On our second trip to McMenamins we knew we’d won something, and we tried to eat and run, but we returned to the awards banquet a bit late. In the end, it didn’t matter. No matter what, the three of us had won 2 blue ribbons for the plants.

Having known Derek for several years now, it means a lot to me to be a mentor and a student of his. I know talent, and I also know that many of us need to lift others up in horticulture when we see talent occurring. It happened to me, it still happens to me, and it’s what I need to do when I see it near me as well. Derek works with me, Evan used to work at Cistus Nursery, so in a weird way this was also a Team Cistus win. Heck, even Evan helps me all the time with ID work and others topics that we talk through. I am so happy that others there helped us to help Derek. The whole thing was just so amazing and it could not have happened any other way.

Then we stayed late and kept buying plants until the plant sale ended. We helped to clean it up. We met more people. We talked to more friends. Then we went our separate ways and drove home…

Of course I’m skipping a lot. I came home feeling revived, rejuvenated, and like I have a better understanding of what my role should be as a chapter president. I feel better supported too. Networking helped me to better know the folks I need to reach out to when I have questions. I kind of came out of nowhere when I stepped up to lead our chapter, and as of right now, no one else wants the job so I will keep at it until another volunteer wants to swap with me. Boy, I bet I am really selling you on membership right now.

Felix was happy to have his woman home.

So in closing, I still very much believe in plant societies that meet in person and which are the good old-fashioned ones. Why? Well, they really do have conservation and educational interests. There are people involved from many fields, and it’s a group effort, not just a pseudo celebrity influencer that I’m sitting and listening to as their captive audience, a number, a follower, just another passive number.

While there were not many horticulturists, there were more of us than I’d thought there would be, and we had a few professors. Most were hobbyists, but it was a community that felt a lot more like it had some purpose and direction with people coming from different parts of the country.

It was a ton of fun, and yes, if you’re wondering, you’ll likely find me there next year in Virginia.