From Houseplants Back to Seeds…

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As pandemic life changes, and we begin to move around the cabin a bit more, it’s clear to me that many of us are reassessing our lives and how we live them. As a childless middle-aged woman it has meant helping my elderly parents a bit more. I have older siblings, and they’re dealing with their own lives, and for once in my life, I’m well enough to help out a bit with basic things they need. That was an easy and clear choice. I’ve enjoyed shifting my priorities to help them since they helped to support me for years when I was very ill. I can never pay them back for that but I am beyond grateful to have been helped.

When it comes to my work/life balance things are more murky. I think this is something all of my friends are thinking about too. From the start of the pandemic I was considered a necessary worker in my state. I work in agriculture basically and Oregon has a large ornamental horticulture industry. Unlike many people, I was not laid off, and I did not work remotely. Going through all of this was a learning experience, especially when coupled with the fact that my industry has been booming. I cannot make plants fast enough, and when it comes to buying in starts to pot up, well, many wholesale growers are out of everything, and when I say sold out, I mean for at least another year or two. Gardening has become very popular during the pandemic and that has made me quite pleased.

Being hired to give Zoom presentations was a wonderful surprise and it’s a great change as an additional revenue stream. Horticulturists need that extra boost and we do have a lot to say about what we do. I have teaching and speaking experience and I very much enjoy communicating about what I’m passionate about. I look forward to doing more of it and having more contact with consumers. I just never would have imaged that this is how it would start for me. With houseplants being so popular, and my having grown so many for years, I have a lot to say about them. I’m happy that being chronically ill my indoor gardening has become such a positive thing. Long ago I started growing the plants indoors to make me feel better, to help with depression, and to feel like I was part of the horticulture world even when I couldn’t function as well as others my age. Sometimes the number of them seemed embarrassing but it turned out to be a good thing for me in a way I had never expected.

Well, not long ago I had to transition back more to my normal life of propagating with seeds. Between the two nurseries where I work, as well as my home, it’s a lot of information running around in my head. I grew free veggie starts for folks in my neighborhood this year, and I also committed to growing seeds again at home in a more organized fashion, but it seems as though everything I do is more complicated and messy than simplified and organized. I have a lot of delayed maintenance to do and that’s part of the mess I’m experience but I’m getting things done. I think the pandemic has helped many of us with that.

I changed the name of my Etsy shop to the same at this blog not long ago. As my friend Paul at Xera Plants has said over and over, branding must be simplified. It’s been disheartening though at times doing customer service in addition to everything else during the last year. I sell seeds because I love them so much, but I don’t make much money if any when it really comes down to it. Receiving rude customer messages during the pandemic, especially from beginners who bit off more than they could chew, was sometimes really painful. No, I cannot refund your money if you didn’t follow the directions and do your research. This all happening at the same time folks online were sometimes making thousands of dollars selling houseplants in the underground market. It made me want to pull my hair out. Honestly, I’ve felt a lot like the naive idealist. How thinly can I sow myself? How poor do I want to be? Why am I even bothering?

I’m committed now to do better. It’s important for me to be responsible and professional in the industry that I love. This summer I scheduled an Open Garden with the HPSO in the hopes that it would help me get my garden in order. I’m also getting my seeds back in order too. Sowing new crops, I’ll be collecting from friends again, and I’ll try for another year to make the Etsy shop (or just online seed sales) work for me. In addition to two other jobs, this may not work out, but I am going to try.

My shop will be closed from June 1-September 1 so that I can reassess it further. I look forward to less harried and slightly more social summer. Stay safe out there and please get a COVID-19 vaccine!

Working at Cistus Nursery—An Introduction

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IMG_5295My job at Cistus Nursery started on September 26 of last year. Since then I’ve worked there one day per week (every single week) and I’m genuinely excited to see my 1-year anniversary up ahead. Owner (and friend) Sean Hogan asked me to join the team last August to work solely with seeds and I was more than happy to join as a propagator. In all honesty, it’s my first nursery gig, and for the most part, I knew what I was doing going into this but I’ve also learned so much and am grateful for this unique opportunity I’ve been given. IMG_6045One thing that’s remained constant over the years has been my love of and interest in seeds and their importance in our world. For many years I ignored the urge to embrace them fully (having swapped biology for art history in college because of a boy) but collecting and sowing seeds creates a kind of diversity in our natural world which can’t be beat. Obviously I dropped the boy (ok, he dropped me) but eventually I got back on track and have ended up right where I needed to be in the first place. IMG_5373Nowadays I’m transplanting seeds I sowed in the fall and winter while propagating annuals and succulents around the nursery. The other member of the propagation crew (other than Sean) is in charge of the more serious cuttings and he’s also the one who deals with collections Sean has made himself in the wild or otherwise.

If you’re unaware of what the nursery is known for, Arctostphylos are kind of our thing but we also have thousands of other rare and unusual plants along with some comfortable familiar ones.

Personally, I’m rather fond of the Pelergonium collection so have been learning to take cuttings of them by selecting ones we should make more of and watching over them as they grow.

IMG_3789In addition to the propagation I’ve been taking photos around the place to share on Instagram. This is one of the Arctostaphylos plants we have but I cannot recall which one. I’m horrible when it comes to their ID. I just cannot wrap my brain around them all.

But I’ve now germinated them from seed and my babies are growing well. Not everyone can say that and I have to say I’m proud of that accomplishment. Germinating seeds makes me so happy. Have I gotten that across yet?

IMG_4217Sometimes I see the most amazing combinations as I go from one spot to another in the nursery. We have more than a handful of greenhouses.

Seen here is a Corokia x virgata ‘Orangerie’ intertwining with Clematis x cartmanii ‘Joe’. Aren’t they just lovely together?IMG_3787Other times I find things that are just a mystery to me. Since this one is rare even in its native range I didn’t beat myself up too much because of my ignorance. Seen it before? Maybe? Well, if not, and if you’re like me, you might need help. This is Neviusia alabamensis or Alabama snow-wreath.

IMG_5730.jpgIt’s a lot of hard working at a nursery but if you love plants it’s worth the effort. Cistus Nursery is a fun place to spend my time and it’s truly a place to learn about plants. It feels like a plant library most days—and I’m just talking about the back greenhouses! Just walking through our retail area is enough for most folks.

That’s one of the reasons I kept this first post about my job as Cistus “Seedstress” rather simple. I don’t want to overwhelm and bore you with the details. I will try very hard to post more about the joys of working there as time goes on but for now, this is just a little introduction.

If you haven’t been there before, come check the place out. If you have been there, come see us again—over and over. I can assure you that there is always something different to see.

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Each week I’ve been returning home after work, being dropped off by my friend and co-worker Alex, and these two are waiting for me in the front window. I do what I can to bring home some kibble.

Thanks for dropping in and reading my post!