Wet A** Plants: To Be Plant Positive!


I’m in a consensual relationship with my hoses. I suppose the hoses at both of my jobs consent too, but OMG, the disagreements we have and the neediness of the plants. It’s like they will DIE if I don’t do something for them. Talk about learned helplessness. I HATE being an enabler, but it’s my life. I’ve slowly been growing a career (of sorts) by keeping the little babes alive and well. But they’re thirsty—so thirsty trapped in their little containers. It’s key to keep them happy though, to live another day, and to keep them ALL looking perfect-o!

Sure, it’s an artificial system to grow plants in containers. It’s just as artificial as any other relationship we humans have with virtually anything else other than other humans, but hey, these are crops we’re talking about, inventory, so that makes this business!!!

This is the game I play during the summertime and sometimes I feel like I’m hanging on mentally by a thread. But I’m a team player and THIS, this is my sport, and it’s an endurance sport.

Only a few more days of extra heat around here. This honestly isn’t too bad, but the duration has been for a week.

As much as I love plants, and as meaningful as they are to the life I’ve made with them over the last few decades now, sometimes I feel like I want a divorce.

But maybe this is just my dramatic and operatic way of life. Yes, that’s it.

Seems likely since the climax of the year for me is just about now, and then we swing back down into the cool comfort of fall.

Before watering, after watering.

Something I learned during the heat dome experience of 2021 was the power of simply wetting down the floors and walls of greenhouses. We do this at both nurseries in the greenhouses when we have extreme heat and it makes a difference. How often it’s done depends upon the temps.

You might think that we water the plants all day but at such high temps you can actually steam the roots. That’s a great way to kill plants! While it’s good for my asparagus harvest, it’s not so great for my ornamentals. Nom nom.

It seems like keeping them happy is a bit of an exact science tweaked by each nursery owner to fit the conditions of where plants are in their nurseries. I love the like microclimates created by benches, under benches, on a rack, under a rack, in this corner, or that one—it all depends upon where the sun is and at what time of day. Game on growers!

And this my friends is horticulture!

Me, yesterday, after standing under the overhead sprinklers. I dislike this experience most months but this time of the year I feel like a kid again and the water dump scene from the movie Flashdance seems fresh and new all over again.

As for tolerating high temps, I have a lot of environmental and food allergies, but my pale skin rather loves the feel of sun. As I age, the cold weather seems to cause a lot more pain than the heat. I guess I truly understand the snowbird phenomenon now. I physically understand it well.

Skin issues are kind of a thing in my family—especially for Dad and I.

But thank goodness I don’t have the rare allergy my great-uncle Fritz did. He was allergic to his own sweat and it was a challenge for him to work in produce with his family.

But I also like to say, “My pale skin betrays me. I’m Sicilian when it comes to my heat tolerance.”

So at least I have that.

My Rhododendron sinogrande is my biggest water baby back at home when it gets too hot.

My home garden was created with intentional watering zones. The areas where I spend the most time are watered the most. Out in front of the house is the driest zone. Each area differs quite a bit.

Sure, I expect folks to mention that they’d think I’d have irrigation, but it would be so complicated when I tend to use my chainsaw to edit (and add light) and change so much. In addition to my rearranging everything often, I’m one of those people who would break her own irrigation system too. I’m careless that way. I’m so goal driven sometimes I overlook the obvious dumb things.

Oops I dug in the wrong spot!

Maybe if my garden were larger I’d think about installing one, but it’s not. Maybe someday. I’d actually like to have that challenge. It tickles my virgo brain to organize things so it would be right up my alley.

Felix and Alfie. While Felix trusts that the sprinkler will not change direction to dump water on him, Alfie is still not so trusting.

So currently I have the indoor plants, the light garden plants, the propagated indoor plants for sales, the outdoor plants, the seedlings, the seeds to collect, the regular planted garden areas, the expected as-of-yet unplanted plants—and some plants at work!!!!

Columnea schiedeana in the garden tonight.

“Yeah, sure I’d love to hang out with you but I have to stay home and get some plant work done.”

“No, I can’t. I have to water.”

Oh! How unhealthy these relationships are and yet we enter into them anyway…

Some thigh and a mess of plants with a Begonia ‘Gryphon’ shining bright. Ok, maybe not as bright as my thigh but I’d like to think that you see the plant first lol.

Sure, I complain a lot now—after two separate weeks of vacation—and I’ll be leaving for another 2 1/2 weeks in the fall, but I’m ok. This is all consensual. I can say NO and leave at any time.

Yeah, I know, that’s not gonna happen.

See you next week!

Summer 2021 (so far!) at Campiello Maurizio in Portland, Oregon

The plants near the sidewalk are fried from reflective heat. Our record-breaking days of heat were not kind to the plants I’d not watered deeply before the heat spell arrived.

Well, I might as well begin with the news everyone knows about. We lived through a heat dome and at my house it reached 116F, but I only caught our temp here after it had fallen a degree.

Before all of that though, I learned that my blood sugar had spiked and in general I wasn’t doing well overall. With my new gray hairs I had to sit back and take a good, hard, and long look at what I needed to do to make myself feel better. I decided to work less, help my family more by spending time with my elderly dad, and I went on the KETO diet. I am still tired but I did lose weight and I have started to feel better.

Grey hairs are adding up. This is my usual hairdo after a day at work. It’s exhausting to do what I do but I really love it.

We still don’t know if I am any better. Like everyone else, I am trying to get medical help and the system is a bit clogged up because of the pandemic. Luckily I can wait, and I am able to keep myself busy. This doesn’t mean that I do it well though. After a few hours of potting things up last weekend I looked down and realized why my feet felt off. At that moment, I definitely was feeling my age. Next month I turn 47. This may come as a shock to some of you, but I’m feeling it. I am a bit drugged too so that doesn’t help to keep me sharp at all.


I’ve continued to keep at my work and have been gardening too. It still is difficult to bend over and down so I don’t get much done but this summer I am determined to get this place into a more sustainable spot. I have had issues maintaining things so I’m working to simplify things. So far, it’s paying off and I feel so good about that. I hope to really have things in order by November when I begin to bring the last plants indoors. I hope to hire a gardener to help me monthly, and an online acquaintance is volunteering a bit to help me get things in order. With HPSO Open Garden dates in September, she is really giving me a great boost.

Mahonia piperiana ‘Spoonleaf’.

Thanks to random conversations or messages with friends I still learn about new-to-me plants at work all of the time. Not long ago my botanist friend mentioned this plant that we have at Cistus Nursery and I had no idea what he was talking about. Then I looked it up after I located it in the garden.

This is what it says about it in our catalog: “Selected in Oregon’s Northern Rogue valley by plantsman Frank Callahan, growing in dry chaparral country. To 4-6 ft and dense, with leaflets nearly round and very shiny. Late winter and early spring flowers are peach tinted, maturing to yellow followed by attractive masses of powdery blue berries. The plants are burnished red with winter frost or drought. Full sun to dappled shade with good drainage and preferring west coast summer dry conditions. Frost hardy to USDA zone 6.”

Now don’t go calling Cistus Nursery to ask about it! It’s our policy that we employees always mention if a plant is not available, and yes, this one is not yet available again, but thanks to a conversation with my friend, I hope that it will be soon. I am just so smitten with it and I want one too so that means I MUST make more.

Seseli gummiferum, or moon carrot.

Another plant that I’m enjoying is this Seseli gummiferum at work. I walk by it a lot and can’t recall if this is one from Evan’s seeds from his garden, but I think that it is. I have grown a few batches of these and while they were wildly popular a few years ago, I think they fell out of favor a bit due to their floppiness. I adore them and all of their imbalanced-ness. They’re definitely quite attractive to the pollinators.

Begonia listada, grown from seed.

Here at home I continue to care for my houseplants and tropicals. I have been potting up so many plants in my own collection during the last few months. It’s exciting to see things mature.

By staying home more, working a bit less, I have been able to rest more and this is important after the experience of working at two nurseries during the pandemic. I wish I could have stayed home, but it was not possible. Now that the variant is running around, I am still vulnerable. I cannot deal with the common cold or a flu virus. At 40 I started the process to receive both pneumonia vaccines. (There are two and you must take them a year apart.) Physicians don’t ask you to do this usually until you’re 65 but I am very vulnerable to anything that attacks the lungs so they brought it up after I turned 40.

A gift to me from nurseryman Dan Heims.

So I have tried to remain positive while earning less money. I cannot keep at this forever and I need to think about my health. I still love what I do but I need to remain open to what I want to do, and what I dream of being about to do even when I am down. I don’t want to give in and give up. I’m just not that person.

Dan Heims gave me these textbooks on running a nursery. It was an honor to be gifted them. I have no clue if I ever would want to own or run a nursery, but I suspect I could help do so with a team of others. No matter what I do, there is no reason not to learn more. I can’t wait to spend more time with these texts over the winter.

At Cistus, Sean sometimes runs off to get us ice cream treats on hot days. Discovering the Choco Taco has been fun this summer. While I mentioned above that I was becoming more diabetic, I have stuck to the diet, so one of these once every two weeks can be a real treat.

My coworkers and I seriously giggle about it when we bust these open. There can be a playfulness amongst friends while working hard together in crazy hot weather during the summer. Ice cream can bring us together and Sean knows it. We all feel like kids again on a hot summer day.

On a recent trip to the Estancia (near the coast) with Dad I found this stump and rolled it up to his car. While he thought I was a bit nuts, my friends thought otherwise. I’m very proud of this find.

Felix has been having fun where he can find it. As expected, he acted like a King of the Jungle when given the opportunity to ride on our cart at the nursery.


Summer is definitely afoot but it’s far from over. Stay tuned!

More adventures are coming soon! Be sure to check back since I’m traveling 3 out of 4 weekends this month!!! Yes, this seems dumb considering how vulnerable I am but that’s what masks are for, and I for sure am calculating my risk. I still need to live my life, and so long as I feel like I am being safe, and that others are safe, I can proceed. I just wish that others felt this way too.

Be careful out there friends!! We’re not out of this yet!!