Dusting off the musty side of Horticulture

Long considered “one of the  slowest of the performing arts,” HORTICULTURE is a living, breathing, ever-adapting, reflection of the world and our human role within it.  Whether you’re (ahem) a venerable gardener, or a rank beginner, passionate about African violets, or garden-infused cocktails, the garden has many gifts to offer.

Funny story:

Lorene & Annie

Lorene & Annie

Part 1 – a coupla years ago, while on a trip to the Bay Area, my friend Joyce took me to Annie’s Annuals, a plant-lovers’ playground deep in the industrial heart of Richmond, CA.  If you’re not familiar with this destination nursery and mail order delight, go here for a dose of pure hort-heaven and rambunctious joy.  That June day I was thrilled to meet Annie herself. The previous holiday season, Annie’s Annuals had spread a considerable amount of love around when they included my first book Hortus Miscellaneous in their holiday catalog along with some very kind words.  I introduced myself to Annie and gave her a hug of gratitude.  Being Annie, she hugged me back with a big grin… and then confessed she pictured the author of Hortus to be more of a “granny-librarian-type”!!!

Part 2 – last week I got to visit Flora Grubb, another destination-worthy hort-hot spot, this one in the industrial heart of San Francisco, CA.  (See a trend here?  The good stuff is always buried away in an off-the-beaten-path rust-belt…)

Flora Grubb truck

It's a truck AND a patio in the nursery yard at Flora Grubb

Flora Grubb herself –yes, that’s her real name– and her co-hort Jason (pardon the pun, but this is very much a botanical-retail collective effort) are passionate, smart, thoughtful and oh-so-hip.  A group of us gathered around a tiny table in the courtyard discussing what garden retailers and publishers often discuss – “The Future of Gardening.”  As if this process that’s been around since nearly the dawn of time is going away anytime soon… but retail and publishing? Let’s just say we had a lot to talk about.

fern wall

No garden? No problem - Flora plants the walls!


Graphic display of potting containers

Flora and company have created a delicious and style-driven entry point to the often intimidating world of Horticulture. Botanical Latin and a detailed discussion of carbon ratios in compost –  talking points at most “serious” nurseries  – have a way of dampening a garden newbie’s  enthusiasm; go figure!  Whereas Flora’s colorful design-driven displays, fun loving, re-purposed industrial scrap, and lots of ways to play along, invite everyone to get outside and play. “Aeriums” and edibles might just be today’s gateway drug to ornamental horticulture. Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t about seducing the customer into purchasing yet another pricey perennial or tender tropical – well, maybe a little – but if Flora and company have their way, a means of getting people to connect with Nature, grow things,  and think about their impact on the environment.

The funny part of this story? At the end of our hour of crazy-good conversation and dreaming, I put on my author-promotion hat and made a plug for my latest book, Handmade Garden Projects and referenced my previous book which I knew Flora Grubb had stocked in the past.  Flora and Jason graciously acknowledged my “pitch” and had nice things to say about Hortus —pause—but they were picturing an older, more-bookish, author.  S*gh


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6 Responses to “Dusting off the musty side of Horticulture”

  1. Loree/danger garden April 19, 2012 at 12:01 am #

    Okay so you’ve got an old gardening spirit tucked away inside your fun loving and very young-at-heart person…sounds like a great combo to me!

  2. debra April 19, 2012 at 1:26 am #

    Waaah! you know how envious I am when you have fun hort-adventures without me!!!
    but this is ALL GOOD!
    xo debra

  3. flora grubb April 19, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    We had SO MUCH FUN talking with you.

    I believe what I said is that I thought the author of Hortus more venerable. You are adorable, but you are going to need to grow in to your venerability. Don’t worry, we’ll all get there eventually….

  4. Lorene April 19, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    *giggle* I aspire to venerable!

  5. Lorene April 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    Debra… two word: ROAD. TRIP.

  6. LR June 29, 2012 at 9:20 am #

    I live in NJ but often find myself surfing to visit Annie’s Annuals online store just to look and read…well, actually drool a bit too. So lucky to have a personal visit to what I imagine as a carousel labyrinth of color and beauty. Thanks for confirming my imagined oasis.