Time in a Bottle

Last May – about the time of my last post(?!!?) – I had a lovely visit with good friends in Eastern Washington. Suzanne and Scotty are the purveyors of Living In The Garden, an idyllic nursery nestled among rolling wheat fields in the Palouse.  Passionate artists and plants people alike, we connect; I can’t believe I’ve only known them for a little over a year.  Especially given that I’ve invited myself to stay with them three (3!!!) times in that year.  In my defense, Suzanne did bunk with us briefly last February for a visit to the big city and Northwest Flower & Garden show.

My most recent trip was ostensibly in support of my book, Handmade Garden Projects. Living in the Garden hosted an afternoon book signing where I chatted  with folks about garden projects – those in the book, those I demo’ed, those they’d invented, and of course, the many, many creative solutions Suzanne and Scotty have implemented at LITG.

It was a beautiful spring day, still slightly chilly and brisk, but perfect for planting and filled with dreams of the growing season ahead. I was down-right giddy because Suzanne had promised me I could “play nursery” during my weekend stay.  So back and forth I went, up and down the hill to the greenhouse, grabbing flats of beautiful plants, stocking and restocking nursery tables, answering questions, suggesting plant combinations, fluffing, tending, and merchandising plants to their best effect.  Basically, scratching my nursery-girl itch and indulging a pastime missing in my life since closing Fremont Gardens nearly 5 years ago now.

People often ask me if I miss retail nursery life.  The answer is complicated (isn’t that true of most thoughtful Q&A???) Yes, I miss the connection and conversations with customers, growers, other retailers and folks in “the biz”. Somehow, yet another cool, non-summer is easier to take when collectively commiserated. Likewise, the solution to my rampant snail problem might be out there, waiting to be discovered by kibitzing with someone equally plagued by the nasty mollusks. Left to my own devices, I’ve decided to simply remove plants that remind me of their voracious appetites. Thus hosta ‘June’ is a keeper forever more. My former favorite, the luscious lime-y green ‘Sum & Substance’? Off. With. Its. Head!  Same holds true for Solomon’s seal.  I simply can’t convince myself that those lacy leaves are anything shy of tattered and taunting.  Ridding the garden of the actual snails themselves seems way beyond my control~

It seems everything comes down to control doesn’t it.

How much, or how little, we believe we are in charge of our lives, our garden—hell, the next hour and a half!  Sure, we can make plans, plot the future, and map out our days.  It’s a lovely exercise whose results are a barometer of our optimism and peace of mind; what others might call our mental health.  In the meantime, while we’re pretending to wrest control of circumstances, Life intervenes and has its way with us.

Never in my wildest dream last summer in the midst of finishing my next manuscript, wrangling household economics, and praying for heat over yet another bumper crop of green tomatoes, did I picture myself fully employed. You know, by an actual employer.  But here I am fully engaged and yes, at times completely overwhelmed, by my new position as the editor of Pacific Horticulture magazine.

Pacific Horticulture is a community of passionate gardeners and broadly curious readers interested in exploring where gardening and horticulture on the West Coast intersect with real life, design, and the environment.  Pac Hort, as the magazine is affectionately known, has been around for 37 years; no small feat for a publication published by a small, non-profit. I am only the third editor of PH and the first to reside outside of the San Francisco bay area where our office is located.

Go to our shiny new website to read all about us; explore 7 years of archived content; sign up for an upcoming tour (Tucson in late winter is looking pretty wonderful!); and join the ranks of other like-minded folks. Just for the record, conceptualizing, designing, creating and populating a cool dynamic and responsive website containing huge amounts of content is NOT for the feint of heart or mind!  Fortunately, we were in the brilliant and capable hands – not to mention always-positive and supportive mindset – of Switchyard Creative, a marketing, strategy, design and development firm based in Portland, Or.  Mine is a “virtual” office where I have the privilege of collaborating with other dedicated and creative staff and board members spread across 1,000 miles.

Good, creative, purposeful work; I’m a lucky gal to have this opportunity. But I won’t kid you, my time is not my own and the garden has slipped far beyond anything approaching control.  What seems like a million years ago, I pinned a saying to the bulletin board above my desk in the crowded shared cubicle of my first job out of college. (Note: I can count on one hand, maybe even a few fingers, the number of “real” employers I’ve actually  worked for over the past 30-some years; the list of freelance and self-employed endeavors is quite long by comparison~) The small card read: “Go often to the house of friends, lest weeds grow up and choke the path.”

Well my friends – the weeds are high. Literally and metaphorically. There’s been precious little time for anything other than work. My family and loved ones have been very understanding but I miss them.  I miss my sweet pea bouquets and fresh salads, evenings by the fire pit and long meals on the front deck. Spring – and summer – have passed without my once giving the back garden any attention and boy-howdy does it ever show.

An ambitious building project next door is scheduled to begin shortly. Our response to its dramatic impact on our landscape is basically scorched earth. This fall we’ll start on our biggest backyard do-over yet. It’s sad, daunting, and exhausting to even contemplate but at the same time I’m starting to get excited by the creative, problem solving aspects of the project. The last 6 months have taught me to tap into collaborative energy and and seek outside resources. My days of thinking I can do it all myself are OVER.

But first. We’re off on vacation – granted a working vacation – headed to the beautiful bay area. Copy for the next issue of the magazine is due to the designer, uh… yesterday, I’m still wrangling loose ends and photographs, and combing content for correct grammar, syntax, and horticultural taxonomy. Life is full, sometimes crazy, but good.

The bottles at the top of this post are significant.  Last May Scotty took me on a fabulous picking trip to the Washington State University surplus store–be still my salvaging heart!!!– where I picked up these cool laboratory beakers and flasks for pennies.  Very Breaking Bad, no? During a phone conversation with a dear friend (like my office, many of my friendships these days are virtual as well), Wendy told me about a tactic she used long ago to cope with a challenging life in the NY theater scene. She would “bottle” good days in canning jars and store them on her bookshelf to keep for those inevitable less-than-good days.

My laboratory flasks are lined up on a metal shelf in my office. Filled with casually clipped blossoms from my garden they make perfect bud vases; providing a snapshot of the growing season and a way to enjoy the resilient plants making their way in my absence a midst thigh-high weeds.  But more often than not they just sit there, capped with their darling glass stoppers, and filled with what I like to think of as my good fortune.  An antidote to stressful days, impending deadlines, crazy html code, and a new life I’m still finding my way in.


15 Responses to “Time in a Bottle”

  1. bo roth August 10, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    i wanted to say that I’ve been to Tuscon (dad) in the winter and in march and it’s pretty and all but …just went in late July and it was BLOOMING LIKE MAD. Took all sorts of photos. I expected — well, desert and heat. But it’s monsoon time in the summer, with crazy thunderstorms, and so many flowering plants it was crazy. In March there’s the ocotillo and…well, a few other things. Prickly pear fruits, sages blooming, crazy orange things, and others I can’t remember the names of right now. You might want to consider a tour in summer, although, of course, it’s kinda hot…(ahem).

  2. Suzanne August 10, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

    I love you

  3. Loree/danger garden August 11, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    You got to “play nursery”…I love it!

    I think about the day when I might, once again, have a real job. The idea of having to get dressed in proper work clothes, deal with co-workers annoying habits (like too much cheap perfume) and a commute all seem so foreign now.

  4. Debra August 11, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    If you can write about it, that’s a sure sign that you’ll survive it…whatever it is.
    I am so incredibly proud of you and your accomplishments . . . and so proud to call you my friend!
    Hurrah to issue # 1 and many good thoughts heading your way for issue # 2!
    PS, I love your chem-lab bouquet and I’m so lucky you shared a few of those beakers with me!

  5. Bria August 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    “Go often to the house of friends, lest weeds grow up and choke the path.” I’m going to pin that to my forehead.

    I’m very excited to get my hands on a copy of the new Pacific Horticulture–the cover is absolutely stunning.

  6. Lorene August 13, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

    Words of wisdom for us all!
    Enjoy the magazine Bria!

  7. Lorene August 13, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    what a wonderful perspective… writing down as diffusing! My friend, you are my rock~ Next visit to WSU has to be with you.

  8. Lorene August 13, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    oh dear… is there a dress code?!? Thankfully not in my home office by the Sound~

  9. Lorene August 13, 2012 at 9:53 pm #


  10. Lorene August 13, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    I have so much to learn about the West outside of my own PNW realm! I’ll be in Tuscon in October for a conference and then again in March for the tour. Travel is so rich~ Hope we can connect soon.

  11. Cindy, MCOK August 19, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    Lorene, having seen your wildly creative, playful and horticulturally diverse back yard and gardens, I can imagine your sadness and trepidation – and also your excitement – as you contemplate major renovations. Your willingness to let go of the garden you love to create a new and different one inspires me to think about doing something similar in my own. I’ll look forward to your reports on the process!

  12. Lorene August 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    Hi Cindy – thanks for for the support. I keep trying to remind myself to focus on GARDEN as a verb and a process. What is it “they” say – it’s the journey not the destination.

  13. sensiblegardening September 6, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    I find your tube flower vases very attractive, I plan to source some out. Sometimes work does get in the way of our gardening desires but it also tends to give balance to our lives at the same time. Everything in moderation is what Mom always told me.

  14. Lorene September 6, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    Dear Sensible,
    work/life balance is not for sissies. I need every bit as much fortitude to wrangle IT, as I need to keep the weeds to a dull roar. Thanks for the reminder. (Tip: look to college/university/high school surplus stores for sourcing cool biology lab glass!)

  15. Van October 3, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    All I can say is wow! You go! Enjoy it all at full volume!

    Take care!