There’s nothing like gardening to get your head straight and your heart open. Something primal and therapeutic happens by plunging your hands into the earth and connecting with other living things. You wake up in the morning feeling a little out of sorts, work isn’t going exactly like you planned, your partner is acting grumpy and the drip in the downstairs sink is still there. Mornings like these are made for throwing on your jeans, pulling on your sweatshirt and heading to the nearest nursery.
Before you go, take a stroll around the place you live and find the spot that will absolutely pop with new blossoms. Note whether it’s a shady or sunny spot, because that will make a difference when you pick out your new plants.
Most large retailers – like Home Depot and Lowe’s – have good gardening departments and also tend to have the least expensive plants. But if you live in a neighborhood with a specialty nursery and have a little extra cash, I suggest you shop them and support the local independent.
The best nurseries in San Francisco are probably Flora Grub Gardens and Sloat Gardens. The first is an absolute must-see for anyone who loves the art of gardening. Their displays are unique and their designs are edgy. They also have their own parking lot (a huge bonus for a city nursery). Prices may be a little higher, but I believe everyone should visit Flora Grub Gardens at least once for the inspiration all gardeners need.
Sloat Gardens has three locations in the city and their staff is both friendly and knowledgeable. They also offer a reasonably-priced delivery service (which is terrific if you live on the top floor of a non-elevator building!)
Regardless of which nursery you choose to shop, take your time strolling up and down the aisles. This can be one of the most peaceful parts of gardening and many gardeners view their plant shopping almost like meditation time.
Next tip: Pick something that will make you look like you’ve been slaving over it for months; something with huge blooms or the biggest, brightest everlasting green plant you can find. If you’re new to gardening, look at the description tags. They’ll tell you how much water the plant needs and whether it thrives in full sun, partial sun or shade.
Here are a few more hacks for new members of the tribe:
- For instant gardening gratification, make your first project a small one. It’s no fun taking on something too big or complicated to do in a few hours.
- If past projects haven’t produced the “green thumb high” desired – largely due to dying plants – start again with 4-inch succulent plants. Your garden center staff will be happy to help you pick some that are almost indestructible.
- If you haven’t had much success with ground plantings, get two 16-inch round terra cotta pots and two plants that really “speak to you” – so you can start your conversation with nature again slowly.
- Buy the richest potting soil you can afford. Forget the huge bag; start with a small bag of soil that’s rich in nutrients. This also saves water because high quality soil retains moisture longer.
- If you can do your gardening outside it saves your kitchen or bathroom sink from dirt, grit and muddy water that can scratch the finish.
- If you have to do some of your gardening indoors, lay clean paper towels (not newspaper) on the area you intend to work to protect finishes and make clean up much easier.
Now for the woowoo voodoo therapy part: After you’ve done your planting, talk to the plants. Yes. I know. It’s crazy. But I really believe in welcoming new plants to your home with words.
Finally (and perhaps most importantly), don’t be too hard on yourself when your plants meet untimely death. It’s going to happen at least once. The temperature may dip too low during the night; the sun may blaze a bit too much for a few days; the plant itself may have not been of the best quality. It’s not your fault. It’s the circle of life. Sometimes stuff just happens.
Go get dirty. Go plant something. Enjoy a little green thumb therapy.