Holiday Happenings at Flora Grubb Gardens

I have had the recent pleasure of working at Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco.   It's pretty blissful--a lovely place, unique plants that are the jam, a stellar team of creative people, and enthusiastic customers.

This past weekend, FGG hosted several open events in the holiday spirit.  It was their Thanksgiving open house, full of aeriums and airplants, ornaments, Fermob furniture, spiced and spiked cider, succulents jewels, and dynamic workshops.

Flora Grubb, (along with architect Seth Boor (Boor Bridges Architecture designed the innovative urban space that houses the garden and shop), product designer Sascha Retailleau, and jeweler Julia Turner) discussed the creative and fabrication process of her newly launched products, the thigmotrope satellite and the succulent ornament (both available on the webshop).

It was fascinating to hear about how these ideas came to be something real: simple and modest, smart and sleek, and locally crafted.  We are often so divorced from the "making" process, that it's hard to see the things we buy or want to buy as something that a person, with a heart and with hands, crafted.  It changes the way we as consumers value what we want and purchase--certainly apropos that this talk came the day after Black Friday.  Flora incisively observed that affluent San Franciscans protesting affluent fellow San Franciscans shopping in Union Square ultimately misses the point.  The former validly reject the way our culture values amassing of stuff over genuine experience, among other things.   Still, what if we can have lovely and satisfying things and can maintain honest contact with the people and place within the corporeal world of stuff?  It requires that we as a culture have to reengage with the things and makers of things in our material surroundings.  It's unrealistic to think that we won't want a lovely scarf or a nice set of knives to make satisfying meals, and it's unrealistic to think that our economy should come to a grinding, pre-industrial halt.  But can we reconsider where and from whom we're getting such things?  GardenRant opened a thoughtful dialogue on some of the challenges to reaching a thriving local economy.  The point is not for everyone to live in material asceticism, but to realign our values when it comes to how we spend our money and on what we spend our money.  We may think that $15-$20 is pricey for a simple ornament that fits in the palm of our hands and has no web capabilities, especially when we see 3 same-sized, same-function objects for $4.  When you hear about the process, though--from idea, to design, to material selection, to trial and error, to production cost from local craftsman, to semi-perishable materials that are marketed, stored, merchandised, and maintained by people, whom you can see and speak with, and ask questions about the best use for them based on their own experience with these specific things--it's kind of remarkable that it costs the same as 4 lattes or whatever.  It has certainly raised my awareness when it comes to my spending this holiday season.

Also on tap at FGG was the pretty--in spades!
Visual artist and epiphytic plant passionista Zenaida Sengo, detailed how to care for and design with epiphytic plants, specifically tillandsias, to create innovative living art.  Zenaida spelled out tips for achieving verisimilitude with tillies to their native environments and growing habits.  Her prowess with this class of plants and her artful approach to working with them left her audience feeling skilled and inspired as air-plant DIYers.  Come back for Zenaida's Fun with Tillandsia Redux Sunday, Dec 11th at 11 am.

Designer and watercolor artist Patrick Lannan cannily demonstrated how to craft swank centerpieces and deck the halls and doors using succulents and local cuts.  Not your average fir wreath and red bow.  Patrick is a garden and floral designer who wowed customers with his ease and creativity in demonstrating the broad range of style one can achieve with a few sumptuous succulents and some freshly cut branches.  One of the best parts is that after the succulents have been on an interior Yuletide display, they will be perfectly hardened off and ready to root in the garden.  That's another feature I love about the new succulent ornament: after the holidays, the recipient plants the Echeveria or whatnot and next year takes a cutting of the growing plant to hang on the's that for a green holiday?

I was veritably jazzed to be assist both Patrick and Zenaida and learn from their distinctive expertise.  Patrick's Crafting with Succulent Redux will be Saturday, Dec. 10th, at 11 am.  Expect a crowd and get their early for some rich Ritual Roasters coffee and nursery full of garden treasures.

Also, this Sunday, Dec 4th, Rebecca Burgess, author of Harvesting Color will be at FGG detailing how to create rustic dyes harvested from local color.  I know nothing about this process, so I'm looking forward to learning.

p.s. Many photos courtesy of Flora's blog...


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