The Botanist

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Any of you who have visited my house in NY know how much I love my yard and enjoy gardening. I find it very relaxing and therapeutic. After a long hectic work week in the city, there is nothing I appreciate more than just slowing down and seeing what is happening in the garden—watching the progress of plants and how they can just transform your demeanor by seeing something beautiful in bloom. Gardening is a hobby that I picked up from my parents. I wish I had more time to devote to it like my parents do. Their ½ acre garden in Defiance, Ohio is pretty amazing and if I were them, I would open it for tours, but I think what they love about it is the private aspect of it and their being able to just share in the secret beauty together.
From NY Design Director to Adventurous Botanist for a Weekend…
Last weekend on my trip home to Defiance, Ohio, I was so excited to arrive into town to see my parents and get to enjoy their garden, but by the time I actually got to the house Thursday evening—it was about 9:30PM, a bit dark and just too late to even think about getting any outdoor time. I was pretty much beat and wanted to get a good night’s sleep so I could enjoy an early start to the long weekend with my parents. And so begins my weekend as The Botanist!!
This happens to be a fun entertaining book that I picked up in Key West that gives great ideas for how to use some herbs and other interesting plants in your creative libations!
The Pre-Botanical Garden Days
Waking up the next sunny morning in my childhood bedroom brought the excitement of knowing I would be served up a steaming cup of percolated coffee and be able to roam out in the spacious ½ acre gardens of my parents.
It is unbelievable for me sometimes to think back to the times when my  brother, sister,  and I were kids running around in this back yard. Our parents house is in suburbia and you would not typically think that it could contain such a beautiful garden which now lushly screens it from their neighbors’ very predictable backyard boxes of mowed green lawn. We used to have the same square plot of plain grass as everyone else with the exception of an in-ground pool that was more of a headache and money pit for my parents than it was fun for them!  We kids LOVED that pool even though it always had a leak that needed to be fixed and the kids experienced “the circle of life”  with that pool. Every day there would be some poor critter that had fallen in and drowned. We would find him floating dead in the water—squirrels, birds, rabbits….yep…that’s how we learned about the brutal concept of death.
Look how massive this pool is! It pretty much took over the whole backyard—it was absolutely fun as a kid!
Me and that pesky little brother again!!!
The pool was so darn big that it was a lake for me as a kid. At it’s deepest end it was 12ft!!!
Some early attempts of my parents at growing dahlias. Not the same as today’s garden—that’s for sure! How about that cute white pet bunny in the background!

 

Yours truly at about 1 ½ years of age sitting next to a supersize dahlia in my parents yard. Notice how it’s just coming out of the dry dirt. That’s how resilient these things are. Now take a look today in my parents garden and you can see they have their green thumb groove on.
As if I might actually like this little brother business. Nice climbing roses in the side yard, but nothing like what the parents have going on today in their gardens!!
Our friends and cousins most certainly enjoyed that pool too, but then as we all got older, went to college, and moved away from home, my parents made the decision to tear the pool out and create the beginnings of their much anticipated garden. They started with some hardscape brick and stone pathways and eventually the plantings started to fill in year by year.
I love getting to visit home and enjoy the fruits of  my parents labor lovingly put into this garden and it is truly a special treat to spend an afternoon in the garden just roaming around and taking in all of the vibrant colors and aromas from many of the plantings. I love getting to harvest the ready for picking fruits and vegetables too! This past weekend was sunny, clear and gorgeous—the perfect recipe for some relaxing outdoor time.
As a designer and also a gardener (inspired by my parents), I truly appreciate every sensory experience of the variety of plants included in their yard. From oversized cartoonish dahlias, to perfume scented roses, aromatic basils and dill, prickly cactus, tart citrus smells of hops plants, to lip smacking grapes-tomatoes-melons!!! If you can’t just quietly enjoy these experiences, then you are really missing out on the simple things in life.  These are the moments I really love—escaping NYC and dialing things back to basics.
Let’s spend a day relaxing and taking in the sights of the garden and how it can inspire your whole outlook on life….
Trevino Estate Botanical Gardens
It is early morning and the sun is starting to heat up. I love having my mug of coffee and starting the tour of the gardens in the dahlias section.
Welcome into the garden. Stop and smell the roses.
These are flowers that just make you feel like you’re Alice walking in Wonderland. The sizes on some of these dinner-plate dahlias is nature defying. They are bigger than the diameter of my face and some are like the biggest pom-poms you’ve ever seen. They just make me happy!!
This is called Calvin Floodlight dahlia and it is bigger than my head!!
Mom and Alex touring thru those dahlia plants in the early morning

 

I love how this dahlia looks like a beautiful sunset

 

And some of these dahlias look like someone took a paintbrush to them to “enhance” their coloration….painting the dahlias red!!

 

This guy has a split personality. He wants to be very proper and solid magenta on the bottom and his top 1/2 is having an identity crisis. He wants to be a bit of a rebel and be one of those painted dahlias.

 

Sculptural touches accent the beautiful plants
Our next stop is taking a look at all of the deepest burgundy flowers of the garden. They range from the amaranthus—these are the “dripping” waterfalls of burgundy, as well as the Rose of Sharon deep wine supersize flowers. And we also have the most blood-wine/ox-blood color of sunflowers.
In the background is called Amaranthus or “Love Lies Bleeding”. They are literally dripping burgundy cascades of flowers. In the front is a blood red “Rose of Sharon” hibiscus like flower

Close-up of “Love Lies Bleeding”

 

 

Sunflowers that are so deep red, they almost look black.
As we move down to the far end of the garden, I see a fun project for my backyard. It is the cutest teacup/saucer birdfeeder. This could be a great project for anyone wanting to attract birds into their backyard. You just need a few pieces of hardware—a long screw with an eye hook at one end and a few bolts/washers to space the ceramic cup and saucer.
Tea Time Bird feeder
I am going to make some of these for my yard. I already have an uncanny ability to attract birds into our backyard. I’ve been known to be called “The Bird Whisperer”. Check out this video from our most recent snowboarding trip this past winter to Whistler/Blackcomb where I use my powers to attract the local Whiskey Jack birds to me. Yes—I can do that!!!
Let’s move along to the more aromatic experiences of the garden. One of my  all-time favorites is the amazing assortment of basils you can find from lemon flavored leaves, to cinnamon basil which literally tastes like it’s namesake spice—there are so many types. I love using the leaves of regular basil with the most basic accompaniments of mozzarella and fresh off the vine tomatoes from Mom and Dad’s garden. And the cinnamon basil leaves dried make an awesome spicy tea.
In the back is the citrus colored lemon basil and in the front with the burgundy accents is the cinnamon basil. I wish you could scratch and sniff these guys.
Now, let’s check out the hops plant growing around my parent’s arbor. This is the actual hops plant that is used for brewing beer. It is also just super decorative as a climbing vine. The coolest thing about it is the small little florets that it produces. When they start to dry up and you run your hands over the florets to smell them, it literally smells like Blue Moon beer. They have a citrusy beer aroma to them.
See the little florets of hops dangling down on the vines.
Dad enjoying his arbor of hops plants and thinking he could be the next brewmaster. On the other hand, maybe he’ll just pop another cold one and kick back.
In addition to all of the aromatics, there are the fun plants for your palate, tomatoes, lettuces, peppers, melons…there is nothing like harvesting your own salad to eat for dinner.
Mom and I harvesting some personal size watermelons for dessert

 

These red grapes are getting ready for harvest. I’m picking through them to find some that are ready to eat now.

 

Heirloom tomatoes in hiding–I’m going to find you!

 

More tomatoes ready for picking!

 

And we cannot forget to do a stop in the rose garden section either. These are the beauties of any garden and they know it!! My favorites are some of the old roses before companies started to create hybrids and special types of roses because the old roses have the most amazing scents. They just envelope you in their perfume scent.
An interesting rose that is blooming multiple colors on the same plant
A beautiful monarch butterfly stopping for a minute to enjoy the warm sun
A gurgling fountain creates a calming background sound to the gardens and a couple of fun “facial” pots add a bit of whimsy to the garden.
What a gorgeous day in the gardens. Sometimes it feels like I could just lose myself in here forever. But since I do have to eventually go back to NY and work for a living like most of us, I will use it all as inspiration. It inspires me to view things from a more simple point of view, appreciate the beauty of nature—what it can do all on it’s own without anyone interfereing, appreciating the spectacle of color that nature can provide, and enjoy the sights, aromas, tastes, and touch of  nature.
Bring out the spark in your spirit with a little enjoyment of the simple things in life.
Namaste.
Take a moment and slow down to appreciate life at it’s most basic and beautiful moments.

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