Q + A with Laura and Emily

How did you get interested in plants?

Laura: My mom loves perennials and has always had a giant perennial garden. As a kid, she would often have me help her in the garden and allowed me to cut my own flowers for bedroom bouquets. I come from a large family and a couple of my aunts are also avid gardeners. They have always been there to answer plant related questions for me, scour nurseries for goodies, and pull weeds alongside me. 

When we moved into our home, I was blessed to buy a home from a perennial lover who had passed away. Although her style was different than mine, I have embraced and nurtured what she left and added my own style to it. I love the fact that I am caring for plants that she planted a long time ago. 

As for houseplants, I blame that all on my brother (Ben) and Emily. Ben has a very impressive collection of over 300 plants. His cactus collection is on point. I will post pics of it on Instagram (@trowelsanddirt) and on the blog soon!

Emily: Like Laura, I grew up with parents that loved to garden and at an early age would be in the vegetable garden, visiting farmers markets, or plant flowers. One of my first memories of gardening was when I was little and harvesting raspberries and found a dead bird in the patch. It was very traumatic for me, but I remember wanting to get back in the garden and enjoy the fruits of our labor.  Gardening to me became synonymous with summer. 

Unlike Laura, I moved into a house that was not even a blank slate. It was a rehab. A falling down fence, full of weeds, mud, and critters. While it has been hard and dirty work— we have renovated the space with new fencing, sod,  garden beds, plants, and a poured patio. I still despise the chain link fence— but working in the garden and testing different plants has brought me so much joy, and has allowed me to really learn the meaning of hard work. Crazy enough— I do love being covered in dirt, too!

Last winter (starting in December 2019) I felt a big void of not having green things to do. To compensate, I started building my houseplant collection (now up to 80+!) and have gotten into seed sowing with a full operation in our basement. I crave year round greenery and am so thankful to have found outlets beyond summer.

What is your favorite type of perennial in your garden?

Laura: Ahhh! I am a true perennial lover! This is such a tough question! I have so many plants that I truly love and appreciate. When adding to my garden spaces, I try to include a variety of bloom times so that I have constant blooms throughout the season. I love watching new flowers flourish as the we move from spring through summer and into fall. My very favorite spring perennial is probably the purple Snake’s Head Fritillary that I inherited with my house. When it blooms, it is a sure sign that summer is coming!

Emily: Perennials began my love of gardening. When we were redoing our yard, I wanted all the flowers without spending all the money. The great thing about perennials is that not only do they come back every year, but established ones need to be divided. I started my backyard with plants from Laura’s garden and my parents. Any hosta, coneflower, phlox… anything. Those are my staples, but I am a lover of English gardens and the style of having beautiful flowers encased with a formal hedge. That is how I was inspired to plant countless delphiniums. They’re my number one favorite. Temperamental, but gorgeous.

What is your favorite houseplant at the moment?

Laura: With encouragement from my brother and Emily, my houseplant collection is expanding now that I can keep my animals and pets away from them. My brother recently gifted me a Swiss Cheese plant (Monstera adansonii) that he propagated in water. I love the leaf texture. I also just bought two algaonemas (a tigress and a cutlass) who my kids have fondly named Brenda and Louisa.

Emily: These questions are so hard. As you can see— I love all things green. Anything. I love philodendrons. They’re my number one and I have a growing collection. Proud to say that I just added one of my wish list plants– a silver sword (hastatum). It was splurge, but I am so excited to see it grow (then I’ll give a cutting to Laura)! 

While philos are my favorite, they can be slow growing. That’s why I also love tradescantia. So fast growing, so many varieties and the easiest to propagate! Highly recommend them too as a beginner plant and putting outside in the summer!

What advice do you have for people who want to get into gardening?

Laura: I always think of gardening as free therapy. Being able to put your hands into the dirt, pull out weeds, and make things look pretty is so calming and is a huge stress relief. I would encourage people to start small and see how they like it. Most plants are fairly inexpensive and do not take a whole lot of extra care once you get them into the ground. If you do not know where to start, we are happy to help! 

What is your favorite edible plant to grow?

Emily: I love tomatoes, but haven’t had the best crop over the last few years. There is nothing better than fresh tomatoes from your garden to snack on, in a salad… anything. With my tomato challenges– I would say green beans are my favorite now. So satisfying to direct sow them and see them sprout from the ground. I also have some new fun varieties this year to try (like dragon tongue beans from Johnny’s). 

Laura: Zucchini. It is a beast of a plant, but it’s really so easy to grow! I also love the challenge of finding 1,001 things to do with it!

My kids LOVED our bean plants last year, so I am also planning on planting a whole bunch of different varieties of those. I am not nearly as organized as Emily, so I could not tell you what seeds I have already purchased (or when I need to start them). Making a spreadsheet to plan my seeds is on my to-do list. I will share it with you soon!

What is your favorite type of annual to grow?

Emily: Annuals are instant gratification. They add so much color and joy that it is SO touch to choose. I have really gotten into annual pot arrangements and sprinkling some ingrown plantings when my perennials are in a lull. If I had to name three– dragon wing begonias for pops of color in the ground (they get huge!), snapdragons, and marigolds. 

Last year Laura and I started growing our annuals from seed and snapdragons and marigolds were the stars. Great for cut flowers to bring in the house and marigolds are so beneficial to our veggie gardens. 

Laura: I loved the salmon zinnia (Floret Flowers) seeds that Emily gifted me last summer. They were a beautiful color and provided constant blooms for a good 5-6 weeks. Last summer, I direct sewed a little late. I am going to try to do so sooner this year.

I had some gorgeous marigolds in my farm garden that were huge! I am hoping the seeds I harvested from the dead heads will produce again this upcoming summer.

What is your dream plant?

Laura: Indoor- I am a total sucker for variegated leaves. Any variety of variegated monstera would be welcomed with open arms into my home.

Outdoor: I love flowering trees and would love to add a couple cherry and peach trees to our farm garden.

Emily: Indoor- Pink princess philodendron. I know it is trendy, but I am a sucker for pink leaves.

Outdoor- Mitsuba Yama Japanese Maple. Found it last year, but didnt buy it and couldn’t find it after I started thinking about it all the time! We have a spot picked out for it and hoping to get it this year!

If you were only allowed to grow one type of plant for the rest of time, what would you pick and why?

Emily: This is such a depressing question. I love all plants. Do not make me choose ever. Next question 🙂

If you could picture yourself as a plant, what kind of plant do you think that you would be and why?

Laura: Sedum because it is low maintenance, very hardy, very reliable, and returns fuller, year after year. It also enjoys partial to full sun, just like me!

Emily: Oh my. I think I’d be a sunflower. They are so busy during the season— start off from seed, then turn into a giant plant. I am a bit busy with all my garden hobbies. 

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