We did this interview on my 51st birthday, Tuesday, July 31, 2018 and here’s some pre-chat before we talk about how to make your plants smart and the Smart Plant App and their beautiful Smart Plant Website.
I am a super naturalist, my children are now 20 and 18 but I sent them to the Waldorf school. They focus on organics and they teach the children how to garden as well as how to build things and plastic is the big no, no we’ve had glass straws in their life, because I just wouldn’t have to have straws, let’s make it nice. They just go right in the dishwasher.
That was my question, how do you clean them.
When you buy them they come with a tiny bottle brush, I just keep that by the sink. Because if you make smoothies it doesn’t all come out, so I stand it on the spike, kind of vertical, we have a whole bunch!
I grew up with a Waldorf school in my backyard by my mom’s. She wanted me to go there and I was like no way. I thought there’s only 20 kids I can’t get along with the 350 in my class.
I call it the philosophy. I don’t always understand it, teachers don’t always explain, but if they would have told me that, I could have swallowed it. It’s totally been the best decision I ever made!
I was fortunate, my sister who is older then me, I saw her children go through school and I got to see what the magical education it was. I had to really work my husband over to make it work ~ It’s a private school tuition.
more the philosophy. There’s no TV. The kids can’t watch it, you don’t hand your kids screens until high school. All kinds of stuff like that.
It’s a rhythm and routine
not having mirrors for kids because it makes them self conscious, because they’re always looking at themselves. There’s like a million small things.
The good things classes are small.
most kids only have 3 good friends anyway
probably not gonna have more friends.
My point is if you are only going to have 3 friends it’s better to have 350 to pick them out of then only 20, but that was just my theory, but I have no idea, I could have been totally wrong! I was probably just a dumb kid and should have listened to my mom.
My daughter who just graduated, you know, she every body wants to try a different high school experience, but in the end she said she feels like she found her tribe in her class and since they traveled together from kindergarten through 12th grade.
They really deeply know each other, for people in a bigger class you might have been able to walk away from people, because they irritated you, but in that environment, you’re forced to work it out and you are forced to develop social skills you wouldn’t have to develop. Does that make sense?
You start to see them from a loving sympathetic place
because you really deeply know them there are not superficial relationships in the classroom. They have shared so much together. She talks so much about how she’s gonna miss all of them. Some more then others, it wasn’t like a whole blissful thing. So I was like thank goodness.
Do they have mandatory volunteer requirements, do they have scholarship opportunities? I didn’t know about any of these other things? I might have to fight that tablet one because I’m kind of a techy. They might be changing too.
It’s such a long discussion about tablets, it’s really about eye tracking and brain development. It’s not even about content. I didn’t learn how to use a computer until I was an adult because they weren’t developed so that you need to learn it is sort of a falsity. I’m not learning to program it.
It’s about a cognitive dissonance that happens inside their body when they are watching action and movement on a screen when their body is still. Like it’s hard to put that together, usually if you see action you’re moving.
- running with somebody else
- catching moving their hands
in front of the screen you’re really still. It’s all about what happens in your brain. During the times in your child’s life when your brain is actively developing, you want to have it in the most fertile environment.
TV The Plug In Drug
Before I even had kids book is out of date, this book is probably out of date.
that changed my life. Lots of compelling information!
So do you have a copy of the questions?
Do you have a garden?
We have a yard, I plant things, and fertilize them and harvest things… I like to create the vision for THE space, appreciate gardening spaces that draw you out to do something. I like to have places where someone can sit and read, or my daughter can go out and journal or someone can go out and paint. Sometimes we actually take like a picnic blanket in the front yard, and I’ll lay on my stomach on my computer with the dog, so we’re communing with the plants.
I don’t know if I would call myself a gardener, I don’t have formal training… lifetime of it. I don’t have a gardening routine. Does that make sense?
Very similar, routine is like the, almost like a 4 letter word in my dictionary and that has been a struggle as a teacher. It’s also funny Mike and I came up with these garden journal and I write my goals down, I’m much more likely to journal after, what did I accomplish.
I am going to flip New Years Resolutions on it’s head because when I look them down I am like non of these come true but that being said, I kicked my bucket list. I turned 51 today, it’s my birthday, but my big one I had since I was a little girl, so it’s not like I don’t keep goals.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up with a dad who was a gardener. So we were in the yard all the time and he paid me 50¢ an hour to weed which is now my least favorite thing to do in the garden. We grew radishes because they were easiest thing to grow and graduated to giant pumpkins!
I grew up and knew all the latin names for the plants more then the common names because that’s how my parents referred to them and I would just say them and people would say what?
I ended up with my husband working on the
west coast garden line
with horticultural expert Bruce Asakawa.
Where people could call in for 2 hours on Sat and Sunday. My husband and I were not on the radio we were on the board, doing the mechanics of radio network broadcasting. So I had 4 hours of listening to an expert every weekend and then I spent
many more years
learning about gardening intentionally.
Gardening in the millennial age
Now, here I am today, our company has evolved we have a gardening app that helps people garden in the millennial age
- super easy
- handhelds people
- don’t have to become a master gardener to have a successful planty life.
Let’s just go right into it because I’m sure listeners, I am curious what is it, are going to be interested and they are going to love your gorgeous website that is just streamlined and every picture just makes you just want to crawl right into it.
so we founded the millennial gardeners, there’s sort of this big blip of demographics. We found that they didn’t want to become gardeners like their grandparents. But they lead these lives that are maybe
- city based
- inside on balconies
- teeny plots of land
They really wanted information given to them, they are used to things being sort of immediate gratification.
We had this idea we developed an app
like to travel (Follow Siri on Instagram here) and I love plants. I would be walking in my neighborhood, or foreign countries and I would see plants and I would want to know what it was. It’s super hard to do it on google.
So we developed this app!
You simply take a picture of something
- live people
- submit the photo through the app
- ask a question and they tell you what the plant is!
Initially the app was getting tons and tons of people downloading it but we found they weren’t sending in photos.
We found out that people wanted more specific information on care so we created the
care calendar, you send it in to the app, and the experts send you regionally care specific. Zip code specific. Eventually you will be able to get that info through the app and you’ll get notifications that say hey bring that ______________ in because it doesn’t like the frost tonight!
For now it basically tells you
this is the time you need to be deadheading or fertilizing because this is the plant you told us you have.
That gets more specific because now we have the barcode scanning function and we’ve partnered with
- garden stores
- plant manufacturers
and you can walk into a garden retailer,
- open the app
- scan the barcode
- all the plant info loads onto your phone
and load that into the care calendar.
You don’t have to go through the process of taking pictures, you can still do that, we have the plant library but we are always looking to streamline.
Oh when you get care information, the Smart Plant App will also tell you what you need. If it says you need fertilizer, we tell you what kind of fertilizer you don’t have to
you have the option
if you want to click through and see where you can buy it but we’re trying to make it super easy for people to keep their plant alive.
This sounds too good to be true? And amazing! How long have you been working on it?
We launched the app 3 years ago, but you know how it is with technology it’s never great right out of the gate, there’s fixes and fixes.
This April we did a massive overall and now it’s as elegant as the website and super functional.
- see videos
- look for plants according to the room they do well in
some plants like humidity and will do well in the bathroom
You can choose bathroom and say I should go get a Boston fern or whatever for your bathroom
Or for your balcony or bedroom.
Some plants put off more oxygen at night so those kinds of plants help you sleep
Now you can get all that from the homescreen of the app it just keeps getting better and better and better!
And it’s free right? How does that work?
Just like all free things, there is a paid version as well. You know how if you download Words With Friends you can download for free, but you can get rid if you want to get rid of the ads you have to pay.
We don’t do that, but we do pay the live people who are looking at all your stuff all the time, so there is a cost and we have to make money.
that includes a certain amount, you get like 3 free ids and chats and you get one new free one every month, if you don’t want to have any new ids.
If you just want to barcode scan all your plants
You just put them in your care calendar
let’s say you need a lot of things identified then you would get the paid version
What’s wrong with this plant?
a lot of questions we don’t just identify plants like you can send in a picture of a sad yellowing plant or
What’s wrong with my ficus?
An expert will look at it and say it looks like this kind of bug. That kind of interaction counts and you get 3 initially
- one a month
- if you need more of those you can buy the premium plan
No way! That’s amazing! People ask that all the time! You know cause you listened to 4 hours of garden questions a week! You obviously know, I just talked to a listener Angel Garbabino in episode 239 who was saying, she had this mildew and she couldn’t figure out what to do.
It’s available on both iTunes and Android.
I can’t remember how I found you, but the thing I fell in love with was the Book Club! I see you have Floret ‘s book and I’ve been thinking about starting a book club with Jean Martin Fortier’s Book Market Gardener: A successful Grower’s Handbook for Small Scale Organic Farming and the John Jeavon’s
I tried to do one on Anna Hess’s Home Grown Humus but I had a hard time getting everyone online and the technology to work.
I have a feeling you’re gonna have to message me after this interview and telling me your favorite books and include them in the book club.
So we have this app and everyone’s all tech savvy
Then you have books, and books are like the opposite in a way. They are tangible and you can bring them into your home. I don’t think they are going away.
I don’t either.
So I grew up with this gardening dad but he was also a massive reader. I personally love books, so I said let’s start the book club. We have a place where people are using our app so we could make a place where there could be community.
We could do give aways and ship them. It gives you something tangible in the intangible world of the internet.
plants are hard to ship but books you can ship
Books are beautiful like gardens are beautiful.
I am only gonna do books I love. It’s personal I like the book.
- bought by a publisher
- will you review your book
- I wonder if it’s weird if I never do a bad review,
- sponsored or something
If it’s a book I don’t like, I’m not gonna read a book, I don’t want to have a book club collection with a crappy book.
I might be in Anthropologie
When I find a book that I like, I’m like cause I will see if this will be good for the gardening book club members.
I do that thinking will the author do an interview with me, or I almost always start out first at my library and see if they have it before I buy it. Then I can look at it and see, then if I want to buy it, I go that way. I do the same thing taking pictures in the book stores or garden stores.
When I find a book that I like and I am going to feature it.
I contact the publisher and ask them to send an extra copy or two just to give away.
Give aways for just book club members
So we create these book give aways just for book club members.
Sometimes we just surprise send a book to someone! Somebody could get a book and go what! I think at the end of the year I want to do something fun and have someone get all the books we featured in one year, so it would be 12 books to one person! IT’s just fun!
There’s something about books that fuels your soul, maybe similarly to how plants do. There’s something you get, or I do threw paging through books.
So that’s our book club!
There’s something about garden books you tend to go back and read them for reference, you go back and read them and read them. Idk how many times I have read the
And in school we spend so much time studying the comprehension strategy reread, teaching the kids to reread, I reread my curriculum guides everytime, I watch movies over and over too.
My listeners are really into reading
I know they are, they talk about it on my show, they talk about it they’re very into learning, I’ve had very few guests say they don’t read, but I would say if you are episode 249, the other 248 are pretty prolific readers.
I have a tendency to choose books that are somewhat easy reads and not encyclopedic. I haven’t yet, I haven’t chosen you books that are teaching you how to graft or how to do a perc test. I think most people aren’t doing things these days.
Like my first book was
that took me back to my childhood, and I was like I totally remember how to macrame, and that’s such a big feature and trend right now.
For the term urban jungle
the interior wilding of spaces people are doing macrame wall hangings for their plant based decor, and indoor plants
That’s awesome I totally remember macraming planters in fifth grade and when we had a hemp business way back in the early nineties we made hemp bracelets that were macramed and my mom has tons of indoor plants, my friend Nola is like the African Violet queen. We don’t talk about that much at all.
Thinking about the indoor books, one was called the
You might think what do rocks and crystals have to do with plants?
Most people don’t think about it but they’re like roommates. I did research into it and people are putting crystals with plants and putting them with pots. I did a study and if you make shongite water you get this black stone and water your plants you get these measurably increased results with your plants.
Different rocks had different effects on your plants
No Way, Who knew?
Our August book is
- making cocktails
- persimmons spritzer
A lot of times we grow those things and don’t know what to do with them.
One of my most downloaded episodes is my brother on Long Island and he talks about mint in their cocktails.
They’re having a Renaissance, let me tell you. These sort of master crafter people.
IDK why I didn’t join right then. Cause it’s free too? Right?!
It’s fun! Someone said we should do this thing like shop the look like everyone else does.
Shop the Look
- read the review
- buy the book
- supplies that you need
Like for the
Macrame book you get the
- o rings
- all the things that you need
Which is really handy for the Terrarium book.
So where do they get that? In like their email?
So when you join the book club, you get one email a month which talks about the book and you get the link to the book with the full review and get the link to the shop the look page. There’s a member access page, you get the email and we remind you what the password is. You get the full access.
Listeners you’ve got to get the shop the look for Erin’s book Floret‘s book it’s got everything like the pruners that she uses etc. Maybe I was busy that day, if I’m editing, and I find a page, I will quickly send the email off to invite the guest but I have to get the episode out so I don’t always have a lot of time but I will forget if I don’t just do it right then and there. I’m sure that’s what happened that day. I feel like I could spend hours on your website digging through your shop the look. You seem to have the data of what people want and this is amazing!
We’re all in it together and we all want the same things.
I’m gonna read the Terrarium book and get all hyped up about making my own terrarium, and it’s not always that easy, and so we just know what we like and put it all together.
It totally reminds me of that movie the Intern with Anne Hathaway and Robert Di Nero
and the director is Nancy Meyers, she’s one of my favorite movies.
I had to show my mom, she’s about the look, no about the fit, but this is like about the fit for gardeners. Plus my website needs so much help, people go to my website and leave right away but one of these days I’m gonna figure it out.
So make sure you sign up here for the book club
Let’s go to the questions: so tell us about something that grew well this year.
I have to tell you, when we bought this house, we went to, a California tropical fruit tree nursery
I had been to a garden show and I had seen a grower that had a surinam cherry tree and I loved it and they sold them at that place. Well we got up to this fruit tree nursery and we ended up buying about about 12 different trees. One of which I was looking for was
Spectacular mulberries that grow to about 4-6′ long. We put that tree in our backyard and every years we get the most amazing mulberries and we live on a canyon. Particularly this year, we had this bumper crop, and everything’s coming and eating the dropped fruit.
- birds and squirrels
It’s a very specific mulberry that Pakistanis have an emotional attachment, and I’m always taking them up to the Indian grandparents and spread them out in their community
We had a mulberry tree that was on Waldorf when I was a kid and it was just like that and my mom would make a mulberry pie that was so good!
Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?
well, I have always wanted a hysteria
sierra madre ca
it’s like 100 years old
trails for like a mile
I always had these visions for a wistaria, and my husband didn’t because it’s deciduous and so for some part of the year, it’s not gonna have anything on it.
he didn’t like that idea but this year I planted one anyway, I found a little corner
He didn’t really notice it right away
Chinese elm tree
sending off tendrils
I’m not gonna need a trellis it’s growing up into that so I’m super excited for that to grow and to bloom and finally have wisteria in my yard
For someone who hesitated so long that was a great answer!
Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.
same trip to the nursery I bought something called a
It fruits on the stems and I only got 5 fruits this year
I should send a picture into my app but I have to pay them so I try not to bother them.
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Now Let’s Get to the Root of Things!
Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden?
This is gonna sound weird, I feel plants are alive, people are saying talk to your plants and they will grow better, I feel like they are like a living thing with life energy, so I have the hardest time pruning a plant.
If I have to take a plant out
- huge tree
- choosing to put in a deck
- tree had to come out
taking out plants
wracks me and pruning is a version of that. People say you should keep your fruit trees that you can reach.
It’s an expression of you
I look at pruning is kind of like giving something a haircut but I know exactly how you feel, like I took all this oregano out this year and I felt awful.
What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?
Just sitting in it with people I love.
What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?
Probably when people said you should make an app
May not seem like garden advice but it made garden advice more easily and readily available.
How long have you been doing this?
We started the company in 1990, with the radio show, and for 2 years we had a television show called Over the Hedge that played in California. So about 3 years.
A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be?
I have this pair of bionic gardening gloves
IDK if you consider gloves a tool, but for me, I do like to be in with my hands, so I wear my gloves all the time, because they fit like nobody’s business.
I’ve been try to get another pair
I went to a dude ranch and I took them with me and I used them for horseback riding gloves.
Is bionic a brand name or do they just make you feel bionic when you wear them?
I think they were developed by an orthopedist, so they have stretch zones in all the right places so you don’t get
hand fatigue from being in gloves so that’s their brand name.
I’m a total gloves girl. I think everyone does, especially when you do a lot of rock.
I think they just got out of the gardening market. They are essentially gardening gloves.
A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?
when we remodeled our house built over the vegetable gardening area which made my poor young son distraught.
We don’t really grow vegetables
- sage tea
- mint tea
You know from our earlier conversation we have a lot of fruit in our yard
- strawberry guavas
- satsuma oranges
Like a mandarin orange?
Peel it and break it in half.
You are like my problem solver, my listeners know I don’t eat fruit very often because I feel it’s so messy so I am going to look into them.
it’s a guava. Do they call them Fujoa? Additionally to the strawberry guava, it’s round like a gum-ball about that size, inside it doesn’t look like a strawberry but it’s red. I don’t thnk it tastes like a strawberry.
We also have a pineapple guava
- egg shaped
- and Lemon guava
The fruit is more gum-ball shaped but it’s yellow.
I was thinking guavas were like a mango.
they have those too, it’s just a different kind
Fruit is so expensive this year. Strawberries were like $5.99 for a pound. Raspberries… peaches…
Sometimes when I have experiences like that because I live in California and I grew up here, and we have this mentality that every food is available year round.
I have to wonder what season is the real season for fruit?
Maybe it’s late season?
No, but strawberries should just be coming on. I went to Young’s Farm when I was visiting my mom in NY he showed me strawberries that were ever bearing that would grow all summer and in Montana, they should just be coming on I would think. We can’t really grow strawberries at my place or get it together here.
Have you ever been to France and bought strawberries are the size of the dime? After looking at them compared to the ones we eat, we’re spoiled!
I only went to France once and it was like Feb/March so there were no strawberries.
The ones we tasted atYoung’s Farm were sun ripened and so delicious!
farmer’s market’s that is fresh picked is where you can get good food.
A favorite internet resource? You can say smartplant.org
Obviously partial to that, but when I’m not looking at my own stuff.
go there somewhat regularly
idk if you call Instagram the internet?
Instagram for inspiration
I follow these plant based Instagram feeds
get so many ideas
when I see a cool plant I think I want like that someday, I have this little folder of cool plants
Tell me about the folder? What do you save in the folder? You can’t save the picture right?
Actually you can. They call them collections
which I would show you
above people’s feed there’s a toolbar
like an award winning ribbon
hold the ribbon down a plus sign comes up and you can name a collection and then go back and reference.
I have collections for things
string of pearls
a lot of plants Idk what they are
- colecasia file
- venus fly trap one
- talendia collection
- super cool
- cascading pink flowers
I have a lot of Instagram collections
I want a new plant, so I think maybe in the Hoya.
Can you share those like on twitter you can save lists?
No Instagram isn’t that way. I have so many folders too now, I wish they had a search function because if I am looking for something in particular, I have to look for that in Instagram they only let you share individual.
I am only just getting the hang of Instagram, unlike facebook. I still can’t figure out stories? I tried to make a story of this bed of flowers and it wouldn’t let me upload the 2nd picture.
Who knows maybe it was your wifi?
Could be, I wish I just got a new phone and I wish I would have got a booster because I can’t do anything in the garden. And for sure Instagram counts as internet resource.
A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?
I might say, Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants Are you familiar with it?
Only because I saw it in the book club.
Because it’s a book that is I read every single word in it
- every photo caption
- informative and interesting
profiles a few people
Honestly it has upped my interior game
Up until I read this I have been an exterior gardner
- shovel and my son
- done things
- cleaned things up
- inspired to do the inside
- plants in the kitchen
It’s fun! I’ll go to the store and say can I have a ficus triangularis? And they do! And I’m amazed because I read it in a book and so!
I know I shouldn’t say I LOVE THAT! But I do. And when I was just at my mom’s for the first time in 4 years and there was something about all the plants there that made me feel like the air was cleaner.
they’re like they’re alive!
living thing maybe!
She had this Meyer lemon tree, I know she had a fig tree she would bring in.
I have seen indoor lemons on Instagram and also people who have olive trees inside. Not necessarily fruiting but they are a pretty interior plant.
I wonder how big that gets?
If there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?
I feel like I would like to see people
- waste less
- pave less
- plant more
I feel like that’s the end of the story for me. So stop acting like everything is disposable, it is ruining the wild world. It’s not good for anything to have waste.
But paving, but we pave so much!
The water runs off
- not refilling our aquifers
- less is planted
- plants are prettier
- grass patio
Wait till you watch the Mary Reynolds movie: Dare Be Wild
And make sure you check out her book:
Do you have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?
I would say, start with one thing, I actually think if you start with something you can eat, it’s probably the most rewarding way you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. When you plant something and you eat it and it gets you excited to do more.
Look it got bigger and it’s a sensory experience!
Even if it’s an herb, I always think it’s a good way because it adds flavor even if it’s just a drink? It adds so much and then tomatoes!
There’s nothing like what it tastes!
How do we connect with you?
You can get the app on itunes or googleplay and download for free called smartplant
is our handle
Also on Instagram we have a secondary feed
Every week we profile someone with a story
A lot of people garden with their grandparents, one woman said ivy saved her daughters life because she had a mold allergy and it controlled the mold
interesting anecdote and featured story
It’s all about people and their journey with plants so it’s a fun feed to follow
join the book club and you put your email address and you get one email a month and you can read it or not!
THANK YOU SO MUCH! This has been the best birthday present. Thanks so much!
It has so been fun talking with you! Chow!
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