Brooke and her boyfriend, Dan live in a beautiful oasis filled with plants, chickens, dogs and a cat in a 1930's house in Vallejo. She is an avid gardener, covering nearly every bit of ground with plants, fruit trees, vegetables and vines. After filling her own garden, she joined a community garden to grow more vegetables and talk to other gardeners. Her garden is so inspiring as it is free and wild, and so well loved with bees and birds in mind, including a massive passion vine filled with hatching butterfly chrysalises. There were bees and butterflies flying all about when I visited her earlier this week along with my mom and son who had a great time picking and eating strawberries, raspberries and peaches. When Brooke is not in her garden, she is busy doing flowers with her mom Polly in their Napa based floral design studio, Valley Flora.
Questions with Brooke;
How long have you lived in your house? I have lived here since july 2011! So around 4 years.
What are some of your favorite things about your house? When I bought my house the garden was depressing, the entire back yard was covered in crabgrass and had some dying pittosporum. It took me close to a year to slowly cover and kill all the crabgrass which is highly invasive. I used black plastic, then sheet mulched everything to build up the soil and to help amend the dense clay.
What was the garden like when you bought your house? Right now the favorite parts of my garden are the ones I have to look after the least! I have several passion vines that thrive on neglect, they provide me with privacy and are great hosts for the gulf fritillary butterfly. I really cherish my Michelia or banana shrub. When it blooms you can smell it a block away in the evenings. My other favorites are the mod lodge of succulents everywhere and when the mock orange is in bloom! I go through stages so this list will change next month!
What are some of your favorite parts of your garden? My source for gardening advice starts with my mom. She got me hooked as a young child, so I always ask her first. After that I watch A lot of youtube videos, garden blogs, books and fellow garden nerd friends. I have a love affair with watching all things about gardening on the BBC UK gardening channel. I could watch that shit all day.
Where do you look for gardening advice? I pretty much don't like to follow any rules when it comes to gardening. I like to plant things that are pleasing to my eye, and look good with others. Kinda like a living flower arrangement. If they don't work in one position I will move them. I have ripped out plants and changed color schemes many times! Since my yard is small, when I plant something it has to have multiple purposes. My main factors in this are, is it edible...can I use it as a cut flower, is it beneficial for insects, will it bloom multiple times, fast growing, and if its fragrant all the better! Its all trial and error, there is no right or wrong way as far as I'm concerned. I have plants that are labeled full sun, that are thriving in shade. My main goal with my garden is to make it my sanctuary. There is nothing better for me then coming home to something I've worked my ass off to create. Where I can sit, listen to birds, watch bees and bugs, zone out and clear my mind, it is priceless.
What is your favorite (or favorites) time of the year in the garden? I'm pretty sure that would be spring. I love when all the fresh new leaves start greening everything up. The light in spring is great too, it just makes you want to stay out in the garden as long as you can! I always forget how fast things grow, I love to watch everything evolve, the garden will look different every day.