Pot-A-Plant at Special Olympics

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“The garden must first be prepared in the soul first or else it will not flourish.” – Proverb from England

I was first introduced to Pot-A-Plant a year ago, when my Mom and I took a two-hour volunteer slot on the first day of the Summer Games Special Olympics.  We enjoyed the event so much we ended up returning the following day with my brother Colby (who created this website and has his own blog about dog training and guide dogs).  So, needless-to-say when this years Pot-A-Plant booth was reaching out to past volunteers I recruited almost my whole family and some friends.  Plus, Deb joined us during our volunteer slot…a seasoned Pot-A-Plant volunteer to help us on our journey.

Pot-A-Plant is well organized and you don’t have to know about plants, so it was perfect for my family.  I have to say, my favorite part of Pot-A-Plant this year was watching everyone’s interactions with the athletes.  Last year I was touched by each unique athlete I got to help pot a 2″ plant into a 4″ container and thoroughly enjoyed each and every person that came to me to guide them.  This time however, it was something completely different, since we had plenty of volunteers I had a chance to observe and see the ‘first-time’ Pot-A-Plant volunteers share in this experience.  I felt lucky to see this side of my family that I don’t see on a regular basis.  With all the road-rage, 40+ hour work weeks, economic crises, left behind people really show their softer side and I savored every moment!  With my love for plants, love for people and need to help makes this event a venue that truly feeds my soul.  Pot-A-Plant is not only Horticultural Therapy for the athletes, but is Horticultural Therapy for me!


I became a volunteer for Pot-A-Plant years ago, and have enjoyed every year I have participated. Each year holds its own unique experiences, but I always come with a full heart, and excited about the next year. I love encouraging new volunteers, (many who are friends I have invited to come), watching them light up after their first few interactions with participants, and then relaxing and becoming fully engaged in their volunteer experience. It is just plain fun!

During my break I walked around Long Beach State campus, and checked out the other booths (it is a carnival atmosphere) and the sporting events. I love to watch track and field. The participants determination as they run their race (much how they run their lives) is inspiring to all who are watching, and the excitement and thrill of event is contagious. The award ceremonies always bring a tear to my eye, as they joyfully receive the accolades of their accomplishment. There is a sense of community we often seem to miss these days in our fast paced technical world. Here you can just slow the pace down, and just breath in the goodness of the human spirit. It causes me to be reflective and appreciative of all I have.  As busy as my schedule can get, I never feel that my time is wasted when I volunteer, and invest in the lives of others.


To see more pictures of Pot-A-Plant visit the Therapy Section of this website

White Pots and their Beauty Within

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Me and Tony Godfrey

I take a deep oxygen filled breath and my pupils almost dance off of these familiar shaped pots, it feels like Horticulturist’s Disneyland here.  Imagine pristine white greenhouses, longer than your eyes can see, filled with plants in bright white pots arranged neatly in rows, then stacked appropriately above one another, to efficiently accommodate their lighting needs.  After being a buyer in the Interior Horticulture Industry for the past 5 years, I have never had the opportunity to actually see where the plants were coming from.  Olive Hill Greenhouses in Fallbrook, is one of the largest foliage greenhouses in California and sits on 760,000 square feet of property! I am, to say the least overwhelmed.  Although, the size of this facility is very impressive, it is the quality of their product that impacts me the most.

Baby Bromeliad cuttings, less than 2 inches tall

Baby Bromeliad cuttings, less than 2 inches tall

Deb and I are given a personal tour of the facilities by none other than Tony Godfrey, Owner and daughter Denise Godfrey.  They delight us with stories about origins of plants from around the world, and their journeys along the way.  After many trials and tribulations since 1973, it seems like they have perfected a system that works and is working well. It’s obvious that Olive Hill places a high value on quality, and will not cut corners of time or price if their final product cannot reflect this.  They don’t seem to grow anything that they can’t grow well.  At one point Denise grabs a plant and proudly pops it upside-down to show us all the healthy roots filling the pot.  With this mentality, it’s no wonder my plants in the white pots always seem to live unusually long and happy lives.

Aglaonema 'King of Siam'

NEW Aglaonema 'King of Siam'

We are thrilled when we got a glimpse of some new varieties of a colorful Agleonema ‘Chinese Evergreen’ that they have begun production on. This native Thailand plant, if found hardy, should have a huge impact as the next ‘IT’ plant for interiorscapes.  It’s brightly colored foliage never fades and would need medium light and moderate water.  I’m crossing my fingers for this one.

Our last stop is a greenhouse stocked with a field of Bromeliads, from tiny starter plants to full grown beauties in every bright color you can imagine (except blue).  We learn that a Bromeliads takes 1 to 1.5 years in the greenhouse before they are ready to sell.  They are usually shipped as cuttings from Europe or Central America and like a banana they are given a puff of Ethylene gas to get their color.  Bromeliads are big sellers and make up 50% of Olive Hill’s sales.

Seeing first hand what plants go through before we pick through them at a nursery gives me the insight why sometimes we have success and other times we might fail.  More importantly, meeting Tony and Denise Godfrey and receiving an informative personal tour makes me appreciate this industry even more.  Their signature white pots definitely reflect the love and beauty within their family and company.

If you want to learn more about Olive Hill Greenhouses, go to their website, here.

OCC Horticulture classes taught by Debra Ringler (Fall 2009)

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If you are not already aware, Debra Ringler has been a professor at Orange Coast College in the Horticulture department since 2007.  This is where I had the pleasure of first meeting her as her student.  Apparently I made a decent impression because now she is my boss.  Deb definitely made a good impression on me with her enthusiasm for the Horticulture Industry, her organization, her wealth of knowledge and her ability to make learning interactive and fun.  If you don’t believe me, check out some of the student feedback, here.

Deb will be teaching two classes back-to-back this Fall 2009.  If you have any inclination for either of these subjects, want to further you knowledge on plants and impress your friends at a party,  I guarantee you will not be disappointed.  The courses are listed below with their CRN numbers for registration.

Ornamental Horticulture A187 – Interior Plantscaping (2 units)

Identification, selection, installation, care and maintenance of plants for interior situations.  May be taken for grades or on a pass-no pass basis.

Transfer Credit: CSU

8 week class beginning Tuesday September 1, 2009.    5:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.

CRN # 21871

Ornamental Horticulture A101 – Container Landscaping (1 unit)

Landscaping with plants in containers in exterior settings, focusing on patios and smaller areas.  May be taken for grades or on a pass-no pass basis.

Transfer Credit: CSU

8 week class beginning Tuesday October 27, 2009.      5:30 p.m. to 7:35 p.m.

CRN # 20950

~~~~~To register for these classes, please go to www.orangecoastcollege.edu/, then click on Apply Now.~~~~~

Plant of the Month – Bromeliad Neoregelia

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Neoregelia Bromeliads, part of the Pineapple family, are native to eastern Brazil and come in a variety of fantastic forms, sizes and colors.  Bromeliads are epiphytes, which means that in the wild they live attached to trees catching nutrients from the air and will thrive with little care.  A slight dampening of the soil every three weeks, less than an ounce in the “cup” and you have a hardy plant that will brighten your dwelling for months to come.

The symmetry of the foliage emerging out from the center of these painted rosettes makes this something to stop and admire.  The interior Neoregelia species don’t have towering flower bracts like other Bromeliads you may be familiar with (like Guzmania and Aechmea), their flowers stay closer to the central cup and their new leaves emerge from this blushing center in purple, pink, orange, red, burgundy, chartreuse, yellow, green, grey, stripped, spotted and variegated colors.  They grow in a flat pattern, usually under 10 inches and spreading between 8-20 inches depending on the variety.

Neoregelias can be planted in mass to make a dramatic statement, but are equally as brilliant as a stand-alone plant on your coffee table or paired with other foliage plants. Talk about a conversation piece, it’s practically living sculpture!  Place them in bright indirect light and you’ll get a thriving color plant for 6-12 months or longer!

For more detailed information, check out this site on Bromeliads.

TPIE – My small part in a Big Plant World

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TPIE logo

Imagine yourself entering a 200,000 square foot exhibition hall filled with plants from all over the world. For a plant enthusiast like myself that is my version of a little bit of heaven on earth. I had opportunity to visit the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE) this January in Florida. This was my first time to attend this convention, and to say I was excited would be an under statement. It is one of the largest gatherings of over 500 exhibitors all under one roof that supply plants and materials to landscapers (for both interior and exterior) as well as to florists.  I was exposed a lot new products that stimulated my creativity, plus I came home with tons of information to share with my staff, and customers.

Being the people person that I am, I met fellow colleagues from all over the country. I had lunch with growers from Florida, I met Interior Plantscapers from Minnesota who had to work in sub-zero temperatures (I have NEVER been in weather that cold EVER). I connected with friends I know from the West Coast, and overall got  an idea of what is happening in the the horticulture industry on a national level.

I was honored to attend a meeting of some the industry leaders as a representative from PIA (The Plantscape Industry Alliance), where I serve on the board as Education Liaison, that are forming the Interiorscape Industry Coalition (IIC). This group will be collaboration of numerous organizations that represent the Horticulture Industry as a whole, and are creating a forum that will work together to create a stronger cohesiveness in this challenging economy.

Upon chatting with a variety of people from  numerous arenas in the industry, much of the discussion involved the effects the current state of the economy has had on the industry. Attendance was down from previous years, but despite the anxiety about what the future may hold (aren’t all of us experiencing this in whatever industry we are in?) the passion for what our industry offers to our clients and the world  was far stronger than any apparent unrest. Frankly most people do not enter the Horticulture field to become millionaires. We enter this field because it is a passion, and a belief that our product is not a luxury, but actually a necessity for the well being of not only our clients, but the world at large.

No one can ignore the increasing awareness of the ways our everyday actions impact our environment for future generations. Everywhere you go there are reminders of how we all need to be more green minded. One of the easiest and rewarding ways to accomplish this is to incorporate plants in your environment.  At the IIC meeting a very engaging researcher named Dr. Pennisi, explained how  her research will take lab results of the benefits of plants and test them in the real world situations. Her results from Project Carbon should be released this summer, so stayed tuned for future posts on this subject.

Attending TPIE was a worthwhile investment of my time for the increased exposure I received to this amazing industry. An industry that despite facing challenging times continues to strive to find ways to enhance our world with beauty, and make it a healthier environment for all.  I left enthused, challenged and once again honored to play a very small part in the big picture.