Tag Archives: Amy Stewart

Our AMAAAZING Spring Party!

13 Apr

Donkeys and owls and dragons – OH MY!

Big, BIG thanks go out to all our gardening friends, who made this year’s Spring Party the biggest, best and funnest EVER!

And a beautiful day was had by all!

A beautiful day was had by all!

We were so lucky to have incredibly Springy weather with blue skies and big puffy clouds – a perfect setting for a weekend of fun, flowers and extreme silliness.

The day started out with our Cuckoo Mookoo Costume Contest and we have to say, the costumes this year were INCREDIBLE. Octavius Seymour the Owl, Snappy the Snap-Dragon and the beautiful Bachelor Buttoness to name just a few!

The Wild Bunch

Snappy the Snap-Dragon and Friends

The Owl and the Fairy

Octavius the Owl and the Spring Fairy

Costume Winner ! "Bachelor Button" dress made from crepe paper !

The Marquesa of Bachelor Buttons - in a handmade dress of crepe paper! Incredible!

How lucky were we to also have two outstanding speakers – Kate Frey and Amy Stewart. Both talks drew big crowds and were packed with so much good information on habitat gardens (Kate) and eeeeevil plants (Amy).

Pollinator Talk!

Pollinator crusader Kate Frey told us all how to bring more pollinators to our gardens.

Amy Stewart

Amy Stewart's talk about wicked plants had us itching to put on gloves and goggles before gardening.

And what’s a party without a few surprises? Cassie of Gardengirl Farms brought adoptable chickens and bunnies and Michael Layefsky, aerial photography enthusiast and gardener, showed up to take pictures of all the shenanigans with a camera attached to a 25-foot pole.

Look up & say CHEESE!

Aerial pole photography rig. Cool!

there we are!

Here we are! Photo courtesy Michael Layefsky.

Young and old were delighted when the cutest miniature donkey named Little Willow walked through the gate, all dressed in flowers for the costume contest.

costume Winner! Little Willow and Mama Willow.

Little Willow the Donkey with her mom Willow.

Unquestionably, the most fun happens at the games! First up was the Supermarket Sweep raffle – where two lucky people win 15 minutes of FREE SHOPPING! We like to see their little red carts piled as high as they can go!

Saturday sweepers with their haul

Saturday's Winners and their haul!

And where else can you become a Gardening Olympiad for how fast you can coil a hose or how accurately you can fling extremely lifelike pieces of cat-poo? Speed and teambuilding are tickets to success for winning the Snail-in-the-Spoon Relay Race.


A burst of speed from a Snail Relay contestant.



Cat Poo Toss - Fierce Competition

Intense concentration and focus during the Cat Poo Toss for Accuracy.

All in all it was a joyous day where everyone could let loose, laugh, play and celebrate another glorious Spring! Yay!

Spring Fairy!


See lots more funny photos in our AMAZING SPRING PARTY SLIDESHOW!

Beware the Mandrake!

5 Apr

In honor of Amy Stewart – author of “Wicked Plants” – and her free talk at the nursery on Sunday, April 10 at 11 am – we present you with the most terrifying plant in our arsenal: Mandragora.

Have you ever played Bloody Mary? I don’t mean the drink – I mean the “game” where you attempt to conjure up a ghost in the bathroom mirror. Turn around three times and say her name (BloodyMaryBloodyMaryBloodyMary) just to see if she appears? Well, Bloody Mary was certainly a well-worn part of my late-night slumber party experience as a kid and the result was consistently the same – we were never able to conjure the ghost, but we were certainly able to scare ourselves silly. For the first time in my adult life I’ve found myself in a similar predicament and this time, it’s with a plant.

A plant that can kill you. With its screams.

Mandragora autumnalis double page

Mandragora autumnalis watercolor by Caudetano on Flickr

From the ground up, a mandrake is a most unassuming plant. It makes a big, leafy green rosette with pretty purple flowers nestled close at the center. It’s what’s underground that’s so sought after and so perturbing. The roots, which can get a few feet long, are like a carrot grown in rocky soil – twisted and thick, and bear some resemblance to a wrinkled little man. The plant is used in magic and in ritual, and there are certain things you must do in order to harvest it correctly. During the Middle Ages, often the harvester would tie a dog to the plant and then leave and go very very far away, so that when the dog pulled it free and the plant’s deadly screams (YES SCREAMS) hit the air, the dog would be the only victim. Being a dog owner and animal lover, I sort of have a problem with this method, but I am also hoping that even if it’s true that people did this, no dogs were harmed in the process.

Mandragora - Male and Female

Regardless, the screaming has me nervous. I’m sort of relieved that my handling of the plant has been in its care and not in its transplanting. I did warn Jen, who transplanted them when it came time, of the risks involved. Jen’s okay, by the way. She transplanted the Mandrakes a few months ago and I just saw her today. She reports no ill effects.

Mandragora autumnalis blooming in the nursery

The humanoid appearance of the plant is part of what makes it so feared, but the contents of the plant are a different kind of scary – all parts are poisonous and contain potent compounds with hallucinogenic and depressive effects. This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyways – our interest in the plant is as curiosity, not medicine. Ingesting any part of a plant as poisonous as this one is a dangerous and stupid idea. But as plant geeks? You bet we’re hooked. This is one symbolically heavy plant!

Mandrakes, male and female, from the Neapolitanus Dioscurides manuscript, Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli, early seventh century.

So no one’s died yet – no dogs, no coworkers and not me, as I sit here writing this in the office, with a great distance between me and the spooky roots.

We have just a few plants for those brave enough to keep their company. They’re growing innocently in clay pots in the back of the nursery, and I am watching them carefully. Very, very carefully. The species we’re growing isn’t the infamous Mandragora officinarum, either. It’s the rare and endangered Mandragora turcomanica from Iran – READ ALL ABOUT IT HERE.

Perhaps we’ve been safe because we’re not growing THE Mandrake, we’re just growing A mandrake, but I’m going to guess that it might also be because we’re giving this fascinating plant the respect and reverence it deserves. If you’re keen on learning more about the mandrake and other plants with seriously wicked potential, then you MUST read Amy Stewart’s book Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and other Botanical Atrocities. And get thee to the nursery this weekend! Amy’s giving a talk on Sunday, April 10 at 11 am and it’s sure to be spooky stuff.

WATCH Amy’s amusingly sinister video for “Wicked Plants.”

Claire Woods