Work Hard, Plant Hard

My Story

BackgroundChristine Kelso

Why Work Hard, Plant Hard? Let me cut to the chase. I had a really hard time last year with the election in the US and its aftermath. The politics, the animosity, the discord – it had me in a state of perpetual angst. I was doing what I felt I could given my busy life as a mom of two youngsters working full-time as a physician. Mostly, supporting organizations whose causes I care about. But as a former news junkie, I found myself repulsed. Meanwhile, my husband, with his keen sense of design, sent me a photo one day. The photo - a lovely, clean and simple picture of 3 houseplants in terra cotta planters set among a midcentury modern aesthetic said, “What about plants?”

IMG_3576

A post earlier this year as I experimented with plant design using terra cotta (string of bananas) and modern props.

My plant story.

My son asked me recently, “Mom, when did you fall in love with plants?” I had to think about it. The past decade has been quite a whirlwind. I finished my Chief Residency in Portland, moved to San Diego, had my son, moved 7 times in 7 years, a few moves within San Diego, back to Hawaii, back to Portland and back to San Diego. Somewhere in there I gave birth to my daughter. All while working as a full-time Internist, mostly in academic medicine – teaching residents and students while caring for patients. Meanwhile my husband took some time off of his high school science teaching career to stay at home with our kids during their early years.

I grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii where I mostly took for granted the amazing plants around me. We had mango, macadamia nut, and plumeria trees in our yard. Hibiscus bushes lined our property. Our lanai (patio) was lined by a rock garden full of bromeliads (my mom called “gorgeous mosquito hatcheries”). We hiked regularly in the rain forests. It was an amazing place to call home. When I left for college in California, I didn’t pay much attention to the plants around me. They were unfamiliar. Honestly, I felt very ignorant and didn’t take the time to learn. While in medical school, I found my outlet in jewelry making; crafting exercised the right side of my brain.

FullSizeRender(1)Plumeria from my current yard. Not quite the plumerias I grew up with but very nostalgic and beautiful nonetheless.

Eventually, after years of graduate school, I ended up in Portland. For those who haven’t been to Oregon – the greenery is breathtaking. I started becoming more interested in the foliage around me. As I read and became more familiar with native plants, I decided to take on landscaping the property my husband and I owned. It was an amazingly therapeutic experience amid my 30-hour shifts at the hospital and four days off per month. We would escape to the mountains to snowboard, or to the beach for surf. This was all pre-children, and reflecting back, I don’t think I realized how much “free time” we truly had.

We moved to San Diego because my being from Hawaii and my husband being from Florida, we craved the sun. My husband had also become quite the surf addict, so our being closer to the ocean made sense. (Believe me, there is amazing surf in Oregon – it’s just a bit far from Portland!). I quickly realized I needed to learn more about succulents. I started making potted mixes and recruited my husband to help me landscape.

We had our son and moved again. As my son got a little older I came back to plants - specifically houseplants and terrariums. I recruited my son to help. We used miniature creatures and all kinds of containers. Then we had our daughter. At that point I had no extra bandwidth for anything other than parenting, work, and trying to stay healthy. We moved again and I gave away many of my plants…eventually I forgot my passion. I have no regrets about focusing on my kids during their early years. Given the hours I spent at the hospital, they needed my full attention when I was with them.

IMG_2874Our vertical vegetable garden. We have a small backyard and I wanted to maximize the space. I’ve since expanded to mounted planters on the fence.

We finally settled in North County San Diego in our Midcentury home. I started growing vegetables in our backyard. My children grew to be inquisitive, creative beings now in elementary school. My husband, with his one innocent text, “What about plants?” lit a fire inside me. So now, making up for lost time, I’ve learned to macramé and use concrete and am learning more about indoor houseplants. I started my public Instagram account to fuel my passion, having no idea where it would lead. I’m showing my kids what it’s like to have a passion and teaching them how to grow. I’m trying to spread plant love everywhere I can. Spreading positivity and connecting with people from all over the world on common ground has completely changed my outlook.

IMG_5513(1)String of hearts in simple macramé hanger made from recycled cotton shirt discard cord.

Here, I hope to share my plant journey, but also tips for maximizing your own health and well-being. Because I truly believe taking good care of ourselves, each other and our earth is how we will all thrive in this world.

IMG_5515My kitchen plant shelves, constantly evolving.