Anne Dowell, Seattle, WA
Shop: Garden Bon Bons
Astrological sign: Taurus
I’m on Twitter @gardenbonbons.
How did you get involved with gardening/guerilla gardening/gardening products? What led you to it?
I’ve been fascinated by gardening and plants all my life – I helped my grandmother garden as a toddler and my graduation gift from kindergarten was an encyclopedia of flowering plants. In university I first studied architecture but migrated to landscape architecture because I found the power and scale of external architecture so appealing. In my last semester of school I remember reading about the urban guerilla gardening movement in New York. There were no pictures but the thought of lobbing what I thought were baseball sized clods of seed and earth into abandoned lots was poetic (and a bit naughty) and it stuck with me for years.
What do you get out of gardening/guerilla gardening/creating gardening products? How has it improved or changed your life or the lives of others? Why do you feel it is vital or important?
The more you learn about gardening the more you realize you do not know, and that is amazing. Anyone can plant a seed and watch it grow, but there is also no limit to exploration. If you want to learn more – either about aesthetics, ecosystems, history, practical cultivation – the world will never grow smaller. My own spin on seed balls is the Garden Bon Bons, which was my way of encouraging people to give and see seeds as a gift, with a sense of humor. The process of germination is powerful and I want to hammer home the message that all it takes to start is seed, soil, sun and water.
What’s your most favorite feature of your garden/product? What’s the best aspect of your garden, product or guerilla gardening, to you?
I like to say that Garden Bon Bons are three gifts in one, spread out over time. It is incredibly satisfying to me that my Garden Bon Bons have the capacity to make someone smile and start a conversation, either about creativity or gardening or thoughtfulness. The second phase of the gift is when the seeds start to germinate. The power of nature to force life out of the seed and soil is fascinating. The third part is harvesting or enjoying the flowers. That part is more practical and conventional.
What comments, responses or feedback have you received about your garden, guerilla gardening, products, etc.?
People respond equally to the utility of the seed ball technique and the concept of the presentation of seeds as edible/not edible.
Do you have any advice for others interested in starting a garden or getting involved with guerilla gardening or gardening product creation?
I’m amazed at how many smart, accomplished people feel intimidated by the thought of growing or owning plants. We’re not growing up on farms anymore and there seems to be a sense that you need to have a formal education or talent to grow things. Not true. Start with something simple or a plant you personally like and just get on with it.
In your opinion, why is gardening, guerilla gardening or gardening products, an art form?
Gardening operates on the whole range as far as art goes. It isn’t necessarily an art form but it can be. Right now part of my garden is a utilitarian riot of interspecies planting. To the untrained eye it looks like a weedy mess but I have everything there to make really amazing herbal tea blends. Next season I may take everything out and revert to a formal box garden. There is no right or wrong – it’s like trying to compare abstract painting with formalism. There is something for everyone and sometimes everything for people like me who want to experiment more.
Do you have any seed bomb/gardening product recipes to share and where is it best to throw? Do you have any favorite gardening products you’d recommend to fellow gardeners or advice about gardening?
If you want to enjoy gardening make sure you are growing things you like, not what seems fashionable (unless that is what you like…). When you grow herbs, grow heaps of the same plants. If you only have one thyme plant you’ll find yourself ‘saving’ the leaves for a special event. If you have more leaves than you can use, you really will find a reason to use them. Be generous with yourself that way. Lastly, what you grow will only be as good as the soil you grow it in. Soil can be the cheapest part of gardening with the highest return on investment. Pay attention to proper soil structure as much as nutrients. Compost as much as you can. It is ‘black gold’.
What’s your favorite plant and why?
I’ve already gone through my period for having favorite plants – and most hated plants. Eventually you learn that they all have merits and limitations. I am a sucker for roses but also a champion of underdogs like nettle. Once you start using nettle for teas or soups you realize however much you have may not be enough. I also think a lot about lichen these days. No garden will ever be complete without at least one lilac shrub for springtime. A garden without fragrance may as well be Astroturf.
Why do others need to get involved with gardening aside from replenishing the earth, saving and providing an environment to foster insect and animal life and beautification of the Earth? How has it influenced you on a spiritual or emotional level or evolved you as a person, if it has?
Just like in Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince, everyone should tend a plant. You can’t avoid having some philosophy about which plant you choose or how or why you grow it but it can illuminate what your values are and give an incredibly satisfying perspective on the general life cycle and our role and responsibility in it.