Garden blogs exist for many reasons so I thought I'd tell you about myself and why I've been blogging for so many years. Above all, I love to write and garden. Secondly, I've been able to use blogging to reach out for many years while living a rather solitary life due to chronic health problems and I've always hoped that sharing my experiences could help others. Lastly, I simply love plants and their people. Gardeners are often the kindest, most optimistic and gentlest people and the quality of gardening culture has immeasurably enriched my life. My hope is that by reading more of our gardening blogs you too can find some pleasure and community here as well.
My blog exists as a web log—in its original sense. It is an ongoing diary (or memoir) documenting my gardening life, stories, comments, thoughts and opinions. I'm not paid to write anything. The only things "advertised" are my home and garden shop Milton's Garden Menagerie on Etsy.com and my local garden coaching services.
Do I blog to instruct? No, there are other blogs for that—lots of them. Then again, you might learn a lesson or two around here on the sly.
Is there a certain style of garden or group of plants that I'm gaga for? Call me crazy but I kind of like it all. As for my garden, it's more of a plant laboratory or collector's garden. (Yes, like all gardeners I also have a plant ghetto—aka a plant hoard.) My garden is far from picture perfect and always appears to be in draft form although I'm currently working to complete my first "final" draft.
Do I promote growing my own food, eating organically, raising city chickens, owning a worm bin, constant composting, compulsive terrarium assembling, and/or do I follow the laws of permaculture? Nope, not really. I'm a realist and this disallows me from expressing the enthusiasm of a convert. I'm not well enough to expend my energy beyond the basics and have never been much of a follower of anything. (I'm a Gen X'er after all.) I do enjoy dabbling in all of these things but am neither a proponent nor a detractor. Anything that gets your hands dirty is good in my book. I'm the descendent of Western pioneers after all.
What's with the name Ficurinia?
It's Sicilian dialect for Prickly Pear and is a nickname I was given once because I'm a bit prickly on the outside but am bright and sweet inside.
Why do you call yourself an Amateur Bot-ann-ist?
The Ann in bot-ann-ist comes from my first name. Amateur—on the other hand—is another form of my given last name: Amato. Although it translates from Italian as "beloved," this word also means a young and immature beloved aka lover. This is at the heart of the word amateur: someone lacking the skills an expert might have while retaining a lot of the naive "love" of something. I may be paid as a garden coach, but I'm still very much an amateur bot-ann-ist. In a world full of experts and expertise I think we need a few more amateurs.
|Plant poet, garden coach, ikebana-ist, seedswoman, and garden blogger.|
She attended both Lewis and Clark College and Portland State University. While at Lewis and Clark College she studied biology and English literature. At that time she wanted to become a science writer, but after a year there it was clear she was developing health problems so had to drop out during her second year. After some time away from school, she returned to her studies, but this time it was at PSU where she graduated with a BA in 2001. She double majored in English literature and art history with a focus on linguists and critical theory (aka contemporary philosophy).
After graduation she'd hoped to enter a PhD program but it became clearer that her health problems were worsening. After two more years of frustrating medical appointments she was finally diagnosed with the rare blood disorder Hereditary Angioedema in 2003. By that time reading and writing had become more difficult and previous academic interests had become too taxing due to chronic pain and swelling so she turned to gardening books for comfort and companionship. During the worst of her illness, gardening kept her grounded.
In 2007 she started to blog—eventually realizing she'd landed right back at the beginning. It wasn't science or nature writing, but it was writing about gardening and that was close enough. And that degree in art history? Well those courses sure were about visual literacy and wasn't it too funny how often she returned to the subject of landscape in art whenever possible?
It all makes sense now.
Currently, Ann is in the process of rebuilding her life after nearly two decades of poor health. She is still gardening, germinating and collecting seeds, blogging whenever she feels the need to do so, and best of all, she's stabilizing her health and learning to live again after being prescribed a medication that generally lessens the frequency of her swelling attacks.
She's looking forward to a future now and cannot wait to be able to work and travel more. She's been an ESL instructor, magazine and book editor, art gallery coordinator, arts administrator, part-time therapeutic foster parent, garden coach, and who knows what'll come next!?!
|Ann at 5.|
To become a Master Ikebana-ist. I once met a man who said he NEVER makes an arrangement under 5 feet. I was in awe.
What's one of your favorite quotes?
"For most of history, Anonymous was a woman." Virginia Woolf
|Nike of Samothrace in Ann's garden.|
For a spell I worked as an assistant manager at a house museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. To my mind, that was an amazing mentorship although my mentor was chiefly absent. He often wrote and spoke of Nature as being his mentor and I spent a lot of time thinking about how much I agreed with him. Nature is my mentor too so I am lucky in that sense. If I could pick anyone as a writing mentor though, it would be Annie Dillard. As for gardening, I already have the best mentors, my friends!
What garden chore do you absolutely hate doing?
Lifting. To make up for this though I adore pruning. It's like editing text but only better.
|Flowers I arranged.|
There is nothing quite like standing beside a loud, powerful waterfall in the dark. (I also like the soft sound of my cats' paws upon the carpet.) I wish I could have that kind of peace in my city garden. I hear a lot of traffic while I'm working but someday I hope to hear a nice fountain.
What's the most difficult thing you've ever done?
Living with a chronic illness. Even after a decade it is not easy but I'm determined now to live with dignity. Thankfully more treatments for Hereditary Angioedema are on the horizon.
|Ann in the woods as a girl.|
There are books in the hopper. It would be wonderful to be able to concentrate on them.
What's the last experience that made you a stronger person?
Letting go of my past in order to open myself up to be loved as I deserve to be loved. Odd. It really works. Realizing my own worth and value as a person made a difference too.
Who do you admire?
I admire people with integrity who are honest with themselves and others. I also admire people who can keep lots of plants alive and thriving.
If you could meet anyone (living or dead) who would it be?
The artist Marcel Duchamp.
What would you name the autobiography of your life?
Better Living through Dirt
|Potting up plants when I was 17. I have no idea why I was doing this but I sure look happy.|
What movie would you like to watch again and again?
Do you have a favorite drink?
Morning: coffee. Evening: gin and tonic.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
A woman philosopher.
How do you want to be remembered?