Grow What You Love


In gardening, as in life, I say, GROW WHAT YOU LOVE. Find the things that make you happy and grow them. Lots of them. If I ever hesitated with a task my mother, not usually sporting the mouth of a sailor, would say, “Sh*t or get off the pot, Emily”. Meaning, if you’re going to do something, then do it. And so too with growing.

Pass The Pistil, shortened from Shoot or Pass the Pistil, is a play on those words. Get to it, make it count and pass it on. Over the years Pass The Pistil has taken on a life of its own. Honing in on what really matters. 

First, start. Start small, but start. Next, prioritize. Focus on the things you love and grow them and, like with anything cultivated, thrive. Growing the things you love begets more of the same. All the good stuff — the tangible and obvious — seeds, flowers, food and fun. And all the things in between, the things that make living, living. Finally, share. Pass the pistil and spread the love. Growing isn’t limited to a garden.

It’s a basic recipe, but for now, it’s sticking. Like olive oil, salt and pepper it’s a good place to begin even if it makes no mention of mistakes. They’re in there, mixed in with “all the things in between”, an essential part of the adventure.

So what is this all about? I like to think the name says it all. PASS THE PISTIL. GROW WHAT YOU LOVE, lots of it and pass it on.

My Start

If you were around in the 70’s, I was the kid down the road whose family was growing potatoes in her front yard instead of a lawn.  I was told it was Portuguese tradition and good luck for a new
home.  (My paternal grandfather was Portuguese, a dear little man who ran a farm in Sonoma County, California.)  I remember feeling a mixed sense of pride and embarrassment at our patch of potatoes, conspicuously placed for all to see.Emily Murphy, Age 6

We grew food and flowers, mostly daisies, and were fairly self reliant on our 1/2 acre lot, at least when I was young.  But my passion for gardening is probably not unlike yours, a more complex yet simple affair.  A love affair.

It began with natural childhood curiosity, time spent outdoors, and my grandmother, the garden she kept, and the pockets of orchards and berry patches sprinkled around the hillsides near her home.  She grew grapes on the arbor of her deck where the steps led down to a garden of meandering paths and beds filled with flowers and edible treats.  On one fence there were snap peas growing and around the corner butterflies flocked delicate, pink flowers.  It was a place to explore and wonder.  The fencing and gates protecting the garden from the surrounding wilderness added to its enchantment, heightening awareness and forever imprinting itself upon me.

My personal gardening style emulates these two realms.  A blend of wild, form and function creating a place to discover, retreat, grow food and generate habitat, for critters and humans alike.  However, I appreciate and find myself in awe of almost any garden.  Traditional gardens, roof top gardens, potted gardens, meadows, even highly structured gardens and, yes, even those filled with topiary.

Emily Murphy is a garden designer, writer, enthusiastic botanist, runner, cyclist, consultant, educator and native of Northern California.

Shooting From the Hip

“Shit or get off the pot.”  This is a phrase my mother commanded on a regular basis while I was growing up and continues to utter to this day.  She has never needed to shout, these five words are enough.  Especially for someone like me with a good, Catholic upbringing.  (Guilt, duty, respect.  They all kick in.)  If you want to do something, then do it.  Get to it and do it right.  Which leads to my mother’s next utterance, often stated a bit more firmly:  “And if you’re going to do it half-assed then don’t do it at all.”  Well, this about sums it up.  Not to offend anyone, but phrases such as these do get to the point (and I’ve taken them to heart).

Shoot or Pass the Pistil, my garden friendly version of “shit or get off the pot”, is a resource aiming to inspire gardeners and exploring fertile ground in an attempt to get both cheeks in on the action.  Get to it and take it to heart.

Shoot or Pass the Pistil

Gardening, in its strictest sense, is the cultivation of plants and while this is true, we know it is much more.  The tending of plants is the beginning, the crazy love of gardening that comes from the tending of plants is a synthesis of experiences.  The expression of this is personal and individual, but also common and shared.

I’ve started Shoot or Pass the Pistil in part because I have yet to come across an easy to read publication that touches on these ideas, from the “how” of gardening to the “why” of gardening.  The spectrum of these ideas are not separate, but essential to one another.  It is in the cultivation of a plant or garden that we also cultivate ourselves (and each other).

Then there is this insatiable, wren-like, curiosity and love of learning I can’t shake.  I have a graphic and insane vision of myself quite literally popping if I don’t begin this process.  A forum to explore and test the relationship between the act of gardening and the outcomes of gardening seems essential, vital and necessary.  And yet, inspiration for the simple act of gardening might be enough for us to each draw our own conclusions.

Do it now.  Grow a garden: kitchen garden, flower garden, potted garden, school garden, community garden.  Tend a garden for habitat, play, beauty, contemplation.  Get to it and let it take you by the heart.

Though my mother would say it differently, it’s time to Shoot or Pass the Pistil.