A Ponytail Palm, Lemon-button Fern, and a Peperomia. The Ponytail Palm has a sticker on its pot that reads

You’re playing Stardew Valley, but like, in real life 👩‍🌾

Music for this episode is by Green-House 🌱 Illustration by Jessie Lamworth.


Trin Garritano: I got into plants because I really like video games.

My name is Trina Garritano and I friggin’ love plants. So this is how it all started: I grew up with two parents who were very, very, very, very different for me. They’re both jocks. They literally met playing sports. They love the outdoors. They love smelling trees. They’re literally both certified master gardeners. And they tried really hard to get me into gardening and they’re like, “Oh, we can grow some radishes. they’re red. And that’s your favorite color!” All this stuff. And it did not work because, like everything else outside, I can’t enjoy it because that’s where the sun and the bugs live. I have photo-sensitivity, like sunlight is a migraine trigger for me. It’s like, there’s a million reasons why I should not be gardening. So I played video games! I did that instead of sports, instead of outdoorsy, camping - I don’t know, what do people do outside, barbecue? That’s not me.

But in February of 2016, Stardew Valley came out, and I played the absolute bejesus out of that game. Like, there’s only so many times that you can play Stardew Valley start to finish, and that number is 12 because there are 12 villagers that your character can kiss. I still wanted more Stardew Valley and coincidentally, my creative partner, Jenn Bane, really got into gardening, which is growing like real tomatoes, not like digital things in my Stardew Valley greenhouse. And when she would talk about it, it didn’t, it didn’t click to me like, “Oh, that’s gardening.” It clicked to me like, “Oh my gosh, you’re, you’re playing Stardew Valley, but in like real life, that’s what that is!”

I live in Chicago and there’s not a lot of gardening space. You know, I’ve been on my neighborhood community garden waitlist for three years running. So I was like, “well, what can I grow indoors?” It turns out that there are many things you can grow indoors! I got a Lemon-button Fern and a Ponytail Palm. And those are both considered easy to take care of plants. Uh, and I killed one of them. I killed the fern. The Ponytail Palm, his name is Bob Moss, ‘cause, y’know that’s just how we do things. So Bob Moss I actually had to re-home cause one of my cats ate him all the time, but he’s actually like thriving and doing amazing. But! I really screwed both of them up because you know, they’re both houseplants, but you care for them completely differently. Plants are very individual plants are like people, plants will do better in certain circumstances and worse than others. And Ponytail Palm is considered, again, like almost an unkillable plant, but it can be overwatered. And then the Lemon-button Fern… eh I don’t know what the hell I was doing.

Mark Bramhill: That makes me feel better too, knowing that your plant journey started with, uh, plant death.

Trin Garritano: Oh dude! Dude, dude, do-do-do-do-do-dude. We have to talk about plant death real quick, okay?

So like I got pretty discouraged in the beginning because again, like you hear, this is an easy care plant and then it’s just that it doesn’t work with you. But like, man, I read books about plants and when I say I dream about plants, I dream about plants. Like I think about them all the time, Peperomia are a cultivar of plants that are like semi-succulent, which means the kind of in the middle of everything. So they’re kind of hard to kill. And I cannot keep one alive and I don’t know why! It’s just, we don’t, we don’t work well together. And it’s a plant! If it dies, it’s like, whatever, you know, it’s like freaking spinach. I’m a vegan. I eat plants all the time. I’m probably the number one murderer of plants. So like feel, feel better.

You will almost definitely kill your plant by over-watering it. Like that is the number one houseplant killer. Like cacti, you know, succulents and stuff like that, you will murder them if you overwater them, even a small amount. In general, lean too dry. And the other one is giving it too little light, because when a houseplant is inside of your house, it is getting a fraction of the sunshine would get outside. So if your houseplant is dying, try to leave it a little drier and try to give it a little more light - do one, and then the other, because you don’t want to have too many variables. ‘Cause, y’know, scientific method, buddy.

I now have 106 houseplants. Like I’m looking out into my living room and there’s a three-tier cactus stand that I made, two shelves that I built and painted and mounted on the wall, an IKEA three-story thing that I modded ‘cause I’m a nerd - and they’re all covered completely in plants. And those are not all the plants in my home! And honestly, especially now, in these shelter-in-place times, I think a really special thing about plants is: your environment changes every day. And, you know, plants, they don’t clean your air in a significant way. They actually probably make it worse because of all the dirt you have in your house now! So, you know, if you want to clean your air, get an air purifier. If you want something to make your house look pretty, you know, get some freaking art. But if you want the completely different and awesome and terrifying experience of feeling like you are slowly helping this thing create itself, get a plant.

Mark Bramhill: Enthusiast! is produced by me, Mark Bramhill. Music for this episode is by Green-House, who makes incredible music inspired by plants. You can find some of Trin’s favorite plant resources, links to Green-House’s music, and lots more to be joyful about, at enthusiastpodcast.com. If you’ve been enjoying Enthusiast!, please help spread the word about the show. Text a friend about it, tweet about a favorite episode. It all really helps. Thanks for listening.

Trin Garritano: I anthropromorphize, however you pronounce that word, like every plant I own. And I’m like, “Oh hey buddy! Hey, you got a new, you got a new leaf, that’s so great!” And then I’ll make him talk back to me, like, “Thanks Trin! I grew it because of you!”