For Houston-based TikTok creator Marcus Bridgewater, also known as Garden Marcus, plant growth is a model for personal growth. Using the garden as his lens, he offers life lessons via his videos and Choice Forward, a wellness firm he cofounded. His new book, How to Grow: Nurture Your Garden, Nurture Yourself, presents his useful insights on botanical behavior.
"We can’t make anything grow, but we can foster environments where things want to grow," he says, providing a glimpse of his gentle approach to both plants and people. Through trial and error over the years he’s figured out how to create many healthy green environments; every room in his home has plants, and then there is the outdoor garden. Here, he talks about his garden failures and successes, common mistakes made with houseplants, and the reason not to cut your leafy friends.
Dwell: How did you first get interested in gardening?
Bridgewater: My first set of sixteen plants was gifted to me, and within a couple of months I’d killed half of them. That was my introduction to gardening—that set of failures—and I wanted to ensure that I stopped making whatever mistake I was making. That’s what kept me in it. Plants are always growing, overcoming obstacles, and facing challenges. I could see so much of my own experience there.
What are you growing?
I have all kinds of things growing, like orchids, bromeliads, Althaea, and hostas. I like their different colors and shapes. They affect us in different ways. I design the garden to be a space of healing.
What makes a garden therapeutic?
The garden does so many things for my mind: It provides challenges and rewards, an opportunity to exercise, and beauty to absorb. It provides companionship and helps calm me down. It reminds me to stay in a place of peace and to make sure that I’m making quality choices.
What’s a common mistake made with houseplants?
Using pots without drainage holes. Without them, water pools in a pot and can drown the roots or cause root rot. Choose planters that already have drainage holes or add them yourself. Some plants can tolerate a holeless pot, so do your research before you plant.
Can anyone, anywhere grow plants?
Yes, you just need to find your type of green. If you want to water often then don’t get a cactus. Some want to grow orchids. But you might not want to do that where it’s freezing cold and there’s no humidity. Some people want to grow things in a basement, which they can if they have grow lights.
What kind of lessons have you learned from plants?
Patience yields growth. When plants start dying, people often want to see growth again immediately, so they start cutting them back. I did that with my elephant ears in the winter and stunted the growth by opening a wound in the plant. Sometimes you just need to be patient.
Text by Holly Beretto
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