Green Thumb Thursday with Cassy Allyson

It's once again Thursday! For this week's Green Thumb Thursday, I interviewed my good friend and fellow Seattlite, Cassy Allyson. As you'll see in the planterview below, Cassy is an all-around amazing person with a passion for helping people, a knack for being nice to the earth and its creatures, an amazingly healthy garden, and an unmatched adoration for her beloved Jayhawks. So keep reading to find out how Cassy manages to keep her Pacific Northwest life tasty and green!

Erica: How do you support your plant habit (what is your day job)?

Cassy: I am a pediatric cardiac ICU nurse. I take care of mostly infants and some children and young adults with congenital heart defects and heart failure.

In general, what color would you consider your thumb?

Maybe yellow? I think I would have called it brown before I moved to Seattle. I used to have a really hard time keeping plants alive in the heat of Kansas. My mother and grandmother were master gardeners and so while I have a deep appreciation for plants, I don’t know that I will ever match their gardening talents and super green thumbs.

Where do you live and what space do you currently have for plants?

I rent the upper half of a house in the Seattle. I keep a few indoor plants - some succulents, a Christmas cactus, and a spider plant. But my main pride is a container garden I keep outside with perennials (some tulips, daffodils, lavender, catnip, mint) as well as some changing annuals that I find each year.

Cassy's container garden in early May last year

The garden one month later (she thanks the Seattle rain!)

How did you first get into gardening?

Really my love for gardens started as a kid. My mom and grandmother kept beautiful gardens that always gave their homes nice curb appeal. In the first home I grew up in my mother transformed our entire backyard in Lawrence, Kansas into a vegetable garden. She grew just about every single variety of veggies - tomatoes, corn, squash, peas, potatoes, eggplant, and even a few fruits like melons. I remember always having fresh chives on our baked potatoes growing up. I also remember going to greenhouses with my mom every spring and she would usually let me pick something out to go in her garden. I have a very vivid memory of picking out a “Ghostbuster" eggplant. This love for plants and flowers just extended into adulthood. I love going for walks and hikes and I find so much beauty in the outdoor gardens that most of my Instagram account is full of pictures from these daily adventures.

What kinds of plants do you currently have in your garden and how did you choose those ones?

I love having fresh herbs in the summer so I typically pick edible herbs and a few vegetables that I know I'll eat. Right now I have some (almost finished) blooming tulips and then my mint, chives, oregano, catnip, and lavender that are just starting to rebud from last year. The past two years I've purchased my edible plants from the Seattle Tilth sale. My husband and I picked out some different varieties of basil (including an exotic purple one), rosemary, some peppers, corn, and cherry tomatoes. I have fun picking out varieties that just sound silly. We got some staple jalapeno peppers but we also bought a "lipstick" variety. Our corn variety is called, "stained glass."

There are also some established plants in the ground in the place I rent that I nurture. There was a pretty sad rose bush that I’ve been pruning and preening for about three years now and each May it’s had much more blooms than the last. I tried to grow some new roses from the seed pods last year but that failed miserably.

Cassy's haul from Seattle Tilth's annual plant sale

Have you tried taking a cutting from the rose bush instead of using seed?

I’ve never really tried cuttings until just this spring. My husband introduced it to me when some co-workers gave him some cuttings and he then brought some extras home to me. I actually just googled it, and you can totally start new rose plants from cuttings so I’m going to have try it this summer.

What is your favorite plant (either in your garden or in the world)?

While I don’t have any flowers of my own in the place I live - I’m a huge fan of Peonies. They’re a flower I always remember blooming around my birthday. They have a gorgeous scent and I love the shades they bloom in, especially pale pink. They were also the main flower in my wedding.

Cassy's stunning wedding bouquet!

You got married in Kansas, right? Are peonies pretty common there? Come to think of it, what in general was common there that you don't really see here?

Peonies are super common there.

Other flowers more common? Hmm lots of weeds and tall grasses? Just kidding. It’s the sunflower state, so I’d be remiss without mentioning those. But I will say that beyond the common giant sunflower, there are lots of wild smaller varieties of sunflowers that grow wild all over in the month of august. Other flowers that are common are the purple cone flowers, black eyed Susan, and Iris. I miss Iris. I find it weird that its missing from many gardens around here.

I have an Iris right now, so maybe you can help me learn how to get it to bloom, or, you know, just keep it alive...

I found out that the type of Iris that grows here is a PNW variety, but in Kansas we grow "bearded" iris.

Hmmm, well I definitely have some research to do.

You've travelled a lot for work - did you have a favorite city based on local flora?

Yeah, I love the Pacific Northwest… Honestly! California skips seasons, but in Seattle we experience all the seasons, but in greater length than I’m used to in Kansas. It felt like spring would last for two weeks in Kansas and the next thing you know the tulips are gone and it 90 degrees. In the PNW the tulips last for a full month. Some plants here even bloom twice which don’t do that elsewhere. There’s a reason Seattle is called the Emerald City — everything grows better here.

What is your favorite gardening tool?

Well, it's not really a tool per-say, but the place I rent has a rain barrel so I’m able to be green and recycle rain water to water my own plants. When/if I ever own my own place again, I am going to invest in one of these.

The other thing I really like is that the pots we purchase now are biodegradable which I think is pretty cool that when they get to a point where they are no longer usable, they don't end up wastefully in a landfill.

Both of those things sound pretty awesome. How does a rain barrel work?

A rain barrel is placed under the draining gutter system to collect rain fall on the house. It collects the water in the barrel so that you can use it at a later time. It has a spiget and hose connected to it. I usually just fill my watering can with it.

Is there a particular brand of biodegradable pots that you like? I did not know these were a thing! Do you know if they're better/worse than a terracotta pot for the environment or are they about the same?

The one’s we have are I think made of peat moss. I’ve seen them at several gardening stores. My husband purchased some nicer biodegrading one that are made of bamboo I think and have some color. We actually have a mix of plastic and clay pots mixed in our collection. Clay pots are certainly better than plastic, but they break easily and I cannot put them in our compost bin. I’m sure there is a responsible way to deal with broken clay pots, I’m just not educated enough about it.

You've got me super curious now... maybe a topic for a future blog post.

Have you done any garden-related DIY projects or are there any on your to-do list?

While I have my edible plants potted, I am looking forward to adding some flowers to the remaining empty pots I have. I'd like to pick some out that I can bring indoors and possibly nurture during the cold seasons. I used to do this before I moved to the city and I haven't re-established that habit.

One of Cassy's cats enjoying a harvest of catnip leaves

What is your gardening dream?

If I ever own my own place, I would love to have a garden that people love to stop and admire. I’ve also had this dream that I’d love to have a garden that always has something blooming. Starting with daffodils, transitioning to tulips, then to azaleas, then to roses, and so on and so forth. I love gardens with perennials that transition through the season. My husband and I also enjoy butterfly and bird watching so if I have the space I’d love to have part of my garden dedicated to attracting this type of wildlife. And then of course I'd want to have some fruit shrubs that produce annually like some raspberries and strawberries. Maybe even a fruit tree or two!

That sounds amazing!

What are your favorite gardening resources?

Dr. D.G. Hessayon has a collection of “expert” plant books. I own four of them, the houseplant expert, the vegetable & herb expert, the flower expert, and the garden expert. My copy of “The House Plant Expert" has several bookmarks in it on the selected plants I maintained over the years. It's basically an encyclopedia of plants and each plant has very specific directions on how to take care of them and make them thrive. Because of it, I’ve been able to make my Christmas Cactus bloom twice a year! I also like to look up you tube videos on how to sprout seedlings. There’s nothing more magical than watching a baby plant grow.

I'll have to check these out! Maybe you'll see them on future Well Read Wednesdays.

Cassy looking stunning among what I still think look like pretty but alien flowers from a garden at a lavender farm in Sequim. Cassy: "I had to research the flower I'm next to at the Lavender farm.  It's an Imperial Artichoke.  Yes, that's right a flower that blooms from a vegetable!"

A big thanks to Cassy for sharing her garden digitally with us! If you have any questions for her, you can follow and/or DM her on Instagram or leave a comment below!

This interview was conducted over email and has been edited for clarity and morphology, but never content.