“Plants have the power to connect us with the spaces and communities in which we live, work and explore. I hope to help people make the most of this connection.

My love of plants took root at the age of 7 when a seed I planted in a Styrofoam cup at school grew up to be a 10-foot-tall sunflower. (Wow!) This sense of awe and wonder never waned or wilted. In 2003, my husband and I bought our first home, a 1929 Tudor with 80-foot redwood trees in the backyard. (Again, wow!) The front yard didn’t offer much besides a small lawn and a privet shrub that had seen better days. (Not so wow.) An existing sprinkler system kept the lawn lush and green, but we were not fond of how much water it took to keep it that way. 

The following year, I enrolled in landscape horticulture classes at Merritt College in Oakland and got inspired to remove our lawn and replace it with drought-tolerant plants. Little did I know that this water-wise act of beautification would spark a garden revolution on our street. Within a five-year time span, the two homes to our left and two homes to our right would remove their lawns too, replacing them with a diverse, delightful array of ornamental and edible plants. As a result of these lawn conversions, each home uses less water and attracts more pollinators. The collective beauty of these reimagined front yards has also bonded neighbors and cultivated a greater sense of community. Through the years I’ve noticed an increase in passersby slowing down or even coming to a complete stop to take a closer look at what’s growing on.

I consider this my favorite and most important gardening accomplishment. It was both a win for the neighborhood and for the environment. It also paved the way for a life in gardening both personally and professionally. Our garden was twice featured on the Bay-Friendly Gardening Tour, each time attracting over 200 visitors. Because of this, I became the resident green thumb, a title I take great delight and pride in. For the last 15 years, I’ve led a neighborhood garden tour whose attendance has grown from around five participants to as many as 30. Combining my journalism background with my gardening passion has also reaped personal success. I’ve had articles on garden design and plants published in Sunset, The American Gardener and Pacific Horticulture.

My next step down the garden path is Paul-Lee-Nation, a multi-service plant and garden styling practice dedicated to beautifying homes and businesses with plants, inside and out. Plant life in all its forms—from a bold tropical specimen perfectly placed in a living room to a patio surrounded by thoughtfully curated and arranged potted plants—has the power to connect us with the spaces in which we live and work. I'm here to help you make the most of this connection.

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