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Frida Kahlo's Garden. What We Can Learn From What She Grew?

by Gardenia Ramirez |

Our obsession surrounding Frida Kahlo's life and work continues to grow, so much so that her latest exhibit is an enormous hit, selling more tickets than anyone had imagined, proving the appetite the public has to learn more about this fascinating woman, has not subsided. And, it was not her artwork that brought on the crowds, this time it was her garden. The recreation made of Frida's 'Casa Azul' garden in Mexico city at The New York Botanical Garden, is the latest in a show where the public gets to view into the artists personal life rather than her collection of work. However, this show begs the question, Is there a difference between the artists' personal life and her work?

I feel, one of the reasons we're intrigued by Kahlo is because of the way she lived her life openly sharing much with the public. She used herself, her body, her wardrobe, her home, her lifestyle to showcase her thoughts and beliefs. Her garden, much like her fashion, is yet another extension of her life as an artist. It seems to be all curated perfectly, as the story of that life. The garden at the Casa Azul has plant life directly related to herself and Diego Rivera, her longtime love and perhaps Mexico's most beloved muralist. There were plants specifically chosen to inspire each artist. The calla lilies and cactus plants that are native to Mexico appear frequently in the work of Diego and Frida, and were purposefully grown in her garden. Their want for native plants represents their love for Mexico, and their need to stay true, genuine and deep rooted in the early culture of that country. It's the driving force in the way they both lived and worked. It's an excellent lesson to all of us, whether we're artists or not.

It's been said many times that tending to ones garden, is tending to one's soul. What happens to us when we care and nurture living things around us? It's a direct link to how we are all related on this planet. From Thoreau to Monet, poets and artists have written about the importance it is for us as humans to get back in touch with nature, to dig our hands in the soil and help something grow. Frida and Diego believed it as well. Her garden is as well designed and thought out as any other aspect of her life and directly reflects who she is. In reality, this latest exhibit proves once again that Frida Kahlo was way ahead of her time. 

There is a calling among us now of reclaiming this sentiment and not only by artists. Activist and author Michael Pollan has said, 

“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world,’ ”

Decorator and author Justina Blakeney, writer of  'The New Bohemians' has coined the term 'Jungalow' to describe the feeling of her rooms as places for lots of plant life to take center stage as part of the decor. These two are just a couple of contemporaries (both from Berkeley actually,) who weave the importance of growing the gardens we live with and eat, into their every day work. 'Going green' isn't the chant of a small subculture of people, but now a mainstream trend. We all are starting to understand more and more with the help of such people, the beauty and fullfillment one gains by loving a growing thing. It's easy to be inspired- I certainly am. I've never had a green thumb, on the contrary, I'd say I had a dead thumb. I've been good at murdering plants.... but I'm no longer discouraged. I have help. I have a community of people who help me keep things green and alive in my home and in my fridge-, there are so many!

I discovered this great company The Sill, based in NYC dedicated to helping those integrate plants into their life. Their objective is as a consultant, online resource and shop for what plant to buy and why? With countless tips and information as to how they thrive, it's a one stop shop for those interested in starting their own little garden who are starting from square one.

We all need to take advantage of the great message here..... we are all instinctually gardeners. I think it's in our DNA, we've just been so out of practice. The act of gardening makes us feel good and it will do good. I got this great list from TheSill.com as further reminder of the many benefits of having plants in your home:

Top 5 Benefits of Houseplants

  1. Indoor plants boost our mood and lessen the stress in our daily lives 
  2. Indoor plants filter toxins, for some much needed fresh air 
  3. Indoor plants increase our productivity and creativity 
  4. Indoor plants brighten and enhance our environment to make our house, feel like home – or the office more welcoming, inspiring, and stimulating 
  5. Indoor plants add charm to special events, too

And if you need further inspiration.... My go to blogger for plant life, is' The Jungalow's'  Justina Blakeney, who on the daily boasts the virtues of decorating with plants. She also has amazing DIY projects that allow you to be creative with your gardens, indoors or outdoors. Check out this super easy 3 tiered hanging basket she made that is totally inexpensive, versatile and gorgeous:  

What a fun way to be creative in ones home. You don't need a lot of cash or understand how to best decorate a room, you just need a little green to get started. I will say this, for first timers, go low maintenance--- succulents! Choose plants that don't need too much care, make sure they're an indoor or outdoor plant and select one that doesn't need that much watering (especially if you're in California!) Now, lets go plant some inspiration and watch it grow!

xo

Gardenia

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