Meet Angela Defoe, a musician that embraced a mourning period with plants

Stunned that I could keep a plant alive, I decided to start a small container garden in my back yard

8 min read
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You'll know Angela in this is the first edition of interviews with people from the plant community. She is barely new to the plant community, but she has learn a lot in just a few months.

Hi Angela! Tell us a bit about yourself!

Hi Victor, thank you for having me. My name is Angela Defoe and I’m a Recording Artist/producer/composer with the artist name Defoe!

I just released my album ‘Too Soon To Cry’ followed by my music video ‘somethings’s happening’ that got +1 million views! And now, I'm working on a video for the song ‘Black Metal Romance’ that will be released in a few months.

How did your relationships with plants start and how much time passed since then?

I’m fairly new to the plant community. Before quarantine I thought I had a black thumb. If any plant came through the front door of our house, frankly - it would be a death sentence. Sadly when lockdown began, my best furry friend of 15 years passed away.

She was the best little dog, she was one of a kind. It was a hard and sudden blow to my heart. I knew that my healing process would take time and there was no real way to speed up the process, much like a plant grows. So I decided to embrace the inevitable mourning period and by some seeds to watch grow to guide me through stages of the grieving process.

It was good to have something to care for and watch it grow into a plant. Stunned that I could keep a plant alive, I decided to start a small container garden in my back yard.

I watched tons of videos on gardening starting with Ron Finley’s MasterClass. Grabbed a notebook and learned about pruning and natural pesticides and remedies. After a few weeks of success 4 bought 4 pothos plants because I heard they were the easiest to grow! And yes they were... Took cuttings, propagated them in water, potted them up with success! I felt like Mother Nature was finally on my side. After that, a legit addiction started.

In this little time, how many plants did you get?

(I just had to get up and count them all, the number is a lot higher than expected - I have a problem) I have 75 plants and 37 propagations.

I bet you've learned a lot in a few months, but what's the thing you wish you knew when you started growing plants?

I wish I knew that high light plants are also important to have if you have a west facing window, poor low light plants were burning to death in the beginning.

I also wish I knew more about soil, I smothered a few plants in the wrong soil before. Lastly, over watering can be worst than under watering.

Have these months been enough to have a favorite plant?

Absolutely! Of all the plants I have, my favorite is my little Alocasia Reginula ‘Black Velvet’. She looks so prehistoric and majestic!

I will always love the plants I started with even though they are easy: pothos, Monstera Deliciosa, and Monstera Adansonii. I have started collecting anthurium aroids such as the crystallinum and the frydek (they are being shipped in the mail as we speak. I hope they like the new habit I prepared for them).

I’m really attracted to foliage that reminds me of the Jurassic period.

And having that many plants, how do you manage your time to keep them happy?

I tried having a weekly watering routine, but it failed me. Each plant has such different care needs. Some need distilled water. They are all in different sized pots. The smaller pots dry out faster than the larger ones.

So now I’ve grouped the hanging basket plants down stairs in there own category, the trees in another, succulents and so on. I creep around them variously sticking a finger in their soil until they feel dry.

When it’s watering day for a certain group, I water them with half strength organic fertilizers and also do a neem oil treatment. Then mark down the group I watered on the calendar. Seems to be working for now.

wow, you're super organized! Is there any plant you can't keep alive?

Ferns! Now matter how much I helicopter over them with a spray bottle, move them to suit their light needs, talk to them - I fail them.

I’m convinced if you don’t have a waterfall in your house, a legit river with speckled river rock, some deer and dappled sunlight peaking through a high canopy fully fitted with singing birds teaching their young ones how to fly. They are dead in the water.

And having that many plants, how do you prepare them or keep them alive when you travel?

This question keeps me up at night because we do travel. My husband more than me.

I haven’t had to face this yet, But I decided I will Wait till the day I leave to water pretty heavily. Then I will group them all up to create a micro climate with water dishes according to how often each plant needs to be watered. Put sticky notes on each plant with direction, make a video on how to care for each plant and how to change the humidifier for someone to come and take care of the plant when I’m gone.

I’m definitely gonna have to pay this person, because it IS a job. I may even try self watering spikes.

Have you got any bad experience buying somewhere?

Home Depot... My Monstera Deliciosa (still think it was an excellent price) had white flies and thrips infestation! Used a strong neem oil treatment on them daily for a week. Seemed to lighten up, but came back with a bang! I had to take them both out (and they are monsters) in the dark of the night, spray them down.

They have been sitting in water quarantined in quarantine while I wait for amazon to ship me more orchid bark. Still waiting..

Where do you usually get your plants from?

I like to support local local nurseries (Southern California); green thumb, plant safari, Norman’s orchids and Glendora gardens.

I also will go to big box stores and I get my exotics online from Reputable sellers. I wish there were more ‘rare’ plant shops. I have a feeling they will start popping up.

How is your husband dealing with your hobby?

I live with my husband and my 3 year old boy. My husband was supportive and took me to a nursery so I can get a few plants to help me with the loss of my little dog. We were certain they would probably die. But they didn’t. I kept ordering more and going to different nurseries. He started getting skeptical, but they flourished.

As the house slowly becoming into a magical jungle oasis, he started feeding the sickness. I kept pushing the limits, but luckily with him - there is no limit. He loves our little jungle and is slowly learning the names of them and giving them their own names. He started moving furniture around our whole house to make the plants happier. I’m so lucky I have a co-signer!

My 3 year old goes around an kisses each leaf goodnight before he goes to bed. It’s been great. If my husband was not on board, I still would be smuggling in plants. Ha ha.

Do you have any pet? Does it ever destroyed or eaten plants? How do you keep them safe?

I have a medium/small dog and we recently adopted a cat. I'm lucky that our dog pays zero mind and has no interest so that was comforting. But the cat.... the cat was another thing entirely.

Salem is my first cat and I’m still learning about his cat behavior. As I said, I started growing pothos. I knew they could harm Salem because they are poisonous if ingested, so I hung them high. Then I got a china doll (because it's pet friendly) and a peace lily. The lady at the nursery said the peace lily was safe for pets, but when I looked it up when I got home, I saw it definitely was poisonous.

I ended up keeping the lily on top of our water dispenser where it has stays. I tested out the china doll on our cat keeping in on a table where he lays. He seemed not to care. I also got a monstera and he clipped off a few branches. Then he lost interest after I squirted him a few times with water (felt cruel, but something had to be done).

I bought him 2 of his own houseplants because cats like catnip and cat grass. Surprise! We found out he is not into catnip. it’s a peaceful plant house.

What would you like to have that doesn't exist related to plants? It could be a tool, an app, something about the plant shops, the community, etc.

I would like to have some kind of Bluetooth pot and watering system for when we travel! Maybe a Prong-less water meter as well because sometimes when I stick the prongs in to test the dryness of the soil, I’m afraid to snap roots.

What bloggers or youtubers do you like?

I love @homesteadbrooklyn, @kayleeellenofficial, @harlig, @foliagelove_r, @epicgardening, @crazyplantguy, here...but not, @legendsofmonstera, and the @plantsmeow.

Where can people find you?

Thank you for asking! People can find me as Whatisdefoe on Instagram and as Whatisdefoe on Facebook. You'll see that I share content about plants a and music! And if you're a music lover, you might like my website.

Again, thank you so much for having me here. Hopefully this isn’t too dreadfully long. But this was super fun to do!