Try­ing 'guided gar­den­ing' at a South­west Florida Plant Nite event

Times of the Islands - - On The Radar - BY DAYNA HARPSTER Dayna Harpster is a writer, editor and ac­cred­ited pub­lic re­la­tions pro­fes­sional liv­ing in South­west Florida.

Lisa Craw­ford was in­tro­duced to Plant Nite when she re­ceived a call from a friend. “I wish you were here! They’re do­ing plants and drink­ing beer!” she re­mem­bers the friend say­ing. Craw­ford was liv­ing in Colorado at the time. She has since moved to North Fort My­ers and be­come what the Bos­ton-based com­pany calls one of its “Cre­ative En­trepreneurs.” They are the lo­cal own­ers bring­ing the make-and-take-and-sip events to re­gions where they live.

Plant Nite works on a model sim­i­lar to Paint Nite. In fact, the two con­cepts were founded by the same en­trepreneurs, Dan Her­mann and Sean McGrail. For Paint Nite, those who are not par­tic­u­larly artis­tic―or who are―pay a fee to at­tend a les­son and spend about two hours at a lo­cal venue, where they paint the fea­tured de­sign by fol­low­ing the di­rec­tions of an in­struc­tor, while sip­ping a drink, din­ing or chat­ting with friends. Plant Nite works in a sim­i­lar way fea­tur­ing or­na­men­tal gar­dens. Like Paint Nite’s re­sult­ing can­vases, table­top gar­dens are com­pleted in one ses­sion and the par­tic­i­pant takes home the fin­ished prod­uct.

Craw­ford and her friends had par­tic­i­pated in Paint Nites. “But I’m a ter­ri­ble artist,” Craw­ford said on a re­cent af­ter­noon at Cork Soak­ers in Cape Coral, one place in which Plant Nites are now held. What sets Plant Nite apart from other art-class en­ter­tain­ment, she says, is that the pieces cre­ated are vir­tu­ally fool­proof― projects are mini-gar­dens made with suc­cu­lents, “which are the next best thing to in­de­struc­tible,” Craw­ford says. “And they’re al­ready pretty. You just put them in a pretty en­vi­ron­ment. You can re­lax and just ex­press your cre­ativ­ity.”

What­ever the project, no mat­ter what con­tainer is used or de­sign is fol­lowed, gardeners have choices that make their pieces unique with the sand, moss and other ma­te­ri­als pro­vided. Plant Nite projects use suc­cu­lents, also some­times called “wa­ter stor­age plants.” They meet their hu­man own­ers more than half­way. “They work best with peo­ple who say ‘I re­ally can’t gar­den,’ ” Craw­ford says. “They pretty much thrive on be­ing for­got­ten.”

Mem­bers of a large plant fam­ily that in­cludes cac­tus, suc­cu­lents have thick, fleshy leaves that al­low

them to re­tain wa­ter in arid cli­mates or tough soil con­di­tions― or in houses of well-mean­ing but per­haps for­get­ful gardeners. These plants do well in sunny win­dowsills and with only oc­ca­sional wa­ter­ing.

In Plant Nite projects, suc­cu­lents are placed with col­or­ful sand, peb­bles with adages, lit­tle crea­ture fig­ures and other em­bel­lish­ments and placed in draw­ers, glass orbs, wooden boxes and many other con­tain­ers.

Here’s how it works: A potential planter visits the Plant Nite web­site to find an event within a cho­sen dis­tance, then sees which project will be made on what date and at what location. Craw­ford is still look­ing for venues in South­west Florida, but events al­ready are tak­ing place at Cork Soak­ers and The French Press in Cape Coral, The Bar­rel House at Twisted Vine and the Is­lam­orada Fish Co. in Fort My­ers and Rip­tide Brew­ery in Naples. Lisa Craw­ford has been the in­struc­tor for all area classes, but she will be hir­ing as she adds venues.

Gardeners are in good hands. In Colorado, Craw­ford was an “ur­ban farmer,” she says, work­ing her 3 ½ acres near Boul­der while rais­ing chick­ens, tur­keys, pigs and goats. Now in South­west Florida, she gar­dens on her prop­erty in North Fort My­ers and at a com­mu­nity gar­den in south Fort My­ers. Craw­ford shares her ex­ten­sive plant back­ground with Plant Nite’s new au­di­ence. In ad­di­tion to in­for­ma­tion and a table­top gar­den, planters may be walk­ing away from a fun evening with another ben­e­fit―suc­cu­lents can be easy to prop­a­gate. Some­times even dropped leaves will take root and grow.

So the skills learned at Plant Nite might make any­one a gar­dener with a col­lec­tion of liv­ing art!

Plant Nite can be girl­friend time. Or guys. Cool re­sults from your night out are hang­ing globes ( below) or other ger­ar­ium art.

Plant Nite projects use suc­cu­lents, also some­times called “wa­ter stor­age plants.” They meet their hu­man own­ers more than half­way.

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