BKB Chicago

Plants are Cool: an interview with Leann Dameron of Leelee's Garden

Apr 19, 2016Brooklyn Boulders

Meet Leann Dameron. Leanne made her escape from the corporate world just this January to bring her love of horticulture to the masses with her company Leelee’s Garden. Now, she travels across the city with fun, interactive and social workshops that engage and teach the larger Chicago community about the benefits of incorporating plants in one’s everyday life.

We spoke with Leann about her love of plants, her advice for urban gardeners and what to expect in this Thursday’s Beta Max LAB.

10513347_857725329444_4267288675705167020_n (2)When did you first decide to start your business?

Three years ago I was on my way home from the gym and had an aha moment. I had a vision of a place called Leelee’s Garden, a combination of a garden nursery and restaurant. I imagined teaching classes, serving beautiful food and selling plants and flowers. I was working in the corporate world at the time and started going to night school on the side to learn about horticulture. Since then I’ve been working towards that idea. I started Leelee’s Garden in January of this year. Until I have a location, I decided to host pop-up events all around Chicago to bring my vision wherever I go.

Did you always have an interest in working with gardens and plants?

Yes and no. I loved gardens and plants when I was little. I spent a week each summer with my grandparents, who always took me blackberry picking and let me help them tend their vegetable garden. I did a lot of gardening as a kid, and then lost interest through high school and college. When I moved to Chicago after school, I saw a seed display and decided to give it a try again. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Why do you enjoy working with plants?

I love the beauty and life that plants add to a home. Whether it’s a full landscape, a bouquet of flowers, or a vertical garden hanging on a wall, plants have a way of making a space more welcoming, calming and beautiful. I also like the feeling of connection to nature and to history when I garden. Last week I was starting my Spring seeds and I thought about how many people throughout history have gently patted a seed with soil, with the hope that the seed will sprout.

There has been a steady increase in young people working with plants, whether through growing their own herbs or creating their own terrariums. Why do you think plants are so popular?

I think young people yearn to create things with their hands and connect to nature. With so much of our lives spent in front of screens, it’s refreshing to get our hands dirty. There’s something uniquely rewarding about creating a garden and seeing it grow before your eyes that’s impossible to get any other way.

newverticalWhat advice would you give to the novice gardener? 

Start small, grow what you love, don’t worry if you lose a plant here and there, and most important, make sure you have fun. If you want to start a garden or do a small project, make it social instead of a chore. Invite friends. Turn on some music. Make it a garden party.

How can people living in an urban environment explore working with plants?

There are so many options for the urban gardener. If you have a small outdoor space, you can start a container garden. I love growing food in containers and teach a class on designing an edible balcony or small space garden. There are also many books and resources on the Internet on this topic. For indoor gardening, I recommend exploring air plants.

What is an air plant? Why do you like working with them?

Air plants are plants in the genus tillandsia. There are over 700 different varieties. What makes them unique is that they don’t get their water or nutrients through their roots, so they don’t need soil. They take in water through their leaves like a big sponge. Because they are so easy to care for and don’t need soil, they are perfect for living crafts. You can easily glue them, hang them, or make terrariums with them.

What should Brooklyn Boulders guests expect during this workshop?

Guests can expect to create something they love. That’s my goal in every workshop I teach. After an introduction to air plants and a demonstration, the majority of the workshop will be hands-on. Guests get to pick their materials and create their gardens. I will work one-on-one with anyone who wants help designing a garden they are proud to hang in their home.

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