Inside Gay Gardens
Meet Matt Mirarchi!
Our first home tour takes us inside the home (dubbed gay gardens) of this local Seattleite.
Inside Wild: Tell us a little background about yourself!
Matt Mirarchi: Whether I was picking up garbage along the road or planting trees at our family “farm” in small-town Alabama, I always found myself outside; my parents and sister are natural scientists, and I went the more social route to become an anthropologist (archaeologist specifically). So my profession dovetailed with my love of the outdoors, and all the green in it. But once I moved across the country to Los Angeles, and changed careers (moving from the outdoors to the indoorish nonprofit sector), I slowly found myself starved for a lush landscape. Seattle has certainly filled that void.
IW: How & when did you get into plants?
MM: Although I was always outside as an archaeologist, I never really kept indoor plants – probably because I got my fill of green, and dirt, for 10 hours a day! But my familial green thumb started to twinge after I moved to California. And honestly, I became more fascinated by vintage planters (Floraline and Haeger especially) before jumping into plant-tending. But those planters needed plants, which is when everything took off.
IW: Where do you gather your inspiration?
MM: A people-watcher by (former) profession, I’ve always been interested in how folks relate to their environment, especially how they use greenery/the natural world to insulate or protect themselves. And I’ve always been astounded by nature’s resilience despite all the mess humans create; so I always try to stop and appreciate bushes growing out of sidewalk cracks, trees clinging to hillside construction sites – reminders that nature will always win. (I also have to admit that the movie “A Little Chaos” is a go-to, another reminder that sometimes it’s just best to watch things grow, lend a helping hand when necessary, and stand back.)
IW: What’s your secret to keeping your plants so lush?
MM: Being very intentional about maintenance. After killing many plants with too much love (water, sun), I began being much more observant – watching for plant rust, drooping/dropping leaves, dried-out soil – and adjusting my plant-tending practices, and moving the pots, accordingly.
IW: What advice do you have for anyone wanting to start their own indoor plant jungle?
MM: Always be open to a lot of trial-and-error endeavors (and go ahead and prep for the occasional bout of gnats…so annoying, but par for the course); and be plenty ready for the first plant you buy to die. Start with something smallish and manageable (succulents are great
starters) before venturing into the realm of the fiddle leaf fig. Above all, have fun; greenery does wonders in terms of lifting your mood (and cleaning the air).
IW: What are your favorite stores to get your plants?
MM: Honestly, I’ve gotten so many of my plants from estate sales. Lots of folks organizing estate sales will give plants away – including great, mature plants that just need a little love (because so many moving companies can’t move plants/soil). There’s something so heartening about taking a plant that’d otherwise be dumped or discarded and rehoming it. Other than estate sales, I’ve gotten some from various farmers markets, Urban Sprouts (in Renton), and the West Seattle Nursery.
IW: What is your favorite plant in your collection?
MM: Definitely my massive sweet scented geranium (Pelargonium graveolens). Little did I
know the wee start from Kurt Farm Shop (Capitol Hill) would grow over six feet high; but I
absolutely love the leaves’ peppery scent (probably one of my favorite smells in the world).
IW: What variety of plant is your next purchase going to be?
MM: Since I’m downsizing, I’m re-focusing my energies on the 50ish plants I’m moving (but hey, I reduced my entire collection by about 40, so that’s something). But I always have a soft spot for the occasional roadside find or estate sale treasure – nothing specific; whatever needs a little love.