Interview The Gardener: Jack Rico

Interview The Gardener: Jack Rico

You will often see him out watering trees and shrubs around the Farm — among his many other duties — but in his free time, he is a home gardener, too! We recently sat down with Jack to talk about what he and his plants have been up to lately:

What’s your gardening situation like at home?

I have a grass-covered yard that I am slowly filling in with perennial fruits and vegetables — artichokes, strawberries, carpet raspberry — as well as adding natives.

How did you first get into gardening?

I got into plants at a young age while helping my parents with weeding, planting, and harvesting from our small backyard garden. We would grow lots of tomatoes and basil to use for tomato sauces and pestos, which we then preserved and used on many dishes from pesto pasta to eggplant parmesan.

Do you have a favorite plant that you grow, or is there any plant you’re particularly excited by in your garden right now?

Rhododendon occidentale from Jack's home garden.

Asking my favorite plant used to be an easy question before I started working at the nursery, and I would have said basil due to growing up with the plant and loving pesto. But after working at the Farm, I would say that Rhododendron occidentale — the western azalea — is my favorite because it is a native with beautiful fragrance, lovely green leaves, and a light pink flower that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. My three are at the end of their blooming season and still quite fragrant with only two flowers (pictured at right). I'm looking forward to spring when they are in full bloom and the fragrance is carrying down the block.

You work in nursery stock, which means you see a lot of the woody plants we have coming in. What’s grabbed your attention around the Farm lately? 

Right now, we are starting to get wonderful blooms on our camellias. My current favorite is either the Yuletide camellia or the tea camellia, which both have beautiful blooms. 

In addition to edible gardening and garden staples like camellias, you seem to have a passion for native plants. Could you talk about that?

Working with native plants connects us to the ecosystem we are currently living in. It helps us better understand what edible, medicinal and animal habitat plants are in our own backyards. I believe that by helping customers find the right plant and including natives, we can slowly change public opinion on what people's options are for their gardens.