Marie on Her Other Passion: Gardening

Spending time in nature has always sparked joy for Marie. Her deep reverence for the earth is evident in her tidying philosophy – and the belief that all objects have energy and are worthy of care and respect.

Recently, she’s been communing with nature in her own backyard – in her first-ever vegetable garden. We asked her about the ways in which gardening is like tidying, what her desert-island vegetables are and if she’d ever raise chickens.

KM:

You’ve shared that if you could switch jobs with anyone for a day, it would be with a farmer. Why? Do you have a lot of experience with gardening?

MK:

I started gardening about a year ago. When I lived in Japan, I grew herbs inside – but it didn’t work out very well. Now that I live in L.A. I have space for an outdoor garden for the first time. I’m fascinated by growing things! I would love to trade places with a farmer – for the chance to absorb their knowledge and to spend the day outside.

KM:

What did you plant first?

MK:

I stuck to the basics – tomatoes, kale and celery; my kids chose celery – they love it! We also have a lemon tree, which I visit daily so I can add lemon to our water – such a simple luxury.

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KM:

What’s your gardening schedule?

MK:

I go in the morning before it gets too hot, and then again in the late afternoon. Right now there’s not too much to harvest, so visiting the garden is like going on a mini-retreat – it’s a chance for me to relax, connect with the earth and make sure the plants are healthy.

KM:

Do you talk to your plants?

MK:

I do! I don’t have names for them – yet – but I ask them how they’re doing and give them encouragement. It feels very natural to me – an extension of how I talk to my belongings and thank them for their support; I believe our possessions last longer and work harder for us when we acknowledge how vital they are. The same is certainly true for plants.

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KM:

In what other ways is gardening like tidying?

MK:

They’re both ways to care for your environment and a chance to realize your ideal lifestyle. Now that I have outdoor space, I think of it as an extension of our home – I want it to spark joy, too! The love and gratitude I give to my belongings is the same as the care and passion I put into my plants. Both practices are mediative and relaxing for me; I feel focused and calm after doing either of them.

KM:

Your grandparents had a traditional Japanese Zen garden. What do you remember about it? Did you spend time there, or was it more for observing?

MK:

Their garden was very traditional – and very beautiful. It had a large rock in the middle, a small koi pond and a Matsu pine. My grandparents lived in that house until I was four, and I remember sitting on the veranda with my grandmother and just taking it in, which is a typical way to interact with that kind of garden. There was bamboo and lots of greenery – and purple and blue hydrangea. It was very calming.

KM:

Describe your dream garden. What does it look like? What would you grow?

KM:

I’d like to be able to prepare all of our meals from the garden, so I’d grow…everything! Definitely a big section just for herbs – I make simple herb salads and fresh herbal tea every day. I’d also really like to make Japanese pickled plums – umeboshi – so I’d plant a few plum trees, too.

Having a koi pond would be fun…I appreciate the beauty of Japanese gardens and I enjoy English gardens, too. My dream would be to have different sections of the garden with their own personality and style. That would be really ideal.

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KM:

What about flowers?

MK:

Of course! I would plant flowers that bloom seasonally so we could enjoy them throughout the year.

KM:

Would you ever consider raising chickens? What about goats?

MK:

I would! I think I’d start with chickens and take it from there. I never considered raising chickens when I lived in Japan, but now I see people doing it in California and my interest is piqued.

KM:

Do you think you could live off the grid and grow your own food?

MK:

Going completely off the grid would be difficult, but, when it comes to food, I think I could grow most of ours and buy the rest straight from other growers.

KM:

Is there a Japanese equivalent for the term “green thumb” – someone who can make seemingly anything grow? Do you think you have one?

MK:

In Japan, people just say they’re really good with plants; until recently I wouldn’t have been able to say that, unfortunately! I’ve had a few houseplants that didn’t make it. But from now on, I would like to have a green thumb.

KM:

If you could only eat three vegetables for the rest of your life, what would they be?

MK:

This is very hard to narrow down. Spinach; shiso – a leaf that’s in the mint family; and pumpkin.

Oh, wait! I forgot about carrots. I eat them everyday – they’re like air. So get rid of spinach. Carrots, shiso and pumpkin. That’s my final answer.

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KM:

What’s your favorite fruit?

MK:

Figs.

KM:

Favorite flower?

MK:

Gerbera daisies.

KM:

Have you ever tried bonsai?

MK:

Not yet, but I’m very interested.

KM:

Earthworms – do they spark joy?

MK:

Not on their own, but I know they’re important for the health of the planet, so I appreciate them.

MK:

If you were a fruit or vegetable, what would you be?

MK:

Some kind of root vegetable – like burdock – or maybe a carrot because I eat so many. I know for certain that my husband Takumi is an orange.

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