A study of the symbiotic relationship between
humans and the gardens they tend to.

At OR.CA, our work begins by understanding that it doesn’t end — a landscape is an ongoing dialogue, shaped by seasons and in response to our environments. Plants + People is an ongoing exploration of what it looks like to plant roots, to honor cycles, to inhabit space, and to accept impermanence through the perspectives of individuals we admire.

lisa walter-sedlacek

008 lisa walter-sedlacek
plant community: pacific coast herb and meadow garden
photography: justin chung


To end our inaugural year of the Plants + People series, we’re sharing a story straight from the heart — a conversation with Molly’s mom Lisa Sedlacek, and a trip to visit her lush home garden in Coastal Oregon. A lifelong lover of plants and the outdoors, Lisa is the founder of Laurel Bay Gardens in Coastal Oregon, a full-service nursery and landscape design business that has been in operation for over two decades (clearly the apple falls not far from the tree, so to speak…)

Join us for a trip home for a conversation on the nuanced language of plants, abandoning perfection, and finding beauty in all of nature’s cycles.

Describe how your garden: feels, smells, sounds, tastes. 

The garden always feels alive when I walk through it. In the morning it’s a quiet soft feeling; I can feel the plants waking up. The smells are more musty and  damp. Often I don’t get to go in my garden until mid-day if I’m working, but it’s at this time that the plants are most fragrant. I will walk out, feel the insects and the birds at the feeder, watching lots of scurrying and flitting around.

What is your first or earliest memory of being in a garden? 

My first memory was in my first home in California. I loved being outside, and experiencing the wildness around me. We had a field out our backyard, with giant eucalyptus trees that made incredible rustling and crackling sounds in the wind.  I loved to lay down outside and smell the wild mustard and tall grass. My mother and grandmother grew bearded irises and other perennial bulbs. As I grew up, through Outdoor School naturalist programs and riding my horse through wooded areas I learned the names of plants and how to forage.

I didn’t have a garden until we moved to our current house, where I first started planting herbs and flowers for making dried flower wreaths and using the herbs in cooking.  My first experience with gardening was with indoor plants — while I loved being outside with plants, because we lived in suburbia I made my room into an indoor garden with my room filled with indoor tropical plants. 

Salvia microphylla variegata

(Variegated Autumn Sage)

A tall perennial with variegated leaves that glow at night in the garden. Salvias are a hummingbird’s favorite and prefer a well drained soil in a sunny location.

"I tell people all the time that gardening is not like perfecting a recipe that has to be done a certain way. It is like an art that is a reflection of your soul and passion, and should evolve that way."
Lisa Walter-Sedlacek

Where did your gardening sensibility/connection to plants come from?

My connection came through being around others through outdoor school and naturalist/science programs, learning that plants have names, can be identified by their botanical nature, and that there is a whole world that we just pass by every day. 

Can you share more about your relationship to planning and preparing your garden throughout the year? 

We start our preparation in the fall for next year. We mulch out beds for winter and the rains we have, we apply organic compost from our compost bin, and supplement the fertilizing with other organic fertilizer. We sometimes move plants around in the winter and divide the bulbs. We leave the seed heads and leaves on the beds for the birds and pollinators through the winter. 

In late February we start seeds indoors for our early spring vegetables. In March we plant cool weather vegetables and seeds. In late April the perennials start to wake up; we celebrate the arrival of spring, clean up damage from the winter, cut down the tender perennials, and add new plants if there are open spaces in the planting beds.

Most of the work happens in May to July… weeding, pruning, fertilizing, cutting, cutting flowers and herbs for our cooking, etc. 

What is one of your favorite plants in your garden? 

My favorite plants are my Daphne bholua; it blooms all winter and provides food for the hummingbirds during the cold season. I also love the pineapple salvia as it attracts the hummers in the summer and has bright red flowers…the leaves smell like pineapple. I love the rosemary and cutting it for soups and savory dishes. I also love the perennial prairie sunflower watching it reach toward the sun. And I love the cardoon because of its velvety leaves and purple blooms in the summer.

Salvia elegans

(Pineapple sage)

Pineapple sage is an herbaceous perennial in the mint family, and is native to Mexico and Guatemala. Growing to almost five feet high in the summer, the bright red flowers are a hummingbird favorite. Pineapple sage prefers a sunny location with well drained soil. Dying back with the first frost, Pineapple sage will regrow in the spring in milder climates. 

Prunus sp Apple tree

Has sapsucker holes on bark. Important source of food for birds.

Humulus lupulus Hops v.  Cascade and Willamette

Has sapsucker holes on bark. Important source of food for birds.

Eupatorium purpureum  

  (Queen of the meadow, Joe pye weed)

A native perennial from northeastern United States, this tall showy plant works well in perennial borders. Blooming in summer, it is a great pollinator plant and is deer resistant.

Verbascum thapsus  


This biennial produces whorls of velvety leaves its first year, and sends up a towering pole-like stem covered with whorls of small yellow flowers. The common name, mullein, comes from the German language meaning king’s candles because of its tall yellow candle like growth.

Acer palmatum

(Green Japanese Maple)

This mid size deciduous tree has green leaves in the summer followed by a brilliant fall display of orange red, and yellow leaves in the late fall. Prefers ell drained soil and sun with ample moisture in the summer. Prefers well drained soil.

Daphne bholua Darjeeling

(Darjeeling daphne)

One of the earliest daphnes to bloom, this evergreen shrub can reach six feet in height,  blooming all winter with fragrant flowers that are a hummingbird favorite. It prefers partial sun with moist soil.

Picea sitchensis

(Sitka Spruce)

This native conifer is part of the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest, towering 80 to 100 feet tall. It prefers lower elevations, cooler temperatures, and moist growing conditions.

“My garden reminds me to slow down and look at things, and realize that nature happens every year, regardless of human strife and worry.” 

Lisa Walter-Sedlacek

Helianthus maximiliani      Maximilian

(Prairie sunflower)

A perennial native sunflower, this showy perennial tolerates many soil conditions and naturalizes easily. Reaching up to seven feet in height, Prairie sunflowers are a favorite for pollinators in the summer flower border.

Foeniculum vulgare  

(Common fennel)

This perennial is from the mediterranean and has naturalized throughout the world. It prefers full sun and is a great pollinator plant.

What are some of your fondest memories/moments with animals and/or people in your garden? 

When the girls were young we would work in the garden, planting seeds, harvesting garden vegetables and cooking. We’d sit in the garden after work and share our days and thoughts and relax. 

What would you tell somebody who is just starting out on their gardening journey? 

I tell people all the time that gardening is not a perfection that has a recipe and has to be done a certain way. It is like an art that is a reflection of your soul and passion, and should evolve that way.  I also try to tell people that certain plants/herbs are easily grown while others are certain for first time failure and go with simple things first. 

What is one of the most notable things you have learned about yourself through the careful cultivation, preparation and caring you have put into your garden? 

That I cannot perfect life or control it, that I need to accept life as it is and nature as it is. 

What is the process between you and your husband in your garden? Do you work on it together? 

We have been working separately as until now I have still been working at my job. He has had more time to work the vegetable garden and berries/fruit trees. I do the perennials, herbs, and shrub borders. He’s more of a “get it done quickly, large-scale projects'' person. I’m more of a detail person.


(nigra Henon)

True timber bamboo, grows the best in full sun. It can grow culms (stems) up to five inches in diameter and makes a great visual screen in large areas.

Borinda angustissima

A clumping bamboo that grows 12 to 20 feet tall, this mountain bamboo prefers partial sun moisture. Originally from Asia, this  bamboo is used for weaving and is food for the giant panda.

Borinda fungosa

A clumping bamboo native to China, growing 12 to 20 feet tall, prefers partial sun and moisture.

Do you use plants medicinally? 

We use coltsfoot from the lower garden for coughs in the winter. And sometimes we dry the rose hips for tea. The rest of the herbs we use for cooking and drying for use in the culinary wreaths we make.  

What plants do you use for cooking or healing? 

We use the thyme, fennel, sage, lemon verbena, rosemary, bay laurel for cooking. We use the borage, coltsfoot, rosehips for teas for healing. 

What has a consistent application of care for your garden taught you about the role of seasons or cycles in everyday life? 

My garden reminds me to slow down and look at things, and realize that nature happens every year, regardless of human strife and worry.  At times I need to go out to be in the garden to understand where it is in its cycle of growth and rebirth.

I’ve learned that gardening does not need to be an act of perfection; cycles happen regardless of our care or attention. Nature dictates the plants’ cycle of growth, flowering, and slumber.

What are your plans for your garden in the next 5 years? 

I am looking forward to finally being able to be in the garden each morning with my cup of coffee. We are going to develop our backyard; I want to put in a wooded garden area with shade perennials, viburnums, and Japanese maples. We are also going to finish the water feature so we can have a frog habitat and water perennials.  I also want to finish the rose garden. Lots of plans.

What plants remind you of your childhood? 

Eucalyptus, wild mustard, Daphne odora

What are some indicators or ways your plants and flowers communicate to you that it needs something?

 I can tell when they need things…the leaves change their shape or color. If you look at your plants, you can see the stress in the leaves and growth habits. Some stress and change is in response to daily events. Some plant responses are due to longtime events, like a lack of water. People think that plants die quickly for no reason, but most of the time it's a gradual decline.

What is your favorite time of day in your garden? 

Mornings;  I also love twilight. But mornings are the best.

Gunnera manicata

(Giant rhubarb or Dinosaur plant)

This large clump forming perennial is a native of Brazil. The giant leaves have ridges on the back, hence the reference to the dinosaur plant. It dies back on the first frost, but it grows quickly each spring, towering eight to ten feet tall and wide in a few years. Dinosaur plants prefer protected half sun location with ample moisture.

Rhododendron Fragrantissimum

(Giant rhubarb or Dinosaur plant)

Considered one of the most fragrant rhododendrons, this medium size evergreen shrub blooms in mid spring with frilly white flowers that contrast with the dark leathery leaves. This rhododendron is a hummingbird favorite and prefers half day sun and moisture in the summer.

Viburnum x bodnantense  

   (Dawn Viburnum)

This hardy shrub has strong scented soft pink flowers that bloom in the winter in milder climates. It can grow six to ten feet tall, and prefers partial to full sun with some watering in the summer. 

Rheum x Garden Rhubarb 

Edible rhubarb grown in gardens. Red stems and large leaves make it a great ornamental addition to the garden. Prefers rich well drained soil and full sun.

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