That Mom | Molly Garrett | Container Garden Designer | 2019


"that mom" is a series of inspirational women who

share their thoughts on motherhood, career, style and grace.

by lee kriel


I met Molly over Instagram. She was a hockey coach of my friend’s daughter and I loved her feed as she incorporated little bits of her life whether it was on the ice or in the garden. With a background in fine arts and landscape architecture, she launched her business, Field and Canvas, which specializes in container garden design. She kept her pregnancy private until one day there was this beautiful baby boy that began appearing in her feed. (We were “best friends”…how could I have not known. ;) The fallacy of Instagram friendships…who was I kidding, we were complete strangers!) I did however get to meet her in real life late last summer at her beautiful home in Maryland, along with her darling son Tyde. Her easy going personality made me want to stay all day. I loved listening to her stories of her love of nature from the days when she was a little girl and her father would pull over to forage the roadside beauty. From here she gained a sense of light and color as she looked at all of nature…and just in my short visit, she showed me how to look at nature’s canvas differently too, seeing the different shades of green, every bloom, or the very soil it grows from. Enjoy getting to know Molly…I sure did! p.s. I can’t wait to try her mom’s chicken casserole!

Tell me a little about your background.

Born and raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, both my parents came from dairy farming families so I like to think my love for hard worked hands runs in my blood. While in 4-H and learning how to judge cows I also started playing ice hockey at age 6. Hockey pretty much took over our lives and all over the world from Alaska to Sweden, ultimately leading me to play Division I NCAA women's ice hockey at Union College in New York. It was there as a fine arts and biology major that I took an art history course on garden design igniting my interest in the living landscape. I would go on to work as a gardner for Ladew Topiary Gardens as well as for a few small design build companies before pursuing a masters degree in landscape architecture. Sitting behind a computer working on technical drawings with plants represented as circles I found myself just wanting to be outside hands in the dirt ‘drawing’ with the real thing. Thus, I began doing containers on the side until that side hustle became what it is now, offering year round container garden design, installation, and maintenance.

Last December I became a new mom to a little baby boy named Tyde. We split our time between South Dakota and Maryland as Tyde’s father coaches ice hockey during the fall and winter months in Sioux Falls, SD. Given the fall and winter seasons are minimal maintenance for the plants, this allows me to spend those months out west, flying back just for fall and winter installations. Come early spring we head back east for my busiest seasons in Maryland full time.

What inspired you to do what you do?

I am constantly in awe of Mother Nature’s resiliency and dynamic layers of growth at all stages and seasons. With the overflow of technology and overwhelming pressure to live in the excess we are missing out on what is truly natural. Container gardening allows me to be creative with nature every season and bring it closer to the home front, hopefully encouraging more people to slow their step and find common ground. We all need daily reminders to stay grounded and I believe plants can do that. There is nothing more basic and leveling than allowing an element of nature to grow and exist.

What is something most don’t know about you?

Despite living and working in one of the busiest metropolitan regions in the country, I’m not a city person at all. One day I hope to have a small farmstead far off the beaten path with my 1984 farm truck. Also I wish more than anything I knew how to play the mandolin.

Tell us about your company and what a client can expect?

The name of my company is Field + Canvas for I consider what I do as painting a blank ‘canvas’ (the empty planter) with materials from the soil or ‘field.’ I do not consider my company a landscaping service, but rather an ever changing form of art just like our ecosystem. I prefer to integrate more foliage and texture over lots of color and blooms. I strive to push my designs closer to nature, organic and wild taking inspiration from the woods, the prairie or just a roadside ditch. Each container is planted as full, lush, and large as possible from the beginning of each season, I do not believe you should wait for them to grow ‘in’ given how short the contained growing season is compared to that of the surrounding landscape. Instead we let them grow as they want and then trim selectively. For the most part, I avoid buying wholesale. I prefer to hand select each individual plant for its unique shape and size within each custom designed container. No two designs are ever the same nor do I like to use the same palette client to client. As mentioned above I treat each planting as its own painting therefor symmetry and duplicity are rare. My design process occurs on several levels; sketches on paper, then in the nursery as I am selecting plants, again in the layout phase arranging plants next to one another, and lastly upon the physical planting on site.

I offer all four seasons as well as a 5th season which occurs in the dormant days between the winter holiday and last spring frost. During the summer season I provide regular maintenance to keep the planters thriving all season long. In addition I also offer indoor planted designs as well as small living tabletop arrangements, similar to cut floral arrangements but pieces that continue to live and grow. These are great for event centerpieces and gifts whether its Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, a house warming, birthday or hostess gift, Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas meal or just because.

Best part of being a mom?

Knowing nothing else in the world matters more.

Hardest part?

Time… I am still adjusting to the sensitivity and significance of every second in every day and night. I am still working on how to be truly present in all moments even the messy ones because nothing makes time slip by quicker than being a mom.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Wake up to the sound of three hungry energetic dogs pacing the foot of the bed and one hungry chatty baby boy, however lately I’ve been lucky that Tyde and his Daddy have been spending the early mornings together giving me a few extra minutes. Once he goes down for his morning nap and up until his Mom-Mom arrives to watch him for the day I’ll head outside to tend to plants by watering or deadheading, packing up the car, and playing a round a fetch with the dogs. Installation days run very late usually till dark and then maintenance days typically end before rush hour giving me more family time at home. Many of my clients are in NW Washington DC so the commute can be wearing, but once there all are located within a 5 mile driving radius so I can hit several in one day and have time for pumping breaks or else its pumping while driving. I definitely prefer my days working in or around Annapolis, where I can stop home to feed my little guy!

What is your personal style? Your go-to staple pieces?

Simple and comfortable, jeans and a tee or athletic wear. I’ve never been big on the latest trends or stylized outfits. I do love unique earrings and a good vintage silver + turquoise piece. Staple items, a striped tee and worn jeans, my leather bangle from Terrain and an oven baked clay bracelet I made myself. Also a hat, I wear a hat just about every day of the year.

Your beauty routine? Favorite products? Shortcuts?

Even before baby, it was simple and quick. I love my freckles so I try to wear minimal coverage, but high SPF moisturizer is a must in my line of work. Favorite products lately- the elevated hydration mist by Honest Beauty and tinted moisturizer. Now as a mom, I am in the process of switching all my cosmetics to natural, cleaner options that won’t break the bank.

Wellness and exercise routine?

I firmly believe getting outside in nature no matter what time of year is necessary for mental health just as much as physical, even if it’s just a walk to look up at the trees. As a new mom in my busiest season of work I am still struggling to find the time beyond our evening stroller walks. Once things slow down this coming fall and winter I hope to get back to my routine of running everyday with my one dog as well as home workouts during nap times and Barre or spin classes.

What is the best parenting advice you have ever received?

You have no idea what you’re doing, but know you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.

Your children’s favorite toys/books? (Your favorite toys/books for them that keep you sane :)

Funny enough he has been preferring kitchen utensils and pots/pans over his toy basket so he now has his own bottom drawer among the cabinets. Tyde loves his books, it’s a morning routine to go and pull them all off the shelf. One book I love to read is “If You Give a Pig a Pancake” by Laura Numeroff. However, he loves his peek-a-boo flap books which I’ve already had to repair a few times.

What is your philosophy when it comes to decorating?

Minimal and earthy. I love to ‘decorate’ with foraged flora year round, wildflowers or grasses from a roadside ditch, branches with interesting architecture or fungus growing along the bark. I’m always collecting interesting rocks from places we travel or natures seasonal offerings, at the end of the season it can be given back to the earth rather than take up storage in an attic or room in a landfill.

What is your favorite room in the house?

Definitely always the room with the most windows, here in our Maryland house that’s the living room which has a corner of 5 windows that face east out into the woods. I love to watch the sun rise through the trees, the birds gathering berries out of the Holly, and the lightning bugs glow through the night. In South Dakota it’s also the living room with a large bay window that looks southwest out onto farm fields and the Big Sioux River. Sometimes it’s planted tall with corn, other times its dotted with bales of hay or cattle, regardless the wide open view, the sunsets, and the geese that migrate overhead are grounding and calming.

Designers that inspire you?

I turn to a lot of floral designers for inspiration with my work, Sarah Ryhanen of Saipua, Jill Rizzo of Studio Choo, Kristen Caissie of Moon Canyon Designs, Kate Chirgotis of Eothen and Holly Carlise. I’ve become a big fan of the guys from Hort and Pott as well as the design team at Terrain. In the home I admire the personal style of local decorator Lauren Liess. Another individual I look up to immensely is Jillian Lukiwiski, writer, photographer, and silversmith based out of Idaho. Her words, her images, and her life are continuously awe inspiring. To me all these individuals reflect a sincere appreciation and connection with the natural form throughout the seasons, one I too aspire to carry into my work.

What are your favorite pieces of art/decor?

Whatever the forest/field and even roadside ditch offers in the season. ‘Ditch picking’ is probably one of my most favorite things to do for personal inspiration, what do my eyes see and then what can my hands do with it back home. Also an antique print drawer hung on the wall that displays my ever growing rock, shell, and feather collection. And then there are all my potted ferns that travel back and forth to South Dakota and Maryland with me!

How do you curate all your children’s toys?

Already I feel like we have accumulated too many, but most have been given as gifts and its amazing watching his little fingers discover new features or new textures on each individual one. My favorites are the simple wooden toys, the play gym my Dad made out of my old hockey sticks and pucks, and then the woodland themed quilt that we laid below it for him to play on which his Mom-Mom hand made right before he was born.

Tell us about your children’s rooms and the inspiration behind them?

Tyde has two rooms, one here and one at our house in South Dakota. I chose elements of each room to reflect our lives spent outdoors in that geographical location. Here in Maryland during the warmer spring and summer months we spend a lot of our time out on the water fishing and crabbing. A fish print I created in college as well as an old nautical chart of his Dad’s favorite waters on the Chesapeake Bay were the starting inspiration. Then when we are living in South Dakota during the fall and winter months we spend a lot of time out in the field hunting ducks and pheasants. While I was still pregnant I made a mobile out of driftwood collected from a flooded timber his father and I duck hunted a month before he was born and from it feathers hang from the different birds we have harvested- ducks, geese, pheasants and wild turkey. This along with two portraits of our labs out hunting influenced his South Dakota room.

What advice would you give other mothers who are hoping to start their own business?

Work will always be there, but family time will not. Set your hours and days and stick to them. Also don’t be afraid to find help early, this is something I regret not doing.

How do you balance work and family life?

That is still a work in progress, but this spring I quickly learned I needed to stop working on weekends regardless of how behind I felt and I had to set an end time each day. There were just too many days that turned into nights, I’d pull into the driveway in tears because I was running ragged and still only getting home thirty minutes before my son’s bedtime.

Do you have a productivity tricks you could share?

Not really, I’ve tried apps and digital programs, but I still prefer handwritten notes and a paper calendar. I keep a spiral notebook with me at all times, its my list keeper and my sketchbook.

What are your thoughts on competition?

Recently I was listening to Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday podcast with Gloria Steinem and she said “Do more of what you can uniquely do and less of what other people can do.” I believe if you are your own true unique self no one can compete with that, ‘true’ being the key word there. If you try to replicate someone else's work or style, you are only failing your own God given talents.

Favorite family recipe you would like to share?

My mom’s Chicken Casserole, pretty much the only kind of casserole I make.

In a 9x11 dish: Bottom layer- Chopped cooked chicken breast 2nd layer- Slightly cooked frozen broccoli florets 3rd layer- 1 to 2 packages of boil-in-bag rice (slightly pre-cooked) 4th layer- Make a mixture of 1 can cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and splash of milk in a separate bowl then spread over top 5th layer- Cover top with crushed ritz crackers (usually one sleeve) Finally put pats of butter all over the top and bake uncovered for about an hour at 350. *Tastes even better re-heated the next day and with ketchup!

Favorite travel destination?

That’s a tie between the wide open public land of North Dakota or the wooded mountains of central Pennsylvania.

Favorite local places to go/eat/play?

Trails of Tuckahoe State Park + Adkins Arboretum (near my home town on the Eastern Shore) Lures Bar and Grille (Crownsville)