BY MONIQUE QUINTANA
Born in Colima, Mexico, twenty-three-year old Cynthia Figueroa’s Instagram account @thewildflowerpower is a vibrant archive of green things. Naming succulents as the gem of her garden, she talks wellness, family, and learning about Mother Nature in Fresno, California.
Monique Quintana: I love your Instagram page because it reminds me to always look to nature for beauty and as a means to center myself. How long have you been gardening? Was there anyone that encouraged you or taught you about gardening?
Cynthia Figueroa: Thank you so much! Hearing that makes me smile because that was originally my goal with my Instagram page. I wanted to remind people to stop and smell the flowers and that beauty is all around us and Mother Nature is amazing. I started gardening in 2014. My family was finally able to find a house to rent with a huge backyard. I remember moving there around Christmas time. My older brother was actually the one with the grand idea to use our new space to plant veggies. That winter, we started prepping our backyard for the spring. Once spring began, we planted tomatoes, squash, green beans, and corn. We even had a compost section in the yard. From there, random melons began to grow.
What began my succulent obsession was a lady I met at a yard sale. She had a many plants for sale, but the ones that stood to me were succulents planted in a can. No one really taught me about gardening. My brother and I learned as we went along. It took a lot of experimenting and trial and error. We just found what worked for us and kept trying to do better. I think if someone wants to get into gardening, they just need to do a little research. Everyone in my family and my boyfriend have been extremely supportive and encouraging about my passion for plants and gardening.
MQ: How has gardening helped your own personal wellness?
CF: Gardening has completely changed my life. Spending time in the garden not only brings me joy, but it's also very relaxing. I've learned to be patient and caring. With gardening, you have to spend a lot of time preparing your garden beds, sowing the seeds, watering, etc. Then you have to wait to see results. Whenever I've had a bad day or I’m upset about something, at least 30 minutes in my garden helps me to calm down and find a bit of joy.
MQ: What are three tips you would give for a beginning gardener?
CF: 1. Research: I would recommend checking your USDA plant hardiness zone. Mine is 9A. Once you know your zone you can plan accordingly, know which plants will do well in your area, and which plants need more protection.
2. Experiment: When you do research, you might get overwhelmed with the amount of different methods and plants. My suggestion would be to try different plants and different growing methods until you figure out which work best for you.
3. Placement: Where you place your plants can determine whether it will survive or die. Is it getting enough light or too much? Some plants prefer a few hours of direct sunlight, some like it full time, and some will just not tolerate it. Your best bet is to again, do some research on what your plants like. I would also suggest getting a moisture meter so that way you don’t have to guess when your plant is thirsty. Another quick tip for succulents is when watering, make sure not to let water sit on the leaves. This can cause them to rot.
MQ: What are some specific plants that thrive well in the fall and the winter? How do you care for them?
CF: There's a group of succulents that are summer dormant and winter growers. The ideal would be Aeoniums. They're very easy to care for. They are really hearty plants. They'll do fine in cold temperatures. Watering once a week during the winter and fall is perfect. They're so low maintenance that if you plant them in ground, you won’t have to worry about rain or frost. They also do well in full sunlight. However, if you’re planting in the ground, you have to consider how much light they'll receive during the summer. They go dormant in the summer and won’t do too well with direct sunlight. They'll scorch.
MQ: What is a quick and affordable plant project you can tell our readers about?
CF: Kokedomas. They’re Japanese moss balls and they’re an affordable and easy project to do. All you need is succulent soil, sphagnum peat moss, twine, a hot glue and plenty of hot glue sticks, some succulents or any plant of your choosing, and a bucket or dish you won’t mind getting dirty.
Step 1: Place soil and water in your dish. You want your soil to be damp, not wet.
Step 2: Make a little ball with the soil.
Step 3: Poke a hole in the middle and stick your plant in the ball.
Step 4: Cover your ball with sphagnum peat moss. Sometimes it gets messy covering the ball with the moss. It may help to soak the moss in water before using it.
Step 5: Begin to wrap your moss ball with the twine, until it's completely covered.
Step 6: Glue the ends. If you'd like to make a hanging Kokedoma, you can hot glue some twine on each side so it will hang.
Monique Quintana is a contributing writer at Clash Media and Senior Beauty Editor at Luna Luna Magazine. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno, and her work has appeared in Huizache, Bordersenses, and The Acentos Review, among other publications. She is a member of the Central Valley Women Writers Color Collective and teaches English at Fresno City College.