For W’s new series, “One Fun Thing,” we’re inviting creative people around the world to share an easy, relaxing activity that has brightened up their days spent at home, from Manolo Blahnik’s daily sketches to Jewel’s guided meditations to Marcel Dzama’s homemade coloring books to the coffee recipe that reminds Pia Zanardi of Italian summers. Consider it a grab bag of ideas for how to shake up your own quarantine routine.
Has there ever been a better time to experiment with growing your own vegetables and herbs? London-based designer Simone Rocha has kept a kitchen garden ever since she moved from her home city of Dublin, starting with sacks of potatoes on a balcony she shared with friends. Now, she’s trying out new seeds from local nurseries that she’ll incorporate into recipes by Alice Waters and Laila Gohar, in between remote meetings with her design team (her romantic, Fellini-inspired collaboration with Moncler launches next week) and quality time with her partner and daughter. Here, she shares what she’s been growing and the essential tools you’ll need to start your own plant journey.
What does a typical day look like for you in quarantine? Any new rituals you’ve added to the mix?
I’m usually woken by my daughter. I was doing a little running, but the enthusiasm has lowered with the rain. Then I am at my desk, talking to my team remotely, navigating a new future and developing new ideas. Break for lunch with my family in the back garden, then back to the desk! Then I usually make supper and we go for an evening walk. Possibly a film and then I read a book in bed.
How have you been staying creative?
I am working every day with my team on my new collection, developing fabrics, hand embroideries, beading for jewelry, working on the stand, reading books. The team is also supporting the EDN (Emergency Designer Network) and sewing scrubs for the NHS.
In the evenings I’ve started embroidering names onto vintage aprons and tea towels, and found linen pieces for family and friends.
When did you first start getting into gardening?
It started when I lived in a flat with friends, after I moved to London from Dublin. On our balcony, I made a little flower bed out of old pallets and planted herbs and started growing potatoes in bags filled with soil.
What have you been planting these days?
Peas, radishes, leeks, spring onions, chili, and cucumbers. I have the most faith in the radishes…
What’s your advice for someone who is just getting into gardening at home?
Don’t put yourself under too much pressure, it’s something just for you in the privacy of your own home.
What are the essential tools or materials you need to get started?
Seeds, a trowel, compost, little pots for seeding, a watering can, pencils, labels.
Do you have any preferred brand of seeds? Or a farm you like to order from?
The N1 Garden Centre [a store that sells supplies for urban gardening] is around the corner from my house, so lots of my seeds have come from there. But I also just potted some poppies from Petersham Nurseries.
What’s the most satisfying part of the process?
When the seed starts to sprout! Or when you’re finally eating something you have grown.
What’s the most challenging?
Space and the weather is fairly unpredictable, so I end up bringing pots and trays in and out of the kitchen depending on the weather.
What recipes have you been trying to master while in quarantine? Any cookbooks you’ve been referring to a lot?
The cookbooks on rotation are The River Cafe Cookbook, books by Alice Waters, and Short and Sweet by Dan Lepard for all baking. I’m also following my brother Max’s Irish influenced recipes on Instagram and collaborator Lalia Gohar’s processes for simple home cooking…I also made bang bang noodles for the first time.
What has become the most indispensable tool in your kitchen and why?
Always the plastic spatula, used for everything from cakes to anything on the hob.
What music have you been listening to?
Bette Davis, Odetta sings Dylan, Shirley Collins and Kelsey Lu.
Have there been any unexpected upsides to this new way of life?
Spending more time with my family—my daughter Valentine and partner Eoin—has been a real highlight. Taking the time appreciating everything we have, using everything responsibly, eating less meat, and more vegetables.