Dawn and Rod Ash has about 450 plants of all kinds in their home. Their plant nursery, The Wicked Botanist, has countless others.
And, if you can believe it, they’re shipping in tons more over the next few weeks. But those aren’t for their home or their store, they’re for the very first Lehigh Valley Fall Plant Festival.
The couple that owns the downtown Bethlehem store will be joined by more than 50 plant, plant supplies and craft vendors from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 10 at South Mountain Grove in Allentown. It’s hard not to make plant-based puns, but the houseplant community has really sprouted up in the last couple years — clearly enough to warrant starting an annual festival.
Dawn Ash got into the houseplant game a few years ago. “It was a hobby, and I loved it,” she said. “The plants were getting bigger, so I would take cuttings and grow some of the plants and sell them so that I could buy more and feed my own addiction.”
She joined a Facebook group for Lehigh Valley plant-owners that started small and quickly grew to over 5,000 members. Ash also frequently received suggestions to open a store with her jungle’s-worth of plants so other people could see what she had. Eventually, it became a necessity. “We needed a place to go with these plants because they were taking over my house,” she said.
The Wicked Botanist opened back in March, selling a myriad of leafy houseplants that Ash is fond of (she wouldn’t sell a plant she doesn’t have personal experience with) as well as other plant supplies like pots, fertilizer, macrame plant holders and more. All business is done under the watchful eye of Loki, the chameleon that mostly lives in a terrarium next to the cash register, but occasionally migrates to hang out among the plants.
Ash started putting out feelers for a plant festival in June, and others in the plant community that heard about it through the grapevine were super receptive, she said. And soon, everything fell into place and Ash started building a roster of vendors.
Because the plant community is so entangled — plant sellers need fertilizer sellers who need pottery sellers who need macrame artists, and the other way around — it was easy to spread the word and get different vendors and crafters on board. Ash said about 30 to 40 percent of the vendors will be selling different kinds of plants, like leafy houseplants, succulents, plants for terrariums like Loki’s, and more. The rest of the vendors are plant supplies and somewhat-related accoutrements (there will be a crystal seller, for instance).
There will be a raffle, which will likely be a big deal for plant collectors. The grand prize will be a mature Pink Princess Philodendron, a rare plant that Ash said is “a staple collector’s plant.”
The festival, which will also have food from The Taste Smokers and other live entertainment, is the perfect place to get a holiday gift for the plant parent in your life. And odds are, someone you know became a new plant owner over the last year and change.
Houseplant ownership and care has boomed since the COVID-19 pandemic. An NBC News story from January cited a southern California online company that went from selling between 10 and 20 plants per day to nearly 200. There are certainly healthy biological benefits to plants in the home — “cleaner, better air,” Ash said — but she also notes that it’s something to care for, which is especially impactful during a time people have been quite alone.
If you didn’t hop on the trend then, the festival could be a great place to start. Ash and other plant sellers are experts in determining the right plant for a customer — which direction does your home face? Where does the sunlight hit? Do you want a high-maintenance plant to care for or a low-maintenance plant to let be?
And with various other vendors selling painted plant holders, macrame hangers and more, you can bring home a new roommate with the perfect pot to grow in. And who knows? It could blossom into your newest hobby.
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Connor Lagore may be reached at email@example.com.