Spotlight on Christine Gaston: Shop Manager
If you've ever popped into the shop, chances are you've met Christine. She's helped keep Bark & Vine running smoothly for nearly two years, and her plant knowledge is out of this world! Naturally, I had to get her hot take on all things plants for this month's newsletter. Check it out and come say hi this weekend.
Emily: Let's jump right in! What did you do before joining Bark & Vine?
Christine: I went to school for sculpture but always loved cooking. During school I began working in restaurants, eventually becoming a chef. Restaurants are a demanding place to work, and after nearly 10 years I decided to leave. I wanted to pursue my obsession with plants in whatever way I could.
E: We'll get to that obsession in a minute, but how did it all start? What kicked off your love for plants?
C: I grew up gardening and cooking, so in a way, I've always been into plants through those activities. I lived in more rural places most of my life and always had space for a big garden, but in the past few years I wasn't able to have that kind of outdoor space, and my interest in plants turned indoors. Caring for plants is always great therapy which was really important during the pandemic.
E: As shop manager, what does a typical day at work look like for you?
C: I look at the week to plan what needs to be done. If we have events or classes, it’s important that those things are taken care of first. I may also have to coordinate with you for any installation work going on outside the shop. Then I focus on what needs to get done in the shop, whether that’s plant care, merchandising new product, or just maintaining the shop. I’m lucky to work with really great co-workers that are just as excited to work with plants as I am. So…there is also a lot of talking about plants!
E: Let's get into that plant obsession of yours... You have a great knowledge of and collection of rare plants. What are some tips you have for people just getting into growing their collection of unique houseplants?
C: The biggest tip I have is that you should only purchase plants that you actually want and will enjoy taking care of. Making sure you’re prepared with necessary supplies, tools, and set up is important. (Check out greenhouse cabinets if you really want to get wild.) Something I used to do when I started collecting is buying a plant even if I wasn’t in love with it, just because it was hard to find. I don't do that anymore.
E: A question we get all the time in the shop is "What makes a plant rare?" How do you answer that one?
C: Rare is a blanket term for uncommon plants that collectors are seeking. They're often more expensive for a variety of reasons, including availability, color, variegation, and more. What makes a plant "rare" or a "collector plant" is specific to the collector.
E: Can you talk about some things you look for in rare or collector plants?
C: If I’m deciding between two variegated plants, I look at the stem to see which has the most striated pattern. The more variegation in the stem, the more variegation that plant will have. Also, more sectoral variegation (where there are big chunks of variegation) is more prone to browning. More evenly marbled variegation is easier to maintain.
For all plants, variegated or not, I’m looking at the overall look. Are there active growth points? How many plants or stems are potted in each pot? I also check for pests. They're a normal part of owning plants, and I'm comfortable treating a plant with pests if the plant is worth it to me. But if you're just starting out, you may want to avoid pests as much as possible. It's also good practice to isolate your new plant away from your collection for a couple weeks.
E: Name your top 3 wish list plants.
C: I have a whole list! But if I had to chose right now, my top three would be Emblemantha urnulata (Labisia Pink), Solanum uleanum, and any and all huperzias.
E: What's one thing you'd like first-time customers to know when they stop into the shop?
C: That Wednesdays are delivery days, so by Wednesday night or Thursday morning, we are stocked with a ton of cool new stuff.
And I'll add that we love to talk plants! We're here to help you, and we want to make plant ownership approachable for everyone. There is a plant for every level of plant parent at Bark & Vine.
All photos provided by Christine Gaston
Now that you're getting to know us, let us get to know you! We're so happy to see new faces in town; stop in and let's chat plants.