We caught up with partners in life and business, plant-people, parents and founders of Tula House, Christan Summers and Ivan Martinez.
We love Tula House for their playful approach to plants, design and creation in general. They make loads of colorful, fun content, craft super cool immersive retail spaces, and they facilitate community. Tula House makes it easy for each of us to bring a beautiful, living part of the outdoors into our own homes.
We are - surprise, surprise - super fans of their ethos and aesthetic, which is why we are so excited to offer their BUGOUT Spray free on all Wooden Spoon Herbs orders $75+ while supplies last. BUGOUT helps your indoor houseplants fight pests like aphids, mealy bugs, and more, naturally! And we love natural healing for people AND plants.
We caught up with Christan and Ivan recently to dive deeper into their world. Their perspective on cultivating relationships with plants is refreshing, confidence-building, and fun. Find out how houseplants can help us follow the sun, find calm, and make more space for curiosity and experimentation in our lives.
We love hearing about first encounters with plants. What were your gateway plants?
Christan: This is a great memory - when I was still working in advertising I started to grow perennial seeds inside my Brooklyn apartment. I was looking for a post work calm that took my mind off the day and the work. My mom used to start seeds indoors before planting in spring, I must have had that in mind. I grew fennel, basil, cosmos, chamomile and nasturtiums. I even hauled the seeds over to Ivan's apartment (before living together!) and asked him to care for them while I went to visit family across the country. He kept every seedling alive. When the weather warmed I planted them in containers on my tiny balcony and in a community garden close to where Tula House is now located.
Growing up I was exposed to a lot of gardening, but I had never owned the process independently. Watching the growth of a seedling to mature plants was life changing. I felt a great pride and connection to the tiny Cotyledons (first leaves) and the bright green foliage thereafter. And then I harvested my first batch of basil and made pesto! I was elated and so proud. It is safe to say that my connection to plants is growth. And the affirmation that my love and care is reflected in their new leaves, flowers and harvest. And from there, grew Tula House.
Growing green things can be intimidating. Is there such a thing as a "green thumb"?
Christan: I believe there exists a connection to the natural world that people can learn/relearn. Over the years I hear gardeners talk about the inexplicable feeling or knowing that a plant is ready for water, a re-pot, a transplant and its roots can be separated to propagate. I feel it too. It's a strange connection, but it is there.
Christan and Ivan: For those who don't have this feeling, that is absolutely okay. At Tula, we truly believe that every person can learn/relearn how to care for plants with the right tools and knowledge available to them. The only prerequisite - people have to want to learn an awareness of their plants and surroundings. We often suggest starting with a plant that will "tell" you when it is ready for water. The Spathiphyllum and Pothos (Epiprimeum aureum) are great plants for this. The leaves will show signs of thirst by wilting. It can be dramatic and amazing how fast they bounce back and gather upright after a thorough water. It is so satisfying to see! And once a cadence is found and a rhythm created between the person and plant - that inexplicable feeling might begin to show itself.
Our idea of a "green thumb" is about the connection made between a person and the plants. Are we watching for signs of thirst/distress/growth? Are we aware of the sun and how the plant responds to light and temperatures? The more aware, the stronger the connection can be.
Plants are so adaptable. How can we use houseplants to change our environment to fit our mood and lifestyle?
Christan and Ivan: Plants are so powerful in affecting our environment and moods. Plants are alive! They are living, breathing organisms that respond to light, gravity, food, and water.
When plants are healthy and thriving, it is like a room is singing - alive and bright. When plants are dying or in distress there is a sullen and heavy feeling in a room.
It's a big world out there. Where should we buy our houseplants?
Christan and Ivan: At Tula House! Buying from small, locally owned businesses means so much. It means the world to us, a husband and wife duo, to our team of local employees, our local community, local growers and makers. Tula supports a wide net of independent makers, growers and creatives. Without our customer's support we would not be here.
In all transparency, the plant business is not the most environmentally friendly operation. As ironic as that sounds, it is unfortunately true. Plants are freighted on a daily basis from Florida and California to bring the colder states mature tropical and arid plants. Most box stores only purchase plants from growers in warm regions - meaning they freight almost all material. At Tula, we are able to mix buying from local growers as well as the freighted plants from Florida. For those who have ever wondered, a 5 ft Bird of Paradise is not grown in New York :) They come from Florida, where the conditions are ideal for healthy and swift growth. Which means that yes, we use freight too but as a small business, we have more control over our buying and consumption habits.
Tula offers flat-rate nation-wide shipping.
Check out their shop!
We wanna know from the pros, what plants are you excited about currently?
Christan and Ivan: At Tula, there are so many plants that we are excited about. Walking through the space we discover a new plant or new growth habit on a daily basis. Currently many of our cactus in The Arid Room are blooming, it is their time of year to shine and cactus blooms are extraordinary. They are big, colorful and vibrant. Some just last a few hours and can sometimes be larger than the plant itself.
As herbalists, we often associate different medicinal herbs with different parts of the house. We keep Sweet Dreams in the bedroom and Digestive Bitters at the dinner table. Do you have favorite plants for different places in the home?
Christan and Ivan: We go with where the sun tells us to go. As the sun and seasons shift, we follow and move plants according to their needs and growth habits.
We loved talking to y'all! Anything Else?
Christan and Ivan;We believe in viewing the wonders of the natural world through a unique lens - comical, playful, artistic and perhaps, a bit wild.
We love what Lauren and her team at Wooden Spoon Herbs have created. We feel such a kinship in our love for plants and the benefits of them! It is wonderful to find more and more businesses who are celebrating plants - and educating people on how plants can be both enriching and medicinal. Back to the roots!
We love what Christan, Ivan, and the team at Tula House are doing to help bring people closer to plants. Get your FREE BUGOUT spray on all Wooden Spoon orders $75+ while supplies last!