GTPulse: Leelanau Plant Co. Brings Plants to the Party
What do you like to bring to a party when you’re invited? Some people bring chips, brownies or beer, but not Natalie Lindsay. Natalie wants to bring plants to the parties she goes to. Natalie is the proud owner of Leelanau Plant Co. a local plant pop-up that goes wherever the party is so guests can make pretty and fun plant creations of their own.
Born in Grand Rapids and raised in Boyne City, Natalie has been immersed in the beauty of Northern Michigan’s beauty throughout her entire childhood. She was so inspired that she attended Northern Michigan University, where she studied environmental conservation. After college, she put some of her newfound knowledge and skill to work when she began working on a tomato farm.
“We had four different main varieties, I was doing research and developments on like, 25 different versions of super hot peppers. It was a four greenhouse farm that I was running with three other women. It was a lot of work.”
The work may have been a lot, but it was a labor of love for Natalie. One of her favorite parts of studying environmental conservation was permaculture.
“In school, for me, it was a lot of how humans messed things up. The environmental department was just full of disappointment towards how people treat the environment. Permaculture kind of came into the picture. Permaculture is a set of ethics and principles that is based on Earth care, people care, fair share and then there’s 12 principles around that.”
The idea is to produce no waste by understanding how people and the planet work together. Natalie was able to geek out over her love for permaculture when she got hired to work at Summer Camp, a music festival held annually in Chillicothe, IL at the end of May.
“I have a huge garden there that I run and I have a whole department. It’s pretty much an interactive garden that festival patrons can come and interact and learn about bees, and natural plaster and things like that. We build everything out of recycled material.”
She got involved with a nonprofit called Permaculture Action Network. The nonprofit uses the energy and momentum from musical events to inspire patrons to go out and give back to their community’s environment.
“I was one of the organizers for those events and now we have over 70 volunteers, that’s what got me involved with the festivals. It’s all about environmental education and workshops, bees, edible plants, but also fun art things too. Like natural loom weaving and making mandalas in the dirt.”
“I said, ‘I’m just gonna get a day job. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do the nine to five thing.’ I was so scared and went to work at a succulent nursery kicking and screaming.”
Natalie went into the job thinking that there would be no way that she could care about succulents as much as she cared about herbs and vegetables. Little did she know she would fall in love with succulents.
“So in love. Automatically. All of this info came rushing back to me from botany classes in college.”
She fell so in love with the succulents that when she moved back to Northern Michigan with her significant other, she wanted to find a way to keep working with them, which was the root of Leelanau Plant Co. That California succulent farm is where Natalie wholesales her plants from, but she doesn’t sell them in a typical way. She doesn’t have a storefront at the moment, instead, she combines her love for events with her love for succulents and she does pop-up succulent bars all over Northern Michigan. A recent event was held in the Yurt at The Little Fleet, and an upcoming March event will be held at HNM Wellness Organic Natural Store. Guests get creative putting together succulents of their choosing, moss, stones, dirt and upcycled containers. If guests have planters of their own.
“I love setting a scene, I love creating experiences. I’ve been trying to do an event a month, whether it’s a pop-up or a festival. I’ve had a booth set up at farmer’s markets with my DIY succulent bar. We do an ala carte menu, so you only pay for what you use.”
The first time I ever received a succulent arrangement was from a well-meaning boyfriend as a gift. He had meticulously arranged jade green and sunset pink succulents into a clay planter and then proceeded to ruin his hard work by dousing the arrangement with water. Natalie won’t let you do that. She walks all of her customers through the potting process and educates them on how to keep their new plant babies healthy.
“They’re a great gateway plant. People who have had plants die before automatically think, ‘Oh, I’m not a good plant mom.’ They’re lower maintenance than most plants, they’re cute, they’re tiny! Put your hands in the dirt, take care of it, this is your first assignment.”
To make a succulent arrangement of your very own, check out Natalie’s pop-up next month. If you’re like me, you may find plant parenthood to be surprisingly easy and satisfying.