PORTLAND — Here’s a new word for your urban dictionary: plantfluencer, a portmanteau describing influential people in the social networking world of retail nurseries.
Portland’s Birds & Bees Nursery co-owner Amanda Simard modestly says she doesn’t deserve the plantfluencer title bestowed on her and several others in June in a Los Angeles Times story about Black nursery owners.
Simard and co-owner Caitlin Gaul have owned the boutique Southeast Portland nursery for eight years.
“Caitlin actually does all the social media,” Simard said.
The small nursery has been a lightning rod for publicity. In addition to the L.A. Times, the Portland Monthly, the Bee in Gladstone, the Oregonian and several social networking sites have followed the nursery’s activities, from its opening in 2012 to its services during COVID-19 closures, and its monthly fundraising promotions for Black Lives Matter and other social justice groups.
The two women are Portland natives whose friendship was forged while attending Lincoln High School. Both say they developed an interest in gardening because they liked working outdoors. They developed an interest in retail sales while they were both employed at Finnegan’s Toys & Gifts, a downtown Portland shop. After a few years of working for someone else, they began to think of owning a business.
“We wanted to open our own place,” Simard said.
For a year before they opened, the pair sought help developing a business plan from Mercy Corps Northwest. The Mercy Corps provides training, financial services, grants, loans and coaching for would-be small business owners like Simard and Gaul. The Corps events and classes in Portland are funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
With plans in hand, Simard and Gaul opened their nursery on SE Gladstone Street. Three years ago, they moved to a busier intersection at 50th and Powell, about a mile east of their first place.
Before COVID-19 moved buying habits into isolation, the small house-turned-nursery featured gift items, cards and house plants inside with nursery plants displayed outside.
Now, the nursery has curtailed its open hours and limited its in-person shopping to outside displays and sales. But to offset the inconvenience of shortened hours, the women have added a popular service: customers within the city can now order plants and supplies online and have them delivered contact-free.
The nursery caters to urban gardeners, and to those who may not have large, or any, gardening space. Houseplants and terrarium supplies take their place alongside seeds, tools, pots, vegetable starts, flowers, succulents and cacti and Northwest native plants, trees and ornamentals. The nursery’s products are listed on its website, http://www.birdsandbeespdx.com/, along with instructions for ordering. The business also has active Instagram and Facebook sites.
Although there are dozens of nurseries within 25 miles of Birds & Bees, Simard and Gaul have gathered to the Tabor neighborhood products from dozens of area growers and suppliers including Yaquina Nursery, Weber’s Wholesale, Little Prince of Oregon, Fothergill’s Tropicals, Orchid Tropical Nursery and Potted Elephant.