Pistils Nursery mid-winter houseplant heaven

A hunt for new indoor plant style, a Calathea and a Pilea

Pistils Nursery, on Mississippi Ave in Portland, was calling me.  I'd been meaning to get back there to view their indoor plant selection, ever since reading Urban Jungle, a 2016 book by two leaders of the Urban Jungle Bloggers community, out of Europe.  Right there in the index, amid shops from all corners of the globe, our own Portland Oregon was extra-annointed with two "shops for plant lovers" worthy of inclusion to this stylish, well-written book. (The other was Solabee Flowers & Botanicals on Killingsworth.)

Pistils is a charming independent shop, small but powerful. In spring, summer and fall, I enjoy their interesting and well-curated outdoor plants. I had not known about their indoor selection, so I've been excited to see how Portland rated with Paris, Barcelona and LA as a city in this arm of plantaholic style. Mid-winter is a great time to go.

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The view from the outside sets the stage, an old store front on Mississippi Ave, one of Portland's quirky, inventive neighborhoods, with its row of retail shops. Just down the street is the noteworthy Rebuilding Center, one of the earliest stores to rejuvenate the area. North Mississippi became a hotbed within the decade they opened their huge (& creative) recycled building materials store.

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On this day in early February, before I stepped in to the shop, I had to admire Pistils' vertical evergreen screen, at the entrance to their side courtyard. I follow this little collection of narrow upright plants as a solution to two very common needs: 1) using plants for privacy in a tight, narrow footprint, and, 2)--because they've succeeded in the first--maximizing a small space.

 Gate to Pistils' courtyard

Gate to Pistils' courtyard

I walked through the gate to admire the other side, turned around and saw this:

 Cornus mas, Cornelian Cherry, in bloom

Cornus mas, Cornelian Cherry, in bloom

...the rare Cornus mas bloom that actually packs a punch! Neither the tree nor the blooms are unusual, it's just rare that I actually notice the tree in bloom. This winter has been kind to this small-stature, winter-blooming tree. 

  Cornus mas  in full bloom, early Feburary 2018 (a good year).

Cornus mas in full bloom, early Feburary 2018 (a good year).

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Once inside, a #plantgang of tropicals fills the front window.

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Hanging pots of trailing Philodendron formed in a mass across the double doors.  There's a fat chartreuse one on the left...named 'Lemon Lime'...that sweetie came home with me.

 Lots of PNW hand-made pots and glass vessels for hanging compositions.

Lots of PNW hand-made pots and glass vessels for hanging compositions.

  Ctenanthe , a big bold tropical, is similar to the  Calathea  types (Prayer Plants). They look fantastic indoors as interior design, when healthy.

Ctenanthe, a big bold tropical, is similar to the Calathea types (Prayer Plants). They look fantastic indoors as interior design, when healthy.

The front room had the types of bold colorful foliages of the Calathea types I was looking for. After learning how much humidity they need, I saw the horticultural writing on the wall. (It would be a battle to change the dry air that is a given, near the heat vents where I can grow these plants.) 
Pistils didn't have the exact Calathea orbifolia that wow'ed me from the book (I might have taken on the humidity battle for that one!), so I will keep an eye on the moisture-loving Calatheas in the retail shops for now.

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After the front house, one passes through to the back room, where the sun is. Designed to capture every bit of light available in a NW winter, this room is half greenhouse, half studio. 

 Firesticks

Firesticks

The red Firesticks were riveting (Euphorbia tirucalli).  There were both green and red versions of this, but there were no cultivar names on their plant tags. The shop attendant believed the difference in color was a matter of light--the reddest ones have received a great deal of sun.

 This fantastic cactus is a crested form of  Myrtillocactus . It takes its time to time to get this large, I gathered from the price tag.

This fantastic cactus is a crested form of Myrtillocactus. It takes its time to time to get this large, I gathered from the price tag.

Although I neglected to take a photo of the big flats of 2" succulents, you must take my word for how visually pleasing these were in their neat little rows upon rows. Two came home with me--a Rhipsalis (one of the "jungle cacti," pronounced rip SA lis) and a Crassula.  So cute.

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 Pistils' attractive sink & potting bench area, with Staghorn Ferns

Pistils' attractive sink & potting bench area, with Staghorn Ferns

Some of Pistils' Staghorn Fern collection adorn the sink and potting bench area. They have an impressive number of these beautiful epiphytics.

 A variegated String of Hearts ( Ceropegia woodii ) cascades from a bark wall mount. Also in the shot is a strongly procumbent Rhipsalis and an orchid (I believe).

A variegated String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii) cascades from a bark wall mount.
Also in the shot is a strongly procumbent Rhipsalis and an orchid (I believe).

High on my list was to see "What the buzz is all about" with Pilea peperomioides (Chinese Money Plant), which I had only seen in photos before. I was in luck--they had it in stock. 

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Pilea's popularity began in Europe, and now--thanks to social media--it's been just as popular in the US, but has been unavailable to us until recently. With it's unique round leaves and attractive habit, it's a cutie, and there is no other plant quite like it. The round leaves of Nasturtiums come to mind, as do the leaf forms of quaking Aspen--a shape that's naturally artistic, and a good complement in plant groupings.

This Pilea is in such high demand and scarcity, here, yet, that it's price is still quite high. It is not particularly hard to grow, so they say, so it would not be hard to wait another year for the price to come down.  (Last year, it was double what it is now.) 

But still... I wanted it.  The shopkeeper pointed out one that had a "pup" starting to grow, a little offshoot from the main stem, which can be cut away to start a new plant. That sealed it for me.

"It's my birthday present," I told myself, and nabbed it. Never mind that my birthday is in August.

 Pilea baby starting to grow.

Pilea baby starting to grow.

I searched for a pot I could tuck the Pilea's plastic pot into, while I wait for it to grow.  Pistils does aim for a good assortment of modern stoneware (what I was looking for), but this day the selection was on the low side. 

 The little container of Pilea I was trying to fit.

The little container of Pilea I was trying to fit.

Finally I found the perfect-size round "marbled clay cachepot," and brought that home with my new houseplants.  Here's the new pot with the Pilea, two weeks older, at home, and putting on new growth already.

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The Philodendron 'Lemon Lime' from my Pistils trip was looking fine yesterday next to a blue pot and a purple-leaf Echeveria.

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I was impressed with the knowledge of the shop assistants at Pistils, and the plant care instructions they sent home with me. (I am treating that $45 baby with perfect care, let me tell you!)

Pistils has a gorgeous, well-written website as well. 

I highly recommend a trip to your nearest creative independent plant shop, and looking up some fresh indoor foliage yourself.

A new plant can just Make you happy.