Above: bark and vine. Photo by Abiba Biao. Bottom: Saldi and the Bark & Vine Fam. Contributed photo.
A monstera plant spread its leaves towards the midday sun. Model Decoy’s music slithered down the street. People browsed the selection of handmade jewelry from The Eighth Element and other plant-like street vendors took center stage.
Orange Street welcomed plants and people alike on Saturday, as Bark & Vine celebrated its one-year anniversary at the corner of Orange and Crown streets in New Haven’s Ninth Square neighborhood. While owners Ralph Saldi and her husband Luis Galindo first opened their doors in February 2021, they postponed an anniversary celebration until July to celebrate with everyone in the hot summer sun.
“We’ve always wanted to be more than just a plant store,” Saldi said during brief remarks outside on Orange Street. “The biggest question we asked ourselves was how can we manage… look, I’m getting excited,” she said, pausing to wipe a tear from her eye.
“How can we bring communities and families back after what we experienced in 2020?”
Friends and roommates Audrey Steinkamp and Michelle Tong. Photo by Abiba Biao.
In just over a year, the store has become a magnet for biophiles, who often find themselves weaving through its crowded green-splattered floor plan to find the right plant, pot or green accessory for them. . On Saturday, the store’s 20 percent houseplant sale came at the perfect time for New Havener Audrey Steinkamp, who needed to restock on plants after several died while she was away. As an office assistant in prints and drawings at the Yale University Art Gallery, she advised new plant parents to stay away from succulents.
Her roommate, Michelle Tong, was also on the hunt for houseplants. While Tong works for landscape architects Reed Hilderbrand, she said it’s “a different set of skills than houseplants.” Tong’s favorite plant is the nerve plant or Fittonia for its drama. Tong uses his behavior as a guide to take care of his other plants.
“When she needs water, she just passes out and it’s like my signal plant to water all my other plants, which is great, because then I have a visual cue of ‘ok, time to feed them,'” she said.
Steinkamp, on the other hand, prefers neon yellow Pothos or lemon-lime philodendron because of their luscious bright green. “I think it adds a lot of fun color and my favorite color is yellow,” he said. Tong recommended Pathos as plants for beginners.
Cody Adams and Annette Edwards. Photo by Abiba Biao.
Assistant Cody Adams got into gardening through his mother. After caring for a peace lily, she began to immerse herself more in it during her quarantine. He is now trying to pass the green thumb from him to Annette Edwards and add to her collection of over 100 plants of hers.
Adams said that people should not strive for perfection when planting and should learn from their mistakes. “If you kill a plant, don’t worry. Even experts kill plants for you to find out,” he said.
Adams advised beginners to start with snake plants because they “thrive on neglect” and are “hard to kill.” The most common way beginners kill snake plants is by overwatering, so she advised people to watch out for that.
Edwards’ plant mother aspirations begin with a simple goal: avoid killing her plants. She hopes to keep them as long as possible, something that will be easier with Adams’ guidance.
Tanisha Baptiste and Valerie Fortney. Photo by Abiba Biao.
Tanisha Baptiste and Valerie Fortney first met in a Zumba class, but discovered each other’s love of plants through their photos of plants on Facebook and Instagram. She created their unbreakable bond and friendship, they said.
“The first time I walked into Bark & Vine I said I wanted to move, like live there,” Baptitse said.
Bark & Vine has a wide selection of rare plants, flora that is not native to the region and therefore harder to find and more expensive.
“They’re not necessarily domestic, a lot of them have to be imported and then regrown to what we call propagating and regrowth just to create a presence in this area,” Baptiste said.
Baptiste first took up gardening when he moved into his current home from his apartment and had a larger space to work. His hobby fueled a resourceful attitude, he said. He repurposed shelving and cabinets to hold sprouts and pots, and even decorated his home office with rare plants.
Fortney’s plant craze began with a bird of paradise plant and led her to seek out plants to create a tropical feel in her home.
“You learn how to water them properly and you learn what the right soil is and then all of a sudden everything works,” he said.
Saldi: Photo by Abiba Biao. “This yellow sofa says we have room for everyone.”
Back on Orange Street, Saldi said the inspiration to start Bark and Vine came from a combination of support from Galindo, an aloe vera plant, and the sheer amount of time he had during quarantine. This bud of an idea blossomed into a full flower, nurturing a thriving plant community in New Haven.
“We wanted to create a space where people could safely leave their inner home and find themselves in an inner paradise to be among other people who love plants and to host a new journey in their life that involves plants and garden”, Saldi said.
Above: An edible pastel masterpiece featuring the sofa at Bark and Vine with a variety of houseplants around it. Below: Cupcakes decorated as succulents. Photo by Abiba Biao.
“And this cake really represents everything we believe in,” Saldi continued, pointing to a shelf full of succulent themed cupcakes and a detailed rendering of the store’s sofa by Meghan Qualey. “This yellow sofa says we have room for everyone.”
The main piece was an edible cake, with the sofa made of yellow fondant cake with chocolate icing. The pillows and two dogs, Coco and Moss, were made from Rice Krispie treats covered in modeling chocolate.
Saldi ended with a note of thanks to his staff, community, and sponsors.
“Whether you found us on the first day or it’s the first time you’re here in our neighborhood, thank you for your love and admiration for Bark & Vine, it gives us a truly indescribable feeling that I hope you all experience when you live fully. their dreams. .”
This piece comes to Arts Paper through the summer extension of the fifth annual Youth Arts Journalism Initiative (YAJI), a program of the Greater New Haven Arts Council. Read more about the program here or checking the “spicy” label. Abiba Biao is a recent graduate of Achievement First Amistad High School and will begin her freshman year at Southern Connecticut State University in the fall.