Plant-N-Seek creates a scavenger hunt for green thumbs

Anthony Ramírez got too enthusiastic.

The Santa Rosa man went a little overboard on his garden project in January and bought a lot more soil, seedlings and plants than he needed.

So he started giving away the extras. She started with friends and family. Then she realized that she had more seedlings than friends and family willing to take them.

So he started leaving small potted seedlings around town, hoping that some expert gardener would find them and take them home.

“It wasn’t something I went out looking to do. It was like ‘Oh well, what am I going to do with this?’” she said.

So he decided to have some fun with it.

He kept plants in his car, dropping one or two on the way to or from work. He kept some when he ran errands.

“If I go somewhere, I take a plant with me,” he said.

But he realized that some people might think the pots belonged to someone and walk right past them. Then she began to staple a note to the pot, reading in part:

“Congratulations on finding this hidden seedling! Bring it home, stick it in the ground, and water it deeply and often as it grows. We hope it brings you as much joy as we grew it up and hid it.”

But he wanted to see how things turned out, so he opened social media accounts on Instagram and TikTok under the username @PlantnSeek. He started posting daily leads about his drop off points.

He asked that people who find the plants tag him and keep him updated on their growth.

His first post was on May 28. In just over two months, Plant-N-Seek’s Instagram account has grown to over 1,000 followers. TikTok account has more than 100.

It has received love from Free Art Friday, a collective of local artists who hold similar scavenger hunt-style events throughout Sonoma County with their art.

“It seemed to make people happy and that was fun,” he said. “I just think it’s a nice thing to do. It brings a little joy to people and brings people into their garden.”

Like many of the artists who post on Free Art Fridays, Ramírez is intentional about where he leaves his treasurers.

He is fond of murals and public art. He likes familiar places, like the front steps of the DeTurk Round Barn on Donahue Street. He loves a good “Peanuts” statue.

Last Thursday, he left a tomato and marigold plant at the base of the Artstart mural at the Roseland Village shopping center, where the new Mitote Food Park recently opened.

I found out what Ramirez was up to when the Free Art Friday Instagram account reposted a Plant-N-Seek release that was just outside The Press Democrat building on Mendocino Avenue.

I ran up the back stairs and out the side door, but it was too late. The plant had been found.

But there is a certain excitement in acknowledging the delivery point. Ramirez understands this.

“It brings a little joy and it doesn’t cost anyone anything,” he said.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

Ramírez spends significantly more on biodegradable CowPots so he doesn’t leave plastics lying around. CowPots are also a draw because gardening newbies can put the containers right in the ground, with no fuss or fuss.

And after making his way through his initial stockpile of potting soil, he bought more. And he bought more seeds when he had given away his entire original batch of sunflowers.

“Someone asked, ‘Who is your financing?’ and I was like, my back pocket,” she said.

But his idea, and the idea behind it, has caught on. She has received donations of plants and vegetables from the Glass Onion Farm.

“They have been fantastic,” he said. “Complete and cultivated vegetables. The plant I dropped this morning already had tomatoes on the vine.”

How did they find it?

“The same way you did, on social media,” he said. “They said, ‘Hey, we love the idea, we love what you’re doing, can we help you?'”

Last week, he received a huge bag of seeds from the Petaluma Seed Bank. So now Ramirez staples a packet of seeds to each CowPot he drops.

“They are wild flowers, drought tolerant, they don’t need water but they help pollinators,” he said.

A wedding planner saw what I was doing and donated a bunch of flowers and plants from a recent ceremony.

“I am definitely impressed by the generosity of the help from the community,” he said.

He opened an online store last week. There are t-shirts, bags and mugs.

When we met at his house, he was wearing a Plant-N-Seek baseball cap fresh off the press.

Ramírez plans to invest the proceeds from the merchandise in buying bountiful houseplants for the winter.

The surprising thing about Ramírez’s project, apart from the sheer volume of his gifts, is that he swears he hasn’t always been a gardening man.

“Oh, God, no,” he said. “I have a pretty black thumb.”

He remembered that when he lived in San Francisco, he bought a cactus. He thought it would make a good starter plant.

He killed him.

Bought another.

He killed that one too.

When he discovered that succulents “like to be neglected,” they began to thrive under his care.

But when he and his fiancée moved back to their native Santa Rosa and bought a house, he began to take gardening a little more seriously.

Hence the runaway sunflower project that ended up launching Plant-N-Seek.

These days, it’s all inside.

He makes videos that update followers on the progress of certain seedlings. Makes memes of plants and gardens. He puts music to his drops.

Watching Ramírez “work”, you get the feeling that this is not a chore.

“We are buying premises. We are giving them away. It’s a sweet concert,” she said. “For me, it’s like every little seedling has its own little journey. I’m just the one who sets it off.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or [email protected] On Twitter @benefield.

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