This was not what I expected to find, walking down the street in Lower Manhattan on the way to a photo shoot on a weekday morning: an open-air plant nursery wedged into a narrow lot between two buildings.
Most people were oblivious, but I had to investigate. This stretch of Hudson Street, between Houston and Canal, used to be the center of New York’s printing industry. And I used to be there a lot, checking jobs on press. Now the printing companies have moved to New Jersey or gone out of business, and floors that once held giant six-color presses, binding machines, and pallets of paper have been renovated into residential condos and high-end offices for ad agencies and publishing companies. Someday, this space might be filled with one of those 50-storey sliver buildings. But now, it’s the temporary home of Plantworks, Inc.
This vest-pocket nursery is no fly-by-night operation, I learned. Chris Baptiste (below) gave me the lowdown. Specializing in design and maintenance of corporate office interiors and terrace landscapes, the company lost its lease in the flower district on 28th Street after 41 years and set up camp here for the summer.
“We have no lights here, no water,” said Chris in his lilting Trinidad-Tobago accent, pointing out a portable water tank almost invisible among the plants, pots, bags of potting soil and graffiti on one of the brick walls, “but this is a good place to be now because of all the new businesses moving into the neighborhood.”
No lights, no water? Well, the plants are healthy and thriving. “We’re going to close down for the season around Halloween,” he pointed out. Hurry! If you need anything from a gorgeous fiddle-leaf fig tree for your office to a row of succulents for a sunny windowsill, pull up at 286 Hudson Street any day from 11 to 5, and Chris will help you out.