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Someday Essentials: Plant Care Tips with John McDougall

Posted on 20th Apr 2022

In honor of Earth Day, we’ve invited the Someday patriarch and resident green thumb, John McDougall, to share his personal history with plants and his plant care philosophy with all of us. As he always says, ‘take care of your plants and your plants will take care of you,” and we couldn’t agree more.

Plus- Join us this weekend for an Earth Day celebration with friends Worn by the Wise and Shannon Studio. All plants and plant care accessories will be 20% off.

April 23rd 12-5 at the Shop

1) Tell us how you became interested in plants and emerged into a devoted plantsman and Somedays’ resident green thumb.

In the late 1960s, while working in Chicago, I had a friend and plant enthusiast introduce me to the Coleus plant. This individual showed me how to prune and propagate a coleus drop cutting in water and it seemed like within a few days, copious roots formed. I was amazed; and hooked. At the time, I was also doing theater at the Kingston Mines in Chicago. One night one of the cast members came into rehearsal and asked, “Does anybody have $500 to open a plant store?” And therein the story begins…

In 1970, Joe and I opened an 800 square-foot store called “The Unexpected Tiger.” Yes, it was the dawning of The Age of Aquarius, and I was a full-blown plant hippie. Luckily, we hit the market just in time. The day we opened the store we had people lined up outside. Plants were the newest thing.

Within a couple of years, Joe decided to move on. After buying him out, we moved the business to a 12,000 square-foot space with about 5000 ft.² under glass. The business and name evolved. We became ‘Buckingham Greenhouse’ and sold tropical plants, horticultural books, accessories, pots etc. We ran that business until it was sold in 1980. To some degree, end of story. On with life, marriage, kids, a job and all the trappings that go with that. Plants were always a fundamental part of our lifestyle however no longer as a business. Jump quickly to 2018, and our daughter, Audie, makes the decision to open her own store, “The Someday Shop.” Initially, the store was primarily to focus on vintage and housewares. The idea came about that perhaps she could add tropical plants as accent pieces… Aesthetic filler if you will. Well, the market was ripe again for an onslaught of a new generation of plant lovers. Within the first few weeks of the store opening, it became apparent that plants were going to be an integral part of the retail venture. And as such, Debra and I re-entered the plant scene in an advisory capacity. So, it is to this day we are engaged in the Someday Shop.

2) What are some basic plant care tips that you hope every plant owner will utilize?

Most enthusiasts would tell you to begin with an easy-care plant, however, I would suggest you buy what stirs you. In my mind, plants are like puppies they can be a big responsibility, but they also can bring great joy (and don’t need to be taken outside at 3 o’clock in the morning.) Buy what you like and educate yourself. Decide where you want plants in your home, determine light levels, do a little research on what plants will fit and buy what makes you enthusiastic about owning plants. Not, what matches your credenza. Sorry for the editorial.

3) Some new plant owners may be confused about how, when, and why to fertilize new plants. Do you have any guidance to help make the process easier to understand?

When you bring a new plant home, chances are it has been potted by the grower using time release fertilizer. As a rule, I would wait two or three weeks before thinking about fertilizing a brand-new plant. If your environment allows, isolate the new plant for a couple weeks and keep a watch for pests. We always advise washing the leaves of your new plant with a good organic soap like Dr. Bonners All-In-One. This will ensure your new addition is relatively pest free when added to your existing collection. As for plant food/fertilizer I tend to dilute down a little bit more than what the directions call for. Fertilizing your plants with a solution that is too strong is terribly counterproductive and could severely burn your plant. To stay on the safe side, dilute it down a little bit. We’re particularly fond of Espoma plant food dusted into the surface of the soil or any multipurpose tropical plant food like miracle grow.

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