If you're among those who sprouted pandemic victory gardens, you're not alone. Millions of people around the world dusted off (or rediscovered) their passion for plants, including here in sun-soaked, blue-skied Los Angeles. The green-thumb boom also sowed the seeds for a career shift among the City of Angels' expert horticulturalists, including Highland Park-based filmmaker Louis Easton, who you may know on Instagram as The Plant Mon.
The Ohio-bred entrepreneur is by no means a newly-budded bloomsman. In 2016, he founded Easton Garden Designs while working full-time at Green Media Creations, an environmental consultancy where he combined his behind-the-camera skills with his love for greenery. (Those water conservation tutorial videos? Yep, that's Easton's work.)
When he was furloughed from his job of six years last spring, Easton returned to his side hustle and sold plants at local farmers markets. Then, another setback: Tighter COVID-19 safety guidelines meant he had to pull the plug on his pop-ups. He decided to bring in-demand plants like the oh-so-'grammable Monstera, fiddle-leaf fig trees, Zz plants, and more directly to home-bound Angelenos with free delivery through OfferUp.
"It gave me a chance to get more plants to people. They don't have to leave their home because of these touch-free apps," he tells UncoverLA. He also spruced up his social media and created @theplantmon on Instagram, where he began hosted IG Live discussions. He started offering social distancing-friendly versions of his services, such as drought-tolerant landscaping consultations, garden design, and plant education.
Easton's greenery expertise stems from his father, a sales representative for a corporate nursery. While earning his film degree at CSU Los Angeles, Easton worked with his dad and soaked up the ins and outs of the industry, from merchandising trees to selling shrubbery and seedlings to big-box stores and mom-and-pop-shops.
"[My father] went to pursue his master's horticulture. He really understood the education, and the physicalness of growing plants of all types of species," says Easton. "I had a chance to really understand the growing aspect and merchandising, and the selling behind it and what these companies needed. It was a lot, but I was able to digest it over the years."
"It was my responsibility to stay with plants. It's bigger than me. That's why I stayed with this passion," he explains. "It's amazing to have this information to share because I don't want to go off this earth without sharing it with people."
When the killing of George Floyd by police sparked global demonstrations in support of Black Lives Matter, as well as the state of the earth — from the coronavirus and the wildfires to global warming and politics — Easton found a therapeutic outlet in helping other Angelenos cultivate their love for plants. "The plants grounded me. I was keeping the plants around me, and using that as a tool as therapy," says Easton.
Easton's father instilled in him the importance of soil health, organic farming, and growing your own food. And he recalls the times when he and his father didn't see many other Black men in the gardening and nursery industry.
Many people name-check South L.A.-based fashion designer-turned-"gangsta gardener" Ron Finley, whose TED talk on guerrilla gardening went viral in 2013, for changing the often-white image of gardening and inspiring more people of color to dig into activism through horticulture. ("He's an amazing guy," says Easton of his friend.)
"It was a lonely world, being an African-American," remembers Easton. It's why he's happy to see more diversity among budding plant lovers and garden growers these days, including men.
"My father and I had talked about [starting] a business in the healing and dealing with the plants," continues Easton. "Maybe we were 10 years ahead of ourselves. Now, it's hip. That's the thing I'm grateful for: to be given another vision, and another opportunity to do something I love."
Easton eventually hopes to open a brick-and-mortar shop. "I think has been a blessing — finding this passion. I really can keep going with it and be able to teach and speak about plants, and plant therapy," he adds.
In addition to popping up at local farmers markets and shops like Runway, Easton is also co-hosting IG Live discussions so that plant parents can pick his brain. We recently caught up with Easton and got to know the L.A. plant-powered entrepreneur — and of course, we had to put him through our quickfire-style game of 10 Questions. Read on below, and shop The Plant Mon online here.
Top three songs when you're gardening?
Fela Kuti — his horns are so amazing. Bob Marley's "Don't Worry, Be Happy." I like to play some [John] Coltrane. I just let it play. That jazz, that high frequency, it's something that really makes the plants stand up. They love it!
What's your "spirit" plant?
The snake plant. Maybe it's because of the way that my cats react to it; it's got great oxygen therapy. Even when you look at it, [the patterns] look like soundwaves or heartbeats [on an electrocardiogram]. That ain't no joke!
What plant do you think most encapsulates L.A.?
The fern, or cactus. [Not even] palm trees; the only native one is the Mexican fan palm. So probably the cactus. It's just so unique, and if you push it to the limit, It'll get you. It's sexy, it's fierce!
If you could travel anywhere in the world to observe their foliage, where would it be?
I would say probably Africa. There are so many different plant species from Madagascar, to Mali, to Senegal — and a lot of the fiddle-leaf fig; it's really big on Pinterest, [along with] the Monstera, which is from the Amazon. So it's between the Amazon and Africa. [I'd love] to see them in their natural habitat.
What's a rare plant that you'd love to get your hands on?
Oh, it's the spotted Begonia. That's been really rare, but sometimes you can get it. It's been two months since I've been able to get it.
Favorite outdoor place to get away in L.A.?
Griffith Park, I love just being able to go and walk around the whole park and all of the hikes.
You're taking a first-time L.A. visitor on a one-day tour. Where are some of your top stops?
I'm gonna take them to Skid Row, because that's the most negative thing you can see in California. It's not the people that are negative — to see people so poor in a place paved with gold [is negative]. Then I'd turn that negative into a positive and we'll go to the Arboretum. That will lighten things up — but, again it's only 15 miles from [Skid Row].
We'd take in the beautiful beachscapes, like Malibu and Leo Carrillo; I love a good beach. I'd take them to the mountains. Then we'd see Chinatown, Little Tokyo, to K-Town and experience all types of culture. Then you take them to Melrose, go check some fashionably loud style.
Lightning round time! Do you prefer matcha tea or espresso?
Matcha! Give me matcha. Back in the day, I loved espresso, that kick. Now I like matcha, it's better for you. I'm also into chaga [mushrooms]. I love this place, Duckyard, in this cul-de-sac center on Vanowen [Street] in Woodland Hills that has a good chaga coffee.
Favorite places to shop in L.A.?
What's your "cheat day" treat?
Blueberry walnut pancakes, or French toast. Before I was worried about my health, I'd probably say IHOP. [Laughs] I'd still indulge, [but now] I'd go to Kitchen Mouse — they have bomb buckwheat pancakes!