The healing power of plants
Tricia Clarke Darby finds solace and business opportunity in neglected hobby
When doctors advised Tricia Clarke Darby that Steven, the eldest of her two sons, was losing his sight to glaucoma, Darby quit her job to provide the necessary full-time care for the 29-year-old who is also autistic.
Unable to do anything to stem her son's deteriorating medical condition, his mother tried to think of something to keep her mind off the situation. She inadvertently found herself tending to the plants in her garden, which had been long neglected. As she delved into this new venture, Clarke Darby found herself drawn to research about plant care and, before long, had learnt to propagate and tend to quite a variety of plants.
Soon, she found herself spending much more time with the plants, which were doing well. She posted some on her Instagram page and the interest from the public was surprising and overwhelming. People were asking to buy the plants, and she saw the potential to transition from a fledgling operation to a business after some time.
“I take pictures of the plants and advertise them on Instagram and include it also on my status, and I keep refreshing the posts as new ones come into bloom, and then friends tell friends, and that is basically how they know about my business,” she disclosed.
By the time Saturday Living caught up with her recently, Clarke Darby was spouting words like hoyas (trailing plants), bachias (coco family of plants), sensivarias (snake plants), and was obviously an expert on plants.
“I give them plant advice because there are people who don't know anything about plants – how to care for them, what to give them, regularity of how to water and including which ones are poisonous, toxic. Bachias are poisonous, so especially if they have pets and young children, you have to tell them about these things so they know that if they are buying these plants, they have to [be] very careful.”
The overall therapeutic effect that gardening has had on Clarke Darby has been significant. She shared that the peace of mind she enjoys is a major bonus, so much so that sometimes she has difficultly letting them go. “I have attachment issues and find it hard to part with some of my plants when they are sold.”
The irony is that Clarke Darby's mother had been a certified florist since she was a child, but growing up she never took any interest. She admits she now knows the importance of plants and taking care of them. It is a point that is not lost on her husband, Robert Darby Jr.
“Sometimes he tells me that I love the plants more than him,” she shared with a laugh, adding that, in the mornings, she cannot wait to tend to her plants and is often still tending to them late at night.
With at least 20 varieties of hoyas in her garden, a wide range of succulents and enough sensivarias to offer, Clarke Darby has mastered plant care and marketing. Having added a little background music to her Instagram page, she uploads constantly to advise of plants that are sold, as well as to share the happy encounters of her customers.
So, though it was her son's illness that drove her to rediscover her love for plants, but the plants, through their healing powers, have given back to the family in an intangible and major way.