Heather Kiyomi, the founder of the Elphick Road Plant Stand, put a sign up yesterday, May 2, announcing that she was closing the stand.
She’s been surprised by people’s reaction to the news.
“I didn’t think it would be such a big deal,” she said, “but people are so sad.”
Kiyomi said she never got a whole lot of feedback from people about the stand, so the outpouring of sorrow, sympathy, and anger from people on Instagram, Facebook and Nextdoor was a bit of a shock. Happily, the anger wasn’t directed at her, but at the miscreants who were the immediate reason for the closure.
According to Kiyomi, this weekend the volunteer who was hosting the plant stand on his property had his front yard vandalized and several plants stolen.
But in truth, the problems at the plant stand had been building for months.
“It’s been incredibly difficult to keep it up,” she said. “I was hoping it would be a community thing and that lots of other people would pitch-in, but that never really happened. It is a lot to take care of for one person.”
“I guess I was expecting people to do common sense things like, ‘If you see that a plant has fallen over, pick it up,’ or “Don’t bring bare root plants, put them in some soil’ or ‘Label your plants so people know what they are’—because people never took the unlabeled plants and they’d just shrivel up and I’d end up taking them home to nurse them back to health or toss them.”
She put up signs with helpful reminders and a gallon of water that people could use to water plants that were looking thirsty. Another volunteer put up plant labels and pens, but the problems kept happening.
Perhaps the biggest problem was that most people didn’t seem to grasp the concept of “Take a plant, leave a plant.”
“A lot of people are takers not traders,” she said ruefully. “That’s been the biggest struggle for me. I kept having to restock it from my own garden and that was really discouraging.”
And there were bigger problems. Even before the volunteers who were hosting the plant stand had their yard vandalized, the plant stand became a dumping area.
“People would leave garbage and old furniture. It was so frustrating, and it was disrespectful to the property owners, to me and to other members of the community.
Kiyomi appreciates the outpouring of support she’s gotten from social media.
“No one’s mad at me,” she said. “They just wish these few bad apples hadn’t ruined it for the rest of the people.”
Still, even though the plant stand was relatively short-lived—she started it last July—Kiyomi said she’s happy she did it.
“It gave so many people something to look forward to during a really difficult time, when they couldn’t get together with other people,” she said.
Despite the ups and downs of the Elphick Road Plant Stand, Kiyomi isn’t done with her community-building efforts. Keep an eye on her Instagram, @elphickroadplantstand to see what’s coming next.