Piante: Not Your Average Garden Variety Shop in Winter Park

Posted on February 21, 2020, 4:45 pm
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Full of greenery and life, Piante botanical garden designs in Winter Park is something special for the nature lover in all of us. Piante has two locations within a mile or two of each other: a retail shop on 141 Lincoln Ave. Winter Park and a Garden Design Studio on 129 W Fairbanks Ave. Winter Park. Piante’s shop continues to flourish in the stunning Park Ave neighborhood of Winter Park. Park Ave already has its own historic charm, and Piante adds something freshly unique and bright.

Right off of Park Ave in Winter Park is a lush urban oasis called Piante – a small botanical shop that carries botanical goods and garden designs. In addition to their retail shop, Piante also has a studio on Fairbanks Ave that hosts a garden variety of classes and workshops for the budding gardener. Our world today is fast-paced: dominated by the internet, smartphones and AI. Piante’s shops and brand culture are like a breath of fresh air. Every now and then, we need to take a pause from our busy lives to stop and smell the roses and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

A Budding Winter Park Business

Piante opened it’s doors in November 2017 and has been showcasing its amazing creations since then. Their retail location on 141 Lincoln Ave is full of bright green, inspirational goodness. Take in the beauty of potted cacti, succulents, aloe, ferns, tropical plants, fresh-cut flowers, bouquets, floral arrangements, stunning centerpieces, orchids, hanging plants, and glass terrariums. Piante offers more than plant life in their retail shop. They offer a wide array of garden accessories and tools, garden décor and home décor. The home décor they sell is colorful and eye-catching: hand-painted plant pots, gold dipped plant pots, porcelain plant pots shaped like dogs, and even dinosaur-shaped plant pots. They also offer an array of cute home goods such as candles, handmade soap, room scents, woven baskets, tea, chocolate, macramé plant hangers, artwork, and books. The plants and gifts featured in their shop have an “urban jungle” style that is popular with millennial women. This style is often shared on the likes of Pinterest and Instagram – homeowners and apartment owners love to have their own backyard gardens, balcony gardens, and lush plant rooms. Piante was a genius business model in that sense – as there are a growing demand and popularity for gardening and plant life.

The shop and workspace Piante was founded by Gary and Grace Li. Gary is Piante’s Creative Director and Garden Designer, and very passionate about working with flowers and plants. He’s had a storybook background- after obtaining his B.Sc in Horticultural Science and M.Sc in Crop Science from the University of Guelph, he has taken floral design training classes in Lyons, France and Aalsmeer, Netherlands. He then went on to complete his post-grad diploma in Garden Design with distinction from the Inchbald School of Design in London, UK. Gary launched Convallaria Floral Design in Toronto before opening his shop in Winter Park. Piante’s retail shop and the workspace is operated by a team of those passionate about plants – including garden designers and studio instructors.

“Piante’s main goal is to create a plant driven and well-designed interior and exterior spaces for both residential and commercial clients to promote a happy and healthy living and working environment.” – Piante’s mission statement

The Rosy on Garden Design

It’s easy to get swept up into the beauty that Piante offers through its retail shop and workshops. Owners Gary and Grace have actually had decades of experience doing garden design. For those of you who aren’t familiar with garden design, it is both an art form and process of creating plans and layouts for planting gardens and landscapes. Piante’s designers specialize in both exterior residential and exterior commercial garden design. Exterior residential focuses on garden design for homeowners – think of stylish botanical balconies, patios, front and back gardens, and even rooftop gardens. Piante’s exterior commercial services are for businesses and offices that want to incorporate more of lush greenery into their space. These include everything from rooftop gardens and entryways with greenery. Super modern, sleek architecture and interior spaces are cool, but sometimes you need a little greenery and life mixed in. Piante is an amazing breath of fresh air in that regard.

Botanical Garden Design

 

Piante In Full Bloom

There is no denying that Piante is a hotspot for plant lovers of all backgrounds. It services a varied customer base – Rollins College students, the event and wedding community, gardening enthusiasts, homeowners looking to decorate their home and even influencers who share Piante’s fresh creations on their platform.

The wedding industry itself is enormous. On average, a couple will hire 14 vendors for their wedding day. 74% of engaged couples will make a purchase on flowers and the average cost of flower arrangements is $1,800. (Source: https://go.weddingwire.com/newlywed-report). Piante offers wedding services in addition to its retail shops and workshops. Their owners have had over 20 years of experience in the floral industry and have an amazing attention to detail. Their custom arrangements are tailored for every type of wedding: simple and intimate, bold and bright, grand and luxurious, or exotic and quirky.

Back to the Roots

Any nature and plant life – bushes, fern, flora, and trees brighten up anyone’s home, office, event or environment. Better yet, plants have natural healing properties to them. Greenery promotes wellness, pulls toxins out of the air, and helps distress! Go ahead, take the day off and spend an afternoon having fun with plants at Piante!

Interview with Gary Li – Owner of Piante

Park Ave Magazine did an exclusive interview with Piante owner and operator Gary Li. We discussed plants, his adventures abroad, design and creativity. Find out more about the man behind the creation of Piante.

1. According to your website bio, you were a floral designer. What was that like?

“I created my first “arrangement” as a 10-year-old kid living in Hong Kong then, and I grew up with growing various plants and orchids in my parents’ tiny apartment. It used to be fun making arrangements and helping out at friends’ weddings during my university years, but that all changed the day I decided to open my own shop after graduation – I lost my hobby that day!

Working with flowers with one’s hands was super rewarding for me; there wasn’t a single day I felt going to the shop was a chore at all. As a business owner, however, I had to worry about marking up properly and refraining from adding more flowers to hurt the bottom line – the businessman and the designer in me were always at war with one another! The thing about making floral arrangements for clients was that the products would always need to be at a certain place by a certain time. The arrangements would render useless if they show up at someone’s wedding or funeral late. To me, this aspect was the greatest thorn in the flesh as a florist in an urban setting (Toronto) where traffic was constantly bad due to congestions or bad weather.”

2. You’ve taken floral design training classes in France and the Netherlands. How does garden care differ between cultures?

“My trip to France was an eye-opener. The course offered by Formafleur (a floral school based in Vienne) and was taught by various floral world cup and Europa cup champions – so they weren’t necessarily all French designers. The two instructors I latched myself onto happened to be Norwegians; through them, I learned to show respect to my flowers and use every single part. I also had a glimpse of the sense of superiority the Scandinavian designers felt toward the designers from warmer, flower-growing countries such as France or the Netherlands – where they have an abundance of relatively inexpensive products to work with to create an arrangement that’s possibly less thought-out. When I went to the Netherlands a year later, it didn’t feel as new or exciting, but I did learn from the designers the art of selling flowers as a florist – and those Dutch flower shops are all so amazing and magical!

In terms of garden design, we’re now at the age of social media where there’s so much cross-pollination amongst designers from different countries – it’s so much harder to dissect and discern who came up with what these days. One designer I’ve been following quite closely is Piet Oudolf from the Netherlands; he was the landscape designer behind the High Line in NYC and Lurie Garden in Chicago. His newer planting styles are matrix and inter-planting – really fun to see, but perhaps a bit too wild for our taste here in Florida.”

3. What is it like to create designs for residential versus commercial space?

“For a residential space, it is basically to reflect the taste of the homeowners and the architecture of the house. There is more attention to detail there, as some homeowners do want to spend time going through their gardens at a leisurely pace. The design for a commercial space needs to convey a strong and clear message, as most people would just be passing through quickly to get to the front entrance. I, on the other hand, am known to be taking my time looking at little details, like taking snaps of a little screw or fastener, or the joint between 2 slaps of stone!”

4. What is your favorite plant or flower and what does it mean to you?

“As an introvert, I love all the humble little flowers such as Lily-of-the-valley, Helleborus, snowdrops, and fritillaria – anything that you have to be on your knees in the mud and face on the ground in order to fully appreciate. But as Narcissus (daffodils) are known to be looking down at their beautiful reflection in the water, perhaps I’m secretly the biggest narcissist after all!”

5. Silly question: do you believe in talking to plants?

“Talk? I sing to them and take them out on a trolley for long walks!”

6. What made you choose Winter Park as your spot to open your retail location?

“My family and I fell in love with Winter Park as tourists a few years back then. As we were deciding on a warmer place (warmer than Toronto) to set-up my garden design practice after finishing my training, we started driving upward from Miami and constantly asked ourselves if we could find a city with a greater sense of community than our beloved Winter Park … you know the answer to that one!”

7. Do you notice a difference in your customers and students when they visit the shop? Are they happier and calmer?

“We do our best to greet every student and customer and be generous with sharing our plant knowledge with everyone that enters our shop. Plants naturally do make people happy and calm (we really lucked out with that one), but our staff works very hard with my wife and I to create order and clarity in the shop, and a lot of the process is often after-hour and behind the scenes. Thanks to our kind and loyal customers, our products move quickly, and there are often holes that need to be filled just as quickly during business hours.”

8. What are some of the most popular plant items that you sell? What are some of the most unique?

“There seem to be never enough String-of-Pearls and Watermelon peperomias to go around at our shop! People are always fascinated by our carnivorous plants as there are plenty of insects here in Central Florida. This may be going off-tangent, but we have recently discovered a way to keep our string-of-pearls alive during our humid summer months here: bright diffused light is a must, but water them lightly and somewhat frequently (once a week usually) so that the roots can utilize the water quicker.”

9. Your team are also designers and creatives. How is it pulling a team together?

“We try to find people who are kind, giving, and teachable. We also empower every staff member with correct and specific plant knowledge to share with our customers. We have been very lucky to have a wonderful team of people to work together with, doing a wide range of things from customer service, carrying out heavy pots, and planting and maintaining gardens in heat and rain!”