Every night in an Uptown apartment, Erick Malsbury slumbers next to a jungle full of succulents, orchids, epiphytes, African violets and more. In an extremely small space with several grow lights shining, Malsbury is also building his business, Botanica Exotica.
He’s been working on his business plan for nine months, negotiating a warehouse space and putting together his website. In his plan one of the things he hopes to do is to sell and lease his plants for special events or to hotels, restaurants, offices and other establishments that want to enhance their properties with fresh blooming orchids and interesting greenery.
“Clients could have these beautiful plants in their spaces and if you buy or rent from me your plant will be as healthy as it can possibly be,” he says.
Recently, he decided to put out a feeler to see how his business might be received. So one evening he posted a single notice on Tulane Classifieds’ Facebook page. The next morning he had almost 200 likes and 70 responses and by the end of the week he sold almost $500 in merchandise.
“Seems it was pretty good indication that there is a market here,” he says.
Erick has no formal training, but with 33 years of experience, it’s clear by the healthy plants in his grow room, that he has a verifiable emerald green thumb.
He grows his orchids from compots or community pots. Orchids seeds are sowed into a sterile mother flask then they are transferred into a compot, which can hold 30 seedlings. Plants can spend up to one year in the compot and then that’s where Erick takes over.
He divides them and starts them on their journey. Some of his orchids will have as many as 14 blooms on just one flower spike.
He’s particularly proud of one orchid in his collection, the phragmipedium kovachii. This type of slipper orchid was discovered in Peru in 2001.
“The flowers are a bright pink color and the bloom is as big as a dinner plate,” he says. “It’s just amazing something this beautiful took so long to be discovered.”
He also likes to make arrangements with his plants by attaching them to things such as driftwood or combining them with a variety of mosses.
He suggests there is nothing wrong in buying an orchid from a grocery store or big box hardware store, but warns that transportation in the big trucks can prove to be a big trauma to the plants.
“The roots usually die back and they need to recover from the shock,” he says. “They need to be nurtured back to health.”
His website will launch soon and a brick-and-mortar store and a bigger growing space will quickly follow. But until then it’s clear that his small business is certainly beginning to blossom.