Harold’s Plants

The sweet sounds of tinkling wind chimes and burbling fountains blend with the harmonies of Ella and Louis streaming on Harold’s Plants’ sound system. The half-acre business is full of flowering plants, fruit trees, lush ferns and verdant shrubs.

Everywhere one’s eye lands finds elegant statuary, decorous pots and fairy tale trellises.  There’s even a sweet coop for some very friendly and musical cockatiels. This inner-city haven is enveloped in the sweet scents of honeysuckle, orchids and roses.  It is less a retail store with plants all in stark rows and more of a much-loved and well-tended garden. Why, one might even call it the Bywater’s own Longue Vue Garden.

Harold Applewhite is the original owner of Harold’s Plants. Many years ago he started his business in the hustle and bustle of the historic French Market. The 90-year-old business owner still takes an interest in the shop but has turned much of the heavy lifting to his business partner, Kurt LeBlanc.

This morning, 20-year-old Mz. Kitten, one of perhaps a dozen cats who make Harold’s their home, is nestled in her favorite spot, a cushion on the counter.

“She sits here all day to get all the pets from her many friends,” says employee Karen Gutierrez. “She even has her own heater for chilly mornings like this.”

The store sells up to 300 orchids a week, as well as more than 500 types of trees, however their best sellers are houseplants.

“We sell tons of interior plants,” says LeBlanc. “Nowadays people have smaller apartments or houses with very small yards. So we actually sell a lot of succulents. We’ve also been selling many of the plants that gardeners lost to the freezes of last winter.”

LeBlanc finds Instagram a successful marketing tool.

“I took a picture of one of the cats, Jake, nestled in a patch of sedum and the next week we had people calling about it and coming in to buy sedum. We almost had a hard time keeping up with it. We were easily selling half a flat a day.”

LeBlanc loves gardening. He says he started playing in the dirt when he was 12 and when he got a job helping a woman with a very upscale garden his garden’s path was set.

“I was so fortunate to have her as my mentor.”

The big box stores don’t worry the nine-person staff at Harold’s. They know their product is unique and of superior quality.

“And they just don’t carry what we carry,” says LeBlanc. “You know the store just down the way sends lots of customers to us because they know we have what they are looking for.”

Just a side business note: Louisiana’s nursery and landscape industry contributes more than $2.2 billion annually to the state’s economy, according to the most recent analysis by the LSU AgCenter. The industry employs more than 56,000 individuals and ranks third in the state behind forestry and sugarcane in economic contribution.

Coming to Harold’s is about coming to a charmed sanctuary to enjoy its magic and horticultural allure. Buying their cool stuff is almost incidental.

“We love it here, I mean we get to come to work everyday in the best garden in the city,” says LeBlanc.



Harold’s Plants


1135 Press St



Categories: Labors of Love