Noticing Neighbors Verdant
Up on the corner of 18th & Baltimore, there is a lush green oasis for lovers of plants and beautiful flowers. Verdant is a specialty shop with curated plants, flowers, and ceramics. Walking in the door, it feels like the world slows down a bit. Bright window light, lush green on the shelves everywhere, and a staff that checks in to make the experience accessible—no matter your track record with house plants. To learn more about the inspired shop, I had the chance to talk with Rachel. She is the Lead Floral Designer at Verdant who brings the bouquets to life.
Hayley: I will tell you, during this whole year Verdant has been such a bright spot for me. Am I saying it right? Rachel:
You can say it however you want. I think it's actually a French word, and it means “lush greenery.” So it's totally cool however you want to say it!
Hayley: Love it. Can you share a little about the shop?
Rachel: Let me back up a little bit, so I can give you some context of how I joined the team. So I moved to Kansas City in the fall of 2019, after living in Chicago for about 12 years.
I have a background in art, floral design and graphic design. I was ready for a change, and by the time we left Chicago, we were ready to move somewhere and start a garden. We were looking to build a home that we really love.
My husband's from central Kansas and we kind of just realized how endearing Kansas City is. There is this culture that was pretty evident, like things are growing, and people are thriving here. Hayley: So you liked the lifestyle. Rachel: Yeah, the lifestyle felt like what I was looking for. A little closer to home in the sense of it has a slower pace and an urban vibe.
But I need to tell you how I met Chentell, the owner. After being in Kansas City a few months, my husband and I were dining at Fox and Pearl for an anniversary dinner. I noticed the plate on the table. I was like, Wow, this is beautiful. It must be handmade. So I looked underneath it and there was a little Convivial Production stamp. And I thought, OK, lock that away, because I had no idea who Convivial was at that point.
I Googled it later and was floored. Turns out it is a ceramics studio that was a five minute drive from where we were living! So I went to one of the studio tours and introduced myself to Chentell, the owner of the ceramics shop. I learned she was going to open this Verdant botanical gift shop, and shared I would love to help in any way possible. So we connected and figured out how to make this thing real! I helped Chentell launch Verdant’s website first with all the branding, and then I worked with a family member of her’s who is a botanical illustrator on the greeting card line.
All the signage you see in there was something we collaborated on. And once we opened finally in September, I transitioned into the floral design and shopkeeper position. Hayley: Wow! Rachel: So I was moving into Kansas City, holding it openly and I met someone where everything aligns: our aesthetic aligns, our values align, and just the way I had the time to give when she needed help.
This September, it will be a year since we started working together. It's been an incredible year of opening a shop and carrying things that are meaningful for people, but accessible.
Hayley: I totally see that. The plant and bouquet space can be intimidating if people gatekeep the information. But you all are not like that. I never leave the store without having talked to someone at length, and learning something new. Rachel: It warms my heart to hear you say that, because that's a huge value for Chentell. So I jumped in there with the flowers and I really love it. I love working with my hands. Like getting off the computer is something that just really translates—I think when you're an artist, you're probably an artist through and through. So for me, it’s a very easy and enjoyable process to build these designer bouquets. A lot of it is taking the flowers and letting them do their thing. That's the long and short of it.
It looks like such a fun process. How do you get started?
Rachel: There are so many variables informing what we buy, and we're working hard to source more material from local growers because we're going through a lot of material every week. Usually every week I'm going into the wholesaler or talking with growers and asking, “What do you have for me?” Then I build the color palette around what our growers have. We like to keep it within our signature look. Hayley: How would you describe the look? Rachel: I would describe it as more of a nuanced tonal story. It's not super contrasting, but we like the idea that if you have a normal flower like a rose, something that sets it apart is either its color, its shape or its fragrance.
So even carnations, you can find red and blue and weird colors all over the place. But we want to find the tones that are neutral and maybe unexpected. It’s been really fun to establish that.
What goes into your decision to buy?
Rachel: We're always thinking about seasonality. We're thinking about what's available, and we're thinking about texture and fragrance and how we can bridge a couple of colors into one story. So we try not to overwhelm you, but sometimes it's unexpected! So that's fun for me. It's part of the magic. I can go in and see what is speaking to me.
Is that an every day magic?
Rachel: Oh yeah, just the other day there was this really lovely mandarin orange color. Then I ran into some butterfly ranunculus in three different colors: a cream, a bronze, and a burgundy. So I thought, OK, I know that these are complementary of each other. It’s so much about being in the moment. I'm a visual and tactile person, so being able to physically pick up the flowers and put them next to each other and see how they're interacting is very fun for me. Hay