The love plants are grown at Crimson Horticulture Rarities in North Auckland
Crimson Horticulture Rarities owner and entrepreneur Allison Futral opened her rare and unusual boutique in Auckland 13 years ago. To this day, seeing an unexpected blooming flower or a different shape on a leaf makes her squeal with joy. “I was pumped,” she says in an interview. “I scream with excitement, and everyone in the flower market laughs with me.”
The enthusiasm carries over to the store she first opened in 2011 in the city’s Temescal Alley before adding a second location and recently consolidating the outlets into a single 1,700-square-foot location on Piedmont Street in North Oakland (crimsonhort.com). There, the entire store is filled with luxurious, lush interior greenery, artisan pottery, and goods for the home and body such as candles, cards, and soaps with botanical-inspired origins and formulations.
Crimson Horticulture offers full services that bring an individually customized Futeral style to your wedding floral design; Functional indoor plant designs for homes, offices, showrooms or retail spaces; Floral and design services are selected on a case-by-case basis for everything from corporate events to intimate anniversaries.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, special, limited-edition floral arrangements come in ‘large’ or ‘small’ sizes overflowing clay pots with an array of colorful blooms, wild textures and sumptuous greenery. Incidentally, the terms “riot” and “wild” are not unacceptable in Futeral’s lexicon, which also favors terms like “organic,” “unbridled,” “recklessly abundant” and others.
“I love him. The whole time I heard those words, I had a big smile on my face,” she says. “My house is the same. Let’s say I’m not a minimalist, which is funny because I don’t like overly processed shiny things.
Evidence of her aesthetic is found not only in the plant-filled Oakland home she shares with her husband, Ben Sizemore, and Suki Dojo, their 16-year-old “furry little gremlin-looking dog,” but most prominently in bowls. Displayed in store.
Highly curated with a recognized bias for local artisans, the natural clay and matte glazed vases, planters and stands closely resemble the earthly materials from which they were formed. The closest items to luminosity arrive in glowing, warm copper bowls and plant pots.
“The vessels I’m drawn to have personality and speak to me,” she says. “I like things that are unique but also versatile. The store can fall into certain styles, so I think of things that would suit both an eclectic home and a modern corporate office.”
Futral insists that plants also have unique sounds and add warmth to interior spaces.
“Even a skeleton plant adds warmth. And as they grow, if you take care of them, it’s a lot of fun. It’s learning by doing and imprecise: Even after going to horticulture school and years of running a store, I still kill plants.”
She says this means that caring for a plant teaches a person care and the courage to endure sadness but also learns potential joy.
“There’s no recipe, and every plant is a different living thing. I can grow five plants, four of them succeed and one dies. It can be soil, roots, many things. I find joy in making people happy and encouraging them to feel good about taking care of plants.
Having and practicing philosophies of care most often associated with fathers and particularly attributed to mothers or caretakers who fill this role is surprising to Futral—as is her close connections with plants that now fill her life and work. She grew up in a one-bedroom apartment run by a woman (her mother) in downtown Baltimore. Her mother struggled with addiction to various substances, as did Futral.
“I’m not ashamed of it,” she says, having achieved sobriety in 1995.
“My mother and I are not alike: her build was not strong, whereas I came into this world as a fighter. I am persistent and will fight the odds, so it is ironic that I went in this direction. I grew up in a volatile environment, and the lack of boundaries made it easy to follow this path despite That I always wanted to be sober.
“Once I got a taste of sobriety, it occurred to me how brutal it was that my daily life had turned into addiction. I had found a completely new life. A month later, I knew: ‘This is who I really am.’”
Although her mother adored their small house and filled it with indoor plants, Futeral’s journey to becoming an indoor plant store owner was unlikely. Now 58, she says she didn’t become skilled with plants until she was about 35.
While working as a public health researcher at UCSF in programs dealing with HIV prevention that mostly included unhoused and incarcerated people, she happened to live with someone who had extensive knowledge of gardening.
She says she learned to care for plants and found herself replacing her childhood “Oh, that old thing” attitude with excitement for each plant. A “side project” she took on while running a tattoo shop and running her own business for over a decade improved her customer service practices and philosophies.
“I’ve learned that people are complicated and that I’m social. ‘Get me anywhere, and I’ll make a friend,'” she says. “Clients want my full attention and answers, even though no science of plants is perfect.
“You have to have a relationship with your plants. Create and follow care schedules, feel the soil. I even talk to my plants. You have to meet them where they are.”
During the pandemic, people confined to home have bought more plants in an attempt to liven up their homes. Now that many people are returning to their workplaces, Futral says she hopes their focus on the environment, harm reduction and appreciation of nature does not fade.
“Our environment is in a sad state. Unfortunately, we are the ones doing the damage. You can try to convince people to care about the earth, shop locally, not litter the street, and respect nature and people, but you will never convince everyone, so it’s really up to the people who only care to do the same.” their best.
“Lee? I always want to bring more green into spaces. When people are excited about having plants in their restaurants, homes or offices, they are happy and I am happy.”
Lou Fancher is a freelance writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.