An Interview with Marco Menaz

Today we are interviewing avid plant collector, Marco Menaz. Marco is an Arizona native, and owns Republica Empanada in Mesa - as seen in Diners, Drive-in's, and Dives. To learn more about the restaurant, click here

Q: Name? Age?

A: Marco Menaz, 39.

Dig It Phoenix Gardens Plant Nursery Arizona

Q: What type of residence do you live in, and where? We find that it shapes your environment that houses your plants.

A: I live in a standard house in Mesa, AZ. I'm lucky that I have a backyard to keep plants in-ground and inside containers. 

Q: How do you think the environment you live in affects your plant collection?

A: Having a house gives me more space than the average person. Although, the Arizona climate is a challenge because in the winter it freezes and of course - the summer heat. Most of my collection likes the heat but the full sunlight/direct sunlight needs to be considered with my non-native plants in containers. Since I have a backyard, I like to put plants in the ground if they can adapt; they are always happier in the ground.

Q: What is your occupation? Do plants factor into your occupation? If so, how?

A: I am a single father and I run a restaurant in Downtown Mesa - Republica Empanada. Both demand a lot of time, especially in the summer when the plants need more water. But, this applies to all aspects of life - you have to make time for what is important. My kids are 7, 6, and 2. They are all interested in plants, the two year-old likes to help me water. They also like to take cuttings from a few of the plants and put them into empty containers to try to get them to go. They're not scared of cacti, they were raised to respect and be conscious of them. In fact, one of their first words is ouch!

 

Q: How would you describe your plant collection status? How many plants do you think you own?

A: I haven't counted, but I easily own over 100 plants. I am out of room, have far too many, and would consider myself an advanced and very experienced grower. My collection varies greatly; it includes some houseplants - but a large majority are desert/xeriscape plants: cacti, tropical, semi-tropical, succulents. 99% of my plants are kept outside.

 

Q: What is it about plants that intrigues you?

A: My mom has a big green thumb. She's from Costa Rica, the mountain region in a tropical cloud forest. She is very in tune to the universe with plants and definitely has a gift when it comes to plants; I think I inherited my love for plants from her. Although I was raised here in the desert, she would always try to have a piece of the tropical oasis in our front and back yard. People always commented about her garden and I try to apply what she taught me to my own gardening; but these are different times and I am much more conscious of low-water use plants. This topic is very important to me, I believe people should be very wary of water usage and understand that you can create a lush garden with low-water use plants. 

 

Q: Do you draw inspiration from plants? If so, how?

A: Absolutely; a friend of mine who is very knowledgeable, especially about Sonoran Desert plants, once expressed in conversation: "It's a wonder why not every single person is a gardener or has a love for plants on a certain level. We have this endless, seamless connection to plants, they feed us and provide us oxygen. In return, we don’t regard or respect them the way we should. In a lot of ways we are disconnected." I believe that plants are a beautiful way to be in-tune with the world around us. 
 

Q: Have you ever turned your car around to take a closer look at a plant or take a picture?

A: I do this every day, or at least every other day, to take a picture or to admire. An exceptionally memorable time I did this was when I drove past a Ceiba speciosa, the silk floss tree, in bloom in the Mesa desert. It's one of my favorite plants not native to the Sonoran Desert.

 

Q: What is your dream plant to have?

A: Can I choose three? 1. A giant Arborescent African euphorbia because they can’t take full-sun in Arizona, 2. A Silk-floss tree - I’ve had one and it struggled to adapt to our climate, and 3. A giant Pachycereus weberi - I have one planted, and although they can do well here, they are really frost sensitive during the winter.

Q: Is there anything else you wanted to share?

A: My grandmother just spent six days in a hospital with no windows - no trees or birds to look at, just the sterile hospital equipment. Since, she has been transferred to a hospice center with windows, and right outside of her room is a Palo Verde with birds coming and going. This tree brings her so much peace and happiness in her last few days, and I think plants play a large role in health and wellness.

 

We wanted to send a huge thank you to Marco for sharing his stories with us.

To learn more about Marco, be sure to check out his Instagram by clicking here

Dig It Gardens

An Interview with Min Skivington

Today we're interviewing Min Skivington, the Marketing & Outreach Manager for the Epilepsy Foundation of Arizona. Min is an avid plant collector and we thought she would be a great fit for our new interview series. Not only this, but Dig It has worked closely with both Min and the Epilepsy Foundation since our start. To learn more about the Epilepsy Foundation, and everything they do, click here.

Q: Name? Age?

A: Min Skivington, 29!

Q: What type of residence do you live in, and where? We find that it shapes your environment that houses your plants.

A: I live in an apartment in Phoenix with a large deck. In fact, my deck is pretty much at full capacity with Dig It plants! My entire collection is pretty much all succulents and cacti - I can't keep plants inside of my apartment because of my cats. I do keep plants in my office though! 

Plant Nursery Phoenix Arizona

Q: How would you describe your plant collection status? What is your relationship with plants?

A: I'm obsessed and need more room! Relationship-wise, we're pretty close and you could say it's getting serious! We're lucky that we live in Arizona and can afford to have not only plants year-round but such a large variety of plants. I definitely look towards plants for inspiration when I draw.

Q: Do you find yourself gravitating toward certain types of plants?

A: I don't necessarily find myself gravitating towards a certain variety of plants, but I always am gravitating towards Dig It. Plants from here are so different and you don’t see them at big-box stores. The uniqueness definitely drives me into the store!

Plant Nursery Phoenix Arizona

Q: Have you ever turned your car around to take a closer look at a plant or take a picture?

A: Yep - all the time! Once we were in the Saguaro Desert near Tucson on a work trip. I definitely had to turn the car around to snap a picture!

Q: How would you describe the Epilepsy Foundation's relationship with plants?

A: Our team came to Dig It when you first opened and bought a few plants for our office. From there, we've fostered a relationship with Dig It over the years through different fundraising events, especially our annual gala. Each year Dig It donates an arrangement for the gala's silent auction with the proceeds benefitting the foundation. Other than fundraisers, we like to work with Dig It because it fosters a local relationship that big-box stores just don't have. Dig It is very similar to us because there are only two people running the foundation's Arizona chapter - all the events, fundraisers, and our huge gala. Dig It also has a small team, but manages to do so much.

 

The Epilepsy Foundation's Annual Gala will be on September 15th, 2018 from 6:00 - 10:00 PM at Mountain Shadows Resort in Paradise Valley. The theme for this black-tie event is Havana Nights, and includes a plated dinner. Visit AZEpilepsygGala.org to learn more.

Indoor Plants for Dry Phoenix Air

"What is the hardest houseplant to kill?" A tricky question that we get asked on a daily basis.  Plants are living, breathing organisms that depend on a number of conditions to survive and more importantly, thrive.  Plants are dependent on soil, water, and sunlight.  While some plants require strict conditions, a large majority do not.  Phoenix has a very dry climate with little to no humidity most days.  Not all plants will thrive in our air conditions, as some leaves need more moisture than others.  A plant parent can attempt to adjust the relative humidity, but it isn't the most practical solution. All this said, here are our top picks for indoor houseplants that thrive in the dry Phoenician air: 

 The ZZ Plant, a crowd-favorite here at Dig It!

The ZZ Plant, a crowd-favorite here at Dig It!

 A Pothos, the perfect plant for hanging planters! They will drape over the edge, and are a great option if you're looking to add leafy greens to a windowsill.

A Pothos, the perfect plant for hanging planters! They will drape over the edge, and are a great option if you're looking to add leafy greens to a windowsill.

Featured above is the ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia). The drought-tolerant ZZ plant is the perfect addition to low-light homes and offices! To the right is a Pothos 'Silver Splash' (Epipremnum aureum). This plant is a great for those looking to add a classic, leafy option to a workspace or home. Pothos are also a perfect option for those looking for low maintenance plants that provide hanging foliage. While all of the plants mentioned are great at cleaning the air around us, Pothos have been said to help relax ones eyes when feeling congested or irritated. This can help combat tiredness after a long-day of staring at a phone, computer screen, or even Phoenix rush hour!  Pothos have also been said to help prevent and treat cataracts, ocular hypertension, and glaucoma.

 Pilea Peperomoides, one of Lauren's favorite plants (because they look like mini pancakes).

Pilea Peperomoides, one of Lauren's favorite plants (because they look like mini pancakes).

If you're searching for a fun-looking plant, check out our Pilea peperomioides. These are also known as Chinese money plants, UFO plants, and pancake plants! Native to Yunnan Province in Southern China, Pilea's are great low-maintenance houseplants for dry air climates. Pilea's have very similar needs to succulents, and require sunlight for a few hours of the day. These make a great windowsill plant! If you're in the market for a low-light plant, the Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) requires minimal sunlight, water, and care. The Snake plant also has great antibacterial properties - as they filter formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and benzene from the air. 

 Sanseveria (Snake Plant). One of the most popular varieties for new plant parents! 

Sanseveria (Snake Plant). One of the most popular varieties for new plant parents! 

At the end of the day, there's really nothing that makes a house feel more like a home than a great houseplant. They truly are the gift that keeps giving, be it from direct benefits like cleaner air, lower toxins, and pollutant reduction to indirect benefits like better focus, fatigue and stress reduction, and increased mental health. People grow plants, and #PlantsGrowPeople! 

What houseplants do you have? Comment below! Be sure to also let us know any other plant questions you have for our next blog post. To keep up to date with all things Dig It, be sure to follow our Facebook and Instagram for event updates, sales, and more!