An Interview with Marco Meraz

Today we are interviewing avid plant collector, Marco Meraz. 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 Meraz, 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