Justine Harrison unearths her inner plant mom with Najwa’s Garden
As a young child, Justine Harrison would go to plant shows with her mother and aunt. During those trips, she and her sister found themselves stuck with the onerous task of carrying around all purchased items. Reflecting on this memory as an adult, Harrison shared that she finds it funny how life has come full circle. Today, she happily shares more about her life as an avid garden mom and her budding venture as a ‘plantrepreneur’.
She tells Saturday Living, “My love really surged for gardening around 2017. I found enjoyment in creating small colourful plant arrangements. I then got to work, trying to grow more plants and setting up a space at home for them.”
Harrison’s mother played a crucial role in nurturing her gardening interest by giving her a young cactus to care for, “This gave me a sense of responsibility and helped me to start understanding how to grow and nurture something. I guess she was preparing me somehow to become the plant lady I am today.”
Once Harrison decided to take the green life seriously, she turned to ‘YouTube University’ for additional knowledge. She also spoke with other plant owners and made frequent visits to the plant store to learn more about the process.
“I experimented. And, I unfortunately lost a lot of plants. But, I also had success with many and most importantly I learned so many different lessons along the way, like patience and discipline, as well as finding the balance between giving too much attention and fussing over a plant and knowing when to just leave the plants be and let them do their own thing.”
Unable to choose just one, Harrison listed some of her favourite plant babies such as the calladiums, orchids, succulents, cacti, lilies and aglonemas. To add to the list, her backyard boasts a variety of fruit trees.
“In 2017, I started by purchasing mainly succulents and cacti so that I could practice to propagate. I found so much joy in creating new plants from older ones and once I mastered this, my plant army began! From there, I started collecting different types of plants, then branched out into growing herbs and food,” she revealed.
So enthused by this journey, Harrison started documenting her plant experiences. It was there that her Instagram page, Najwa’s Garden, was born.
“My mom actually told me that she was really close to naming me Najwa when I was born! I liked the sound of it and decided that was going to be it. Najwa means passionate. And since this was my passion project, I ran with it,” she highlighted.
This natural move also unearthed another love of hers, plant photography.
“I eventually saved up enough to create a small shade house to keep most of my plants in. It has been a bit-by-bit building process, requiring lots of Saturday and Sunday hours. But definitely worth it,” she shared.
As a rookie, Harrison explained that her biggest challenges were related to over watering and under watering plants. She also mentioned that environmental factors posed hindrances to her plant care journey.
“Tending to the garden isn’t an easy thing at all; it takes discipline and patience. It’s always a workout and I love that it keeps me active. It’s also so satisfying every time a plant blooms or does very well. I have also felt true joy in seeing something grow from seed stage to the point of harvest, literally seeing, and in some cases, eating the fruits of my labour,” she said.
Having a greater appreciation for the cyclical nature of living things, and understanding that it is best to enjoy each moment while learning, Harrison takes pride in being a plant mom, “Being a plant mom has truly increased my well-being both mentally and physically, and has added to my sense of purpose.”
As an entrepreneur, the learning process continues. Thanks to the unwavering support of her family and friends, Harrison has successfully made sales on special occasions like Mother’s Day and Teacher’s Day. She notes, “People tend to gravitate towards the succulents which they find to be just the perfect size and tend to have a cute interesting look to them.”
For Harrison, the hope is to one day turn her passion project into a full-time small business.
For those new to the world of plant care and wanting to connect with nature, this plant enthusiast recommends starting out simply by researching the plant you are interested in. This way, you will gain a better understanding of the care and environment necessary for the plant to thrive.
“Give yourself grace to find your rhythm as a plant parent. This may take some time. You will make mistakes and probably face some dramatic plant losses, but that is part of your plant parent story. Talk to other persons who also have an interest in plants, as you can learn so much from others and their own experiences. Most of all, have fun with it,” Harrison advises.