Jungle House plant store aims to combat winter blues

photo by: Kathy Hanks

Rachel Guffey shows off a rare variegated Monstera deliciosa at the Jungle House, 924 Delaware St., on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019.

On dark winter days, Rachel Guffey always feels better when she is nurturing houseplants.

“I get awful seasonal depression, and plants bring life back into the house,” she said.

However, when the number of plants in their home soared into the hundreds, she and her husband, Jhami Guffey, decided to open Jungle House at 924 Delaware St.

First, they tested the water in August, with a pop-up plant sale at Wonder Fair, 841 Massachusetts St., where Jhami is employed.

“I was unloading the car at 3 p.m.; the sale didn’t start until 5 p.m., and people were taking plants out of my hands,” Rachel said.

They sold all the plants they had brought except for two air plants, and they quickly realized they should have brought more.

“It exceeded our expectations,” Rachel said. “It showed us the people of Lawrence were very much interested in houseplants.”

Rachel worked as a hairstylist and baked treats for her family business, Lucky Dog Outfitters, but the sale made them realize that they should open a plant store.

They searched around town and learned that Louis Wigen-Toccalino, the owner of Decade, a coffee shop at 920 Delaware St., had an adjoining building for rent. It would work because of windows on the south side.

Jungle House opened for business on Nov. 9, just in time for holiday shopping. Business has been thriving much like the plants that fill the room. There is a large garage door on the north side and in the spring Rachel plans to open it and take the plants outdoors.

“We’ll also have herbs and microgreens and sprouts,” she said.

For now, stepping into the store is like walking into a jungle, with huge split-leaf philodendrons, fiddle leaf figs and sansevierias alongside a mob of Pilea peperomioides, also known as Chinese money plants.

“They are also known as friendship plants because so many cuttings come from one plant,” Rachel said. As she talks she prunes the old leaves off the plants like a mother sprucing up a child.

Several humidifiers spray moisture into the air, as light streams through the south windows. More than anything, she said, plants like humidity.

It was Rachel’s grandmother who taught her about growing philodendrons. But it was a lesson she failed because she always overwatered.

photo by: Kathy Hanks

While her grandmother tried to teach her about plant care, it took years before Rachel Guffey learned to balance caring for and ignoring plants. Suddenly she was growing a vibrant pothos, like the plant she is pointing to in the Jungle House on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019.

“In 2015 I learned to balance caring for and ignoring plants,” she said. And suddenly she was growing a vibrant pothos.

In the store, she shows off a very rare variegated Monstera deliciosa, unique moss balls, harvested in the bottom of lakes in China, plus a new hybrid sansevieria Omake with tube-shaped leaves.

photo by: Kathy Hanks

The Jungle House, 924 Delaware St., opened Nov. 9. The shop is filled with everything from large houseplants to small succulents that fit on windowsills.

Except for what she learned from her grandmother, Rachel is self-educated on most houseplants, learning much online from Instagram.

Along with plants they sell grow lights, locally made pottery and other plant accessories. They will also repot plants for people and make house visits to discuss troubled plants. On Valentine’s Day, they plan to deliver orders. Currently, Jungle House is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

After business hours, the store can be rented. Plus, in the spring they will offer workshops on growing houseplants.

For Rachel, it’s hard to put into words how growing houseplants has been therapy for altering her moods, but it’s definitely something she feels.

“It’s a connection between the earth and the dirt and your hands in the soil and seeing the plants flourish,” she said.

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