Swarthmorean James Verdi has just opened Houseplant Hospital LLC in the former location of Fine Garden Creations at 7B S. Chester Road, which must be the epicenter of Swarthmore’s Garden District. The storefront is a bit of a dream garden, with saplings, bonsai and houseplants all jostling for attention and sunlight, interspersed by papier-mâché statuary (need a giant silver swan?), furniture, and ceramics.
To the left is the Dew Drop Inn, to the right is another vacant storefront. Down the hall is the HH workshop/showroom. Out back is the greenhouse, of a sort, where long-term HH residents can take the sun, newly salvaged plants can recover from transplantation, and Verdi can take a break to muse about the prospects of painting murals and installing green roofs on the adjoining buildings. There’s is always another idea coming into view for Verdi, who graduated from Temple University with a BA in Philosophy and earned a Masters in Bilingual/Bicultural Studies from LaSalle University.
How could a man whose name is (almost, in Italian) synonymous with greenery do anything else?
“Gardening has been a hobby of mine for the past 25 years, and I’m 37. At Temple I did landscaping on their student grounds crew — it was either that or the library, and I liked being outside; LaSalle paid me a living wage, benefits, and tuition to work full-time as a groundskeeper there.”
A transplant from Lawrenceville, N.J., by way of Philly, Verdi has lived in Swarthmore since 2011 with his wife Melissa Verdi and daughter Milena Pearl. Right now he is the “sole member” at the company, but will consider adding members who would bring capabilities to do interior/patio-scaping and home services, help out in the store, contribute inventory, use HH’s services, and buy stuff.
Houseplant Hospital displays super-local, handmade and one-of-a-kind artworks, books, accessories, decorations and gifts. It’s a place to find the perfect something — even if you don’t know what you’re seeking — for the gardener in your life. Plants, of course, are on sale, some of them new and exotic; some of them divisions and transplants from other gardens needing a new home.
For Verdi, plant care seems to be as much an art as a science, but he does offer high intensity LED units that emit light in various wavelengths for plants in need of foliage growth or encouragement in blooming. He will do house calls, and take in plants for boarding for clients as they travel, coax an orchid into new growth or help improve the vigor of tired but beloved houseplants. “It’s a cooperative effort — we’ll figure out together what’s wrong with the plant,” Verdi says. And ideas are always growing: “I’m getting citrus trees from a lady in Chinatown, and she said ‘do you have time for orchids? Take ‘em!’ So I repotted them in hydroponics. I have a few more to do, so I’m thinking about having an orchid workshop.”
Watch for growth in the garden that is Houseplant Hospital. For more information, visit www.houseplanthospital.org.