Plants & Selfies: Inside One of Tallahassee's Hidden Gems

In 2008, an outpost opened in the heart of Tallahassee. As you drive down Miccosukee Road, you can spot this small, fairytale-like house, surrounded by a large variety of plants.  This new outpost isn’t military-related but rather it is full of plants and ceramic goods. The Purple Martin Outpost is the Tallahassee connection to its “base” 30 minutes away in Crawfordville, Florida. There in the town just south of Tallahassee, right next to the famous Wakulla Springs, was Purple Martin Nurseries. The name stems from a swallow, Purple Martin, which migrates in the summer to the Wakulla area. The birds are known by gardeners because they feed on harmful insects. Although these nurseries are no longer open to the public in Crawfordville, locals can still get access to its goods at The Outpost.

I spoke to Rachel Cleveland, an associate and employee of the owner, Glen Campbell, who she explained had been in the horticulture business for over 30 years. The owner worked previously for a local landscaping and nursery company called Mack Bros., in addition to also working at the Tallahassee Nurseries. After beginning this nursery and opening The Outpost, Campbell now distributes his plants to the Florida State University nurseries and also the Tallahassee Nurseries, the company Campbell was once an employee of. 

In addition to their commercial distribution of plants, locals can visit their 1920s-built storefront home. Here you can browse over 100 indoor and outdoor plants to fit your needs. Cleveland discussed that around 80% of the plants sold here are grown by the owners themselves, which can’t be found at big retailers such as Lowes and Home Depot, where most plants sold come from big-scale operations worldwide. Cleveland went on to mention that Campbell is successful in finding “niche plants, like unique plants. Which does allow him to differentiate himself from other nurseries.”

When asked about what sort of experience The Outpost wants to provide a potential customer, Cleveland replied that they simply “try to keep it really casual, no pressures, enjoy. If you have any questions, we will answer it!” This ideology allows the property to truly speak for itself, allowing the customer to wander freely and take in all the charms Purple Martin has to offer. It is the type of experience that can only be offered by a local business.

Over the past few years, the trend of owning houseplants has taken over home décor. While browsing through home décor inspiration pictures on Instagram and Pinterest, you can spot Pothos, Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree and Snake Plants everywhere. It is well known that college students have a busy schedule, time is something of value. This could discourage some from exploring the houseplant world, especially when it comes to figuring out how to start. Cleveland was able to provide feedback to this dilemma, “it’s like with music or anything, you have to kind of be shown the right plant (to start with). Then from there, it can get a lot easier. There are certain plants that will help build confidence.” When asked which plants these might be Cleveland recommended: “ZZ plants, Sansevieria (snake plant), the one I see being underutilized that I see more in landscaping than I do indoors is the cast iron plant. The cast iron is very pretty and is low light, low water. They basically thrive on neglect. Those are really good ones or pothos.” When asked how plants in a home can benefit college students, Cleveland suggested that she believes that since “it’s alive, it’s vibrant, it can bring more of an uplifting energy. They also can purify the air and help prevent formaldehyde, and other things that can drag you down without realizing it.”

After mentioning the business’s online presence, Cleveland then goes on to explain that the large presence isn’t due entirely to their Facebook page, but rather their Instagram presence. Although their Instagram is full of beautiful, vibrant plants and adorable pictures of Campbell’s golden doodle puppy, Zoey, the Purple Martin Outpost’s Instagram location is full of selfies and photoshoots. The property has endless Instagram-worthy spots, and many students and young adults have begun to flock to the business for the perfect shot.  When asked if this was a nuisance for the business, Cleveland assured me that this was not the case. She noted that in the spring when the weather is nicer is when people tend to take pictures the most, including some professional photographers shooting senior pictures.

The Purple Martin Outpost is a hidden gem amongst Tallahassee. This property offers beautiful views to take in, Instagram worthy backdrops, vibrant and unique plants that seem impossible to find elsewhere, beautiful terracotta pots and a cute gift shop. With so many products and services available, this local business won’t stay a hidden gem for long!

All images courtesy of Vanessa Valles.