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Featured Shop: Pistils Nursery

Apr 2, 2018

by Karen Brown

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Pistils Nursery’s success story reads much like instructions for raising healthy plants: sink deep roots, spread out, and grow towards the light. Founder Mégan Twilegar—who has spent most of her life in the Portland, Oregon area—launched Pistils from the seed of an idea that germinated while she worked on a local farmstead after college. “Pistils was started by my sister and me, although she left early on,” explains Mégan. “We started Pistils to grow plant material for outdoor gardens, but as the business evolved, it’s the indoor plants that have made us really successful.”

Explore the Pistils Nursery collection

Fast forward twenty years, and Pistils has expanded into three complementary businesses: a brick-and-mortar shop with a light-filled solarium that showcases exotic plants, including staghorn ferns, moss balls, and desert cacti; a landscape design and build company; and a thriving online presence, with over 600 sales on Etsy alone, and no plans to slow down. “There are always new experiences and ways to educate myself,” says Mégan. “Every year I am more aware and see new things. I feel very blessed.”

Read on to discover Mégan’s favorite plants—then shop the Pistils Nursery collection.

Tell us more about the Pistils origin story. Have you always been into plants?

My family was always into agriculture and animal husbandry, so I guess you could say that my interest in growing things was passed down to me. After college I was living in Portland and I had the opportunity to work on an old farmstead in the city called Bean’s Farm. The lot was only 5,000 square feet, but that is a rare thing to find in a city. Working there was when I started to realize that growing things was something I might want to do. I felt that I only have one life and if I had the opportunity to pursue something I’m really passionate about then I should give it a try. You spend so much time at work, it’s good if you can really like it.

We started the business in what was then an underserved, rougher neighborhood in Portland, but over the years it has changed tremendously. We were just looking for something we could afford, but maybe we had a little bit of clairvoyance. It worked out really well.

How many people are part of the Pistils team now?

In the beginning, it was mostly just me managing the shop. Today, for ecommerce and the brick-and-mortar store we employ 10–12 people. Some of our employees come to us without a lot of experience in cultivating plants, but over time they develop a love for it and even become nerds for it. My life partner manages our design and build business, and we have about half a dozen people there along with a slew of subcontractors. I’m blessed to have such a great staff. They are what drives this place.

Pistils has quite an impressive social media following. How did that come to be?

The credit goes to Jesse on our staff. I had children later in life—I have a daughter who’s five and a son who’s eight—and with raising little kids and running the business, I just didn’t jump on the social media bandwagon. But I do understand its value, so we posted a job and asked the question, “Do you love plants and social media?” It turns out that’s a really good job post for our line of work. We found the right person in Jesse, and I’m really grateful to have a business with a visual presence.

What role do plants play in our lives? Why do we bring them into our homes?

By bringing plants into your environment you are bringing nature a little closer. Today, I think so many of us are disconnected from the natural world. We miss so many opportunities by chasing our Instagram feeds or the last text. But I know there is a desire to reconnect with nature, and plants can help with that. Also, plants are like guests in our homes, and like guests they connect us to memories and events. A plant might remind you of a relative, or a relationship, or a place you used to live or have visited.

Pistils has some very unusual offerings, like jungle cacti and cork mounts. How do customers respond to these more unique choices?

People want plants but sometimes they don’t want the super common things that you find at a typical garden center. They are becoming more educated and seeking out unusual plants. We definitely love the weird stuff, and we love offering it to curious customers. The jungle cacti are very easy to grow and good for beginners. The cork mounts are sustainably harvested and one of my favorite things.

There are a couple categories in your Etsy shop that are new to me. Can you tell us about kokedama and marimo?

I first learned about kokedama about eight years ago. It’s a very simple Japanese-inspired living work of art with a lineage that dates back hundreds of years. Essentially, you take a plant, and bind it very tightly with moss. It’s something you can hang as a statement piece, almost like sculpture, and it can last for years and years.

Marimo is a freshwater moss plant. Someone working for us years ago actually discovered it on Etsy! They are so simple to maintain and they only grow one or two millimeters a year. When we decided to have an ecommerce presence, we created a product called “Luck in a Bottle,” with two little marimos in it. It’s still very popular today.

Tell us about your kits. Where did the idea come from?

In our brick-and-mortar store, we have all our materials on display and customers can create the terrarium or aerium they want, right here in the shop. We do a lot of hand-holding, answering questions, and helping them compose a custom product. Jesse was instrumental in imagining how this concept could be extended to ecommerce, and how popular things from the shop could be sold as kits, like the ones we sell on Etsy. Through the kits I learned a lot about packaging and how to design the best possible experience when the kit is opened by the customer at home.

How do you approach helping buyers incorporate greenery into their home decor?

First, I like to know where people are starting from because we always want to set them up for success. We want them to have a good experience and continue to garden. So I would never want to match someone new to gardening with a challenging plant. You want to match to their experience and the conditions in their home.

What about buyers who are afraid they might kill a plant? Any advice?

The truth? You may have to kill some plants to become a truly good gardener. But they will forgive you because you will become a better gardener and eventually be able to care for many, many plants.

So, what’s your favorite plant? If you could be any plant what would you be?

I think I would have to say a wild onion.  They are so tough, but they’re also really feminine. They’re hardy but very delicate, and they’re graceful, but you can miss them if your eyes aren’t open. The flowers are very soft, in pinks and purples and white. For me, they embody what I aspire to be as a woman.

Follow Pistils Nursery on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Photographs courtesy of Pistils Nursery.

Shop Pistils Nursery

Kokedama Kit - Make Your Own Kokedama 'String Garden'
Kokedama Kit - Make Your Own Kokedama 'String Garden'
PistilsNurseryPDX
$32.00 USD
Oasis in the Desert - Rhipsalis in Cholla Wood
Oasis in the Desert - Rhipsalis in Cholla Wood
PistilsNurseryPDX
$15.00 USD
Pocket Aerium - Wall Mounted Air Plant Terrarium
Pocket Aerium - Wall Mounted Air Plant Terrarium
PistilsNurseryPDX
$24.00 USD
Resurrection Plant with Hidden Crystal - Rose of Jericho - Dino Plant
Resurrection Plant with Hidden Crystal - Rose of Jericho - Dino Plant
PistilsNurseryPDX
$16.00 USD
Moon Vase Marimo Set - Marimo Moss Ball Aquarium
Moon Vase Marimo Set - Marimo Moss Ball Aquarium
PistilsNurseryPDX
$38.00 USD
Black Walnut Flower Press - Handmade in Portland Oregon
Black Walnut Flower Press - Handmade in Portland Oregon
PistilsNurseryPDX
$92.00 USD
Staghorn Fern Plaque with Cedar Board + Spaghnum Moss
Staghorn Fern Plaque with Cedar Board + Spaghnum Moss
PistilsNurseryPDX
$48.00 USD
Wren's Nest Hanging Aerium  - Terrarium with Air Plant
Wren's Nest Hanging Aerium - Terrarium with Air Plant
PistilsNurseryPDX
$28.50 USD
Luck in a Bottle - Marimo Moss Ball Aquatic Terrarium
Luck in a Bottle - Marimo Moss Ball Aquatic Terrarium
PistilsNurseryPDX
$28.00 USD
Bird's Nest Fern Kokedama - String Garden
Bird's Nest Fern Kokedama - String Garden
PistilsNurseryPDX
$38.00 USD
Philodendron Kokedama - String Garden
Philodendron Kokedama - String Garden
PistilsNurseryPDX
$38.00 USD
Wren's Nest Hanging Aerium  - Terrarium with Air Plant
Wren's Nest Hanging Aerium - Terrarium with Air Plant
PistilsNurseryPDX
$28.50 USD

51 comments

  • tabbey13

    Teena from Abbeyoaks said 1 year ago

    Beautiful store! I love the hanging and mounted plants

  • ClassicMemories

    ClassicMemories from ClassicMemories said 1 year ago

    Lovely shop. Congrats on the feature.

  • cassieleeann2

    Cassandra Bowser said 1 year ago

    So mysterious! Like something from a fantasy movie. I love it. I bet little fairies and garden gnomes play in her garden all night long.

  • pillowlink

    Rosita from pillowlink said 1 year ago

    Amazing studio, story, people and all greenery. Love to browse the collection. And I love how many words are used for describing the plants. Congrats on feature the shop here in Etys blog and thank you for this story Karen!

  • silkstory

    Zita from silkstory said 1 year ago

    Lovely plants! Many inspiration for painting and for soul. Wish you lot of success!

  • ButterflyFeetShop

    Sherri from ButterflyFeetDigital said 1 year ago

    Amazing business, congrats on the feature!

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage said 1 year ago

    Great article! Congrats on your success! Lovely plants!

  • Kashuen

    Kashuen Collectibles from Kashuen said 1 year ago

    I love how the seller see the business opportunity and know how to balance personal life with business by hiring more expert. Congrats on the feature!

  • kgarrett1966

    R.M Garrett from ArtisticAcrylics said 1 year ago

    In my fantasies, I'm an amazing gardener! A herbalist who harvests her own herbs to make my own beautify products, as well as unique spices that create mouth watering healthy dishes! In reality, aside from the occasional garden, that was largely self sustaining, every indoor plant dies!! To the point that if it's not a safe prearranged flower arrangement, I leave it alone! But as I read this article, I realize, I didn't start off with plants that fit my limited knowledge and unprepared lifestyle for indoor plants. I think my inner fantasies probably guided me more than I thought. I love how this shop points out how they work with you to match you up with plants that fit your lifestyle and knowledge level, to give you the best start off possible! Even if that means a plant that needs very little care, aside from the occasional pruning. I think that's awesome!! The pictures of their plants above are just beautiful, and this article was a great read!!

  • IzjuminkaOlga

    Olga Kaplina from KnitteditemsbyOlga said 1 year ago

    Beautiful store! Wish you lot of success!

  • gardenmis

    Priscilla from Gardenmis said 1 year ago

    Your store and shop are gorgeous! Congrats on the feature and best wishes for achieving all your goals and dreams :)

  • msbijouxbeads

    Cathy from msbijouxbeads said 1 year ago

    Beautiful plants, like walking in the forest! Congratulations on the great feature

  • jessewaldman

    Pistils Nursery from PistilsNurseryPDX said 1 year ago

    Thank you so much for featuring us, and for all of these lovely comments as well! We're glowing :)

  • q0pzi7wc

    LeTime - Leo from LeTimeArt said 1 year ago

    Beautiful store! I can imagine it is like living in nature with plants surrounded.

  • larenaissancegirl

    RG from LaRenaissanceGirl said 1 year ago

    What an amazing idea for a shop! I love the succulent terrariums, so adorable!

  • GTDesigns

    renee and gerardo from GTDesigns said 1 year ago

    Amazing work!! Lovely pieces that are stately and full of purpose!! Congrats on this beautiful feature!!

  • jacobswoodentoys

    Tim and Brigita Cornwell from jacobswoodentoys said 1 year ago

    Beautiful shop and store. Congrats on the feature! Well deserved.

  • poppiezlove

    Carey and Donna from Poppiezlove said 1 year ago

    Congratulations on the feature! This is a great shop, I love going in when ever I'm hanging on Mississippi Ave. The selection is amazing, the staff is helpful and the price is just right! I totally recommend this place!

  • TreasuredMemoryLane

    TreasuredMemoryLane from TreasuredMemoryLane said 1 year ago

    So many creative ideas for growing plants. Amazingly beautiful store! Congratulations of the feature!

  • MyFleaMarketFinds

    Kay from MyFleaMarketFinds said 1 year ago

    Just checked out your shop and love it! Congratulations on the feature!

  • VadimMoroz

    Vadim Moroz from VadimMorozArt said 1 year ago

    Lovely shop! Congratulations on the feature! All the Best!

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 1 year ago

    Congratulations on the feature!

  • rellyh

    Relly from RelsFindsNapaValley said 1 year ago

    Beautiful plants to dress up empty corners or blank walls. Congratulations shop Pistils Nursery!!!

  • cfgkyxln

    Leo Nuvunga from AfricanCraftsCenter said 1 year ago

    Beautiful shop. Congratulations on the feature!

  • FieldsOfVintage

    Fields Of Vintage from FieldsOfVintage said 1 year ago

    What a great inspirational story! Thank you for sharing.

  • creativeneedlepoint

    Brigitte Cornell from NeedlecraftSuperShop said 1 year ago

    What a beautiful shop! We just bought a house and I need some ideas....cool!!

  • sweetpoppycat

    Amanda from sweetpoppycat said 1 year ago

    I had no idea you had an etsy shop, for some reason that makes me really happy. I love your shop on Mississippi, in fact the year I did the Mississippi Street Fair I was lucky enough to be right in front of your shop. Whenever it got slow I got to go in and shop. Needless to say I didn't take home much money that day.

  • solomia7

    Monika Moroz from NickoArts said 1 year ago

    Thank you for sharing your interesting story. Congratulations on the feature of your beautiful shop. I wish you much success.

  • 1StopSteampunkShoppe

    One Stop Steampunk Shoppe from OneStopSteamShoppe said 1 year ago

    Lovely shop! Thank you for sharing.

  • bedouin

    Nicole from Crackerjackarma said 1 year ago

    Woo Hoo ~ Love this store ! Lovely feature ~ Beautiful plants inside and out ! Cheers to much continued success.

  • gilliannorthcott

    Gillian Northcott from esanivintage said 1 year ago

    Gorgeous!! I am travelling to Oregon from Australia later this year so maybe I might get a chance to have a look.

  • TropicalGarden

    TropicalGarden from TropicalGarden said 1 year ago

    Amazing shop with beautiful plants, and inspiring story! Congratulations on the feature!

  • agirlwithfeathers

    Carolina from Agirlwithfeathers said 1 year ago

    Wonderful shop! Congrats on the feature!

  • nanavanesyan

    Nana Vanesyan from NarineHandmade said 1 year ago

    Lovely shop!

  • thesloan5

    Abby from SweetBloomCA said 1 year ago

    Oh wow, this space is SO good. Totally gorgeous and totally satisfying to my not-so-secret plant obsession. ;) And the story behind it is equally inspiring! Congrats on the well-deserved feature, guys; I would love to visit your store if I'm ever in Portland!

  • LadyInPurple

    Jennifer Tyson from LadyInPurpleBoutique said 1 year ago

    Wow, lovely shop and your brick and mortar is really beautiful! Congrats on the feature and wishing you and your team much success!

  • cardhugs

    Rosemary Lambert from cardhugs said 1 year ago

    I especially loved the blooming Christmas cactus which was mounted on a hanging arrangement. Lovely shop!

  • golden41004

    Hema Rao from BEADEDNECKLACESHOPPE said 1 year ago

    Very nice indeed

  • golden41004

    Hema Rao from BEADEDNECKLACESHOPPE said 1 year ago

    Great nursery

  • rachbing

    Rachel Bingaman from BingArt said 1 year ago

    Well this is perfect.... just in time for planting season :) I may have to do some shopping!

  • winsomeyim

    WING SUM YIM from fabricAsians said 1 year ago

    lovely shop. i like the Hanging Aerium

  • LoveButtons

    Julia K Walton from FireHorseVintageHQ said 1 year ago

    What a wonderful company: it looks like a great place to work. The Japanese moss balls and moss-wrapped pieces are gorgeous! :o)

  • kateendle

    Kate Endle from kateendle said 1 year ago

    I visit Portland at least twice a year and Pistols is always a must see shop when I'm there. Almost all of my plants come their shop so I was really excited to see them on Etsy. What an inspiration! Great article- thank you for featuring them.

  • dfn06qfi

    TattooIcon from TattooIcon said 1 year ago

    What a wonderful flora oasis! Dreamlike office :))

  • PanChupCrafts

    Sornja's Crafts from SornjasCrafts said 1 year ago

    Marvelous inventory! Very cool shop! Congratulations of the feature!

  • mrseatonolya

    OMSA from HandcraftedOMSA said 1 year ago

    Beautifu store and the story!

  • mox1vpbx

    Gail Plumbe said 1 year ago

    What a shame they are so far away from me. Would love some of these beautiful arrangements.

  • silpionelf

    Karen from KnitPeddler said 1 year ago

    So beautiful! Congrats on your feature. <3

  • PokutniaAnna

    Anna from FairyToysWorld said 1 year ago

    Wow! It is so unusual! Very beautiful! Wish your shop to have many clients!

  • Emariecreations

    Samantha from Emariecreations said 1 year ago

    Wow, what a beautiful shop!

  • PiacereMioPaperie

    Nancy from PiacereMioPaperie said 1 year ago

    Your work is so beautiful and inspirational! Thank you for sharing.

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