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Originally from Connecticut, Landscape Designer Chris Olsen’s family moved to Little Rock where he spent a few years before moving to San Diego, then back to Arkansas in 1992. Olsen attended Oxford University in England, studying landscape architecture, landscape principals, and philosophy and also graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in business. Chris has over 25 years of landscape architecture and interior design experience. In partnership with his father, Chris obtained a landscape maintenance company called Doramus and established the Horticare Landscape Company. After only ten years, the company grew into five divisions: chemical, maintenance, landscape, nursery, and irrigation. In 2003, Chris opened his second home and garden store called Botanica Gardens on Rebsamen Park Road. Olsen bought the Edgemont House in June of 2016 and after extensive renovations, lives there and operates it as an event center.
Chris’ design works have been featured in several of the Symphony Design Houses, At Home in Arkansas, The Arkansas Times, AY Magazine, Health and Living, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Real Living Magazine, Soirée, Inviting Arkansas, the Abode Magazine, Southern Living Magazine, and several times in Better Homes and Gardens.
Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
[00:00:08] GM: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly radio show and podcast offers listeners an insider’s view into the commonalities of successful people and the ups and downs of risk-taking. Connect with Kerry through her candid, funny, informative and always encouraging weekly blog.
Now it’s time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[00:00:32] KM: Thank you, son, Gray. Before we start, I want to let you know, if you miss any part of today’s show, want to hear it again or share it, there’s a way and son Gray, will tell you how.
[00:00:41] GM: Listen to all UYIB past and present interviews by going to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy’s YouTube Channel, Facebook page, Arkansas Democrat Gazette digital version, flagandbanner.com’s website, or wherever you get your podcasts. By subscribing to our YouTube Channel or joining flagandbanner.com’s email list, you will receive prior notification of that day’s guest. Back to you, Kerry.
[00:01:04] KM: Thank you, Gray, again. You know my guest today from THV11’s In The Garden. He’s the landscape designer, Mr. Chris Olsen. I call him a lifestyle expert.
[00:01:18] CO: I’ve been called worst.
[00:01:20] KM: Chris is more than a local gardener in Arkansas. He is a creative businessman with lots of irons in the fire in addition to his gardening and landscape business in Little Rock Botanica Gardens and his North Little Rock home and garden center, Plantopia. He is a decorator, author, and historic building preservation, and a wordsmith. I think you made all those words up.
[00:01:41] CO: I make a lot of words.
[00:01:44] KM: Yes, preservationist. Chris has saved, preserved, and opened his historical home, The Edgemont House, in North Little Rock, Arkansas to brides and businesses for public use. I can’t wait to talk with him about his restoration project of Justin Matthews Jr.’s 1927 Spanish colonial style home in the historic Park Hill neighborhood.
It is a pleasure to welcome to the table the talented, creative, lifestyle expert, risk-taker, always working, Mr. Chris Olsen, or is that not true? Are you not always working?
[00:02:19] CO: Six days a week.
[00:02:20] KM: I bet. Really? No. Seven. I bet you really work seven.
[00:02:25] CO: Seven is chore day. Technically, it probably is working.
[00:02:28] KM: If you look at your life, I noticed along with working hard, being passionate about plants, I think you’re a risk-taker.
[00:02:36] CO: I am a risk-taker.
[00:02:37] KM: Yeah. You started Botanica Gardens, Plantopia, became a television personality, lifestyle expert, invested in large restoration project of the historical Edgemont Home. All of those startups take a lot of guts. I know big bold steps can keep you up at night. Which one of these kept you up the most?
[00:03:00] CO: The most? Probably Plantopia actually.
[00:03:06] KM: What? That’s not the one I would have guessed.
[00:03:08] CO: Well, you probably guessed Edgemont House.
[00:03:10] KM: Yes.
[00:03:11] CO: Okay, yeah. Well, the thing is, in 2015, I opened Plantopia and did that. Soon afterwards, in 2016, I did the Edgemont House. Technically, I was doing both of them at the same time so they could override each other.
[00:03:26] KM: What was the deal with – Was why Plantopia keeping you up?
[00:03:29] CO: Because I didn’t realize I was already working six days a week. Now you opened another business, which only took more of your time and worries, because you know how it is. It’s money, it’s everything that’s involved with that, and I didn’t realize how much work it was going to take.
[00:03:45] KM: Did you buy an existing garden center?
[00:03:48] CO: Well, it used to be called Lakewood Gardens and it was closed, I don’t know, probably 5 or so years. The funny thing about it was about a year earlier, I looked at it, maybe a year and a half earlier. I looked at it with the Matthews and was thinking of it and then decided – I didn’t hear back from them. So I thought that was God’s will, and that was it. Then Norman Clifton bought it from the Matthews. He’s a big real estate guy in North Little Rock. Long story short, it was for sale again after he bought it. It had sold on. I said, “That’s another sign from God. I’m not supposed to have it.” Didn’t think twice about it after I drove by it. Then he called me like three months later and says, “Chris, you’ve got to open a nursery here.” I go, “You sold it,” [inaudible 00:04:30] fell through. You are going to buy this.
[00:04:33] KM: Did you make a good deal? I hope.
[00:04:34] CO: I at least did from him originally, the building. Then about two years later, I bought it from him.
[00:04:39] KM: You had no idea that you were going to eventually end up buying one of his family member’s homes.
[00:04:47] CO: Oh, no idea. Wasn’t even looking for another home.
[00:04:51] KM: For people who didn’t catch the intro, you ended up in – In 2015, you bought Plantopia from – Let’s see. Is that Charles Matthews? No. That’d be from – Which Matthews did you buy from that? From General Properties.
[00:05:04] CO: General Properties.
[00:05:05] KM: Okay, which is a Matthews family business. Then a year later, you don’t even realize it, but you fall in love with the house that happens to be Justine Matthews Jr.’s house that was built in 1927.
[00:05:05] CO: Yeah. It was all interconnected somehow.
[00:05:21] KM: Maybe you all knew each other in another life before this.
[00:05:23] CO: I don’t know, but it all worked out.
[00:05:26] KM: When did the seed of entrepreneurship first begin for you?
[00:05:30] CO: I have always been that way. I started in Connecticut when I was a little kid. My dad a very stressful job. He was a stock broker and [inaudible 00:05:38] and all that. His way to relieve his stress was a garden. He created – Our whole backyard was a garden, orchard and everything.
[00:05:47] KM: Big backyard.
[00:05:48] CO: We had a big backyard.
[00:05:49] KM: In Connecticut, you had a big backyard.
[00:05:50] CO: Yeah, we had a big backyard. We used to ride the station wagon picking up bags of grass and leaves to use as mulch in the garden. I loved it. He gave me a little patch of land. My grandpa had an old wagon. We painted it green. I thought you’re wearing green today. My favorite color. I grew a vegetable garden, and that’s how I started. I used to sell vegetables to my neighbors and then I also had a paper route. It all started because my dad always never gave – They never gave allowance. You had to earn your money. I mean, I didn’t live a bad life. I lived a good life. But nonetheless –
[00:06:26] KM: You are living in Connecticut.
[00:06:27] CO: Yeah, exactly. I earned my own money and I grew up that nobody you owes you anything and you owe no one anything. You work for it.
[00:06:37] KM: That instilled an ambition in you. Earn stuff.
[00:06:41] CO: Absolutely. I always worked from the beginning and I always enjoy working.
[00:06:45] KM: You can do that same scenario with another child and it won’t work. It’ll make them mad. You grew up on the East Coast. Your father was an actuary and a bondaddy it sounds like. You had a greenhouse in your backyard. You have an innate passion for gardening that was like a lifelong goal. Did you go to school for horticulture?
[00:07:07] CO: Well, I did that Oxford, England, but I went at architecture landscape design. I did not go through a horticultural school though.
[00:07:16] KM: You went to Oxford, England in architectural landscape design. Is that like a two-year program?
[00:07:22] CO: Yes, two-year program.
[00:07:23] KM: Is that what you would recommend to other people?
[00:07:26] CO: I mean, there are so many great programs here in the United States now, and I think we have one locally. It’s a great experience because there you study at actual gardens. You walk through and you learn their philosophies behind it. It’s much more than just plant design and plant knowledge. It’s really about the principles of design. Then you come back to the US where you learn plant knowledge. I just got it from working in nurseries. Of course, my dad has a passion for plants too. So I picked it up from him. The coolest thing is, is on weekends, when I was a kid, me and my dad would visit nurseries and we put in little shells in my window to grow house plants. I always made money doing it.
[00:08:09] KM: You remind me so much of P. Allen Smith. Are you all best friends?
[00:08:13] CO: No!
[00:08:14] KM: Does everybody ask you that? You all have so much in common. No! You all have so much in common.
[00:08:19] CO: Yeah. Well, it’s funny because he went to school in Europe, to Cambridge.
[00:08:22] KM: That what I was going to say.
[00:08:24] CO: I know. We’re very parallelized. Then when I started Horticare, me and my dad started Horticare, we bought the Old Burnham Woods, which was P. Allen’s. It’s freaky how it all works out. But we do not socialize at all, believe it or not.
[00:08:37] KM: You should. Y’all could probably become best friends that could probably talk forever and ever and ever. It’s like Fletcher Ford and Steve Landers.
[00:08:48] CO: Yeah.
[00:08:48] KM: Both love race horses and their wives told them to get together and talk to each other and they were like, “What would I do that for? He’s my competitor.” Then they got together and they’re best friends. They talk on the phone every day. Your lives are so parallel.
[00:09:00] CO: See, I would be that way, because I do not have an ego where that would intimidate me at all or I’d think that we’re competitors. I think we both have the same passion.
[00:09:09] KM: You’d probably get together and feed off of each other and grow your ideas. You’d have somebody, like-mined person. How did you end up in Little Rock, Arkansas?
[00:09:18] CO: Well, coming from Connecticut, I moved just a few times. We moved to Atlanta, Georgia for a year and a half and then from there we moved to Little Rock, and we lived in Little Rock for about 3-1/2 years and then we moved to San Diego.
[00:09:32] KM: Good night nurse.
[00:09:32] CO: We kept going west.
[00:09:34] KM: Why did you daddy – Was it all for career?
[00:09:37] CO: Every time he moved he got a better, better job.
[00:09:40] KM: Now, let’s talk about Botanica Gardens and how did it come to be, and did you make that word up? Is it Botanica.
[00:09:48] CO: Botanica without the L.
[00:09:49] KM: You did make that word up.
[00:09:50] CO: Well, it’s been around, but yeah.
[00:09:54] KM: You’re like a rapper. You just make some words. What year did you start Botanica?
[00:09:58] CO: I started Botanica in 2003.
[00:10:01] KM: Oh, okay. What services? Why did you start it? What came about? How did the events happen?
[00:10:07] CO: Well, originally I had Horticare, which was I was in business with my dad. We were both were 50-50 in that.
[00:10:12] KM: Your business was Horticare?
[00:10:14] CO: Yeah.
[00:10:15] KM: I did not –
[00:10:15] CO: It was called Ramos Landscape and then I changed it to Horticare.
[00:10:19] KM: I remember that. Where was it?
[00:10:21] CO: It was on Stagecoach, which my brother now owns. He still has Horticare.
[00:10:26] KM: You’re exactly like P. Allen Smith.
[00:10:29] CO: I know. It’s spooky because –
[00:10:31] KM: I’m putting you all together.
[00:10:32] CO: I know.
[00:10:32] KM: We’re going to have dinner. Put it on the calendar. I’m getting you all together. Go ahead. Go ahead.
[00:10:36] CO: I would do it. Anyhow, long story short is we were to open a second location, and we did in the Heights area, where we’re looking for kind of a garden boutique, a little bit more California fun and funky kind of thing. I also had two partners at that time we started it, and now I’m the only owner of it.
[00:10:55] KM: Did you have a falling out?
[00:10:57] CO: No. No. No. It’s my passion. It wasn’t their passion.
[00:11:01] KM: Right.
[00:11:03] CO: So it worked out.
[00:11:03] KM: You’re also a decorator known for your use of color and produce a today’s home segment that is seen in 33 states. You’re a lifestyle expert. What is that?
[00:11:14] CO: That show?
[00:11:14] KM: Aha!
[00:11:14] CO: It’s called Today’s Home with Chris H. Olsen and it’s lifestyle segments and it’s anything to do with your lifestyle. I mean, from cooking, to gardening, to interior design, all different things. I mean, I just talk about whatever.
[00:11:29] KM: It’s how many minutes?
[00:11:31] CO: Well, there are segments. They’re like minute and a half, two-minute segments. What happens is different stations, different networks, purchase them and they use them wherever they want to. I had a friend in Florida we’re just talking about who just was getting a haircut and heard my voice and NBC was using it. It just depends whoever uses it and buys it.
[00:11:53] KM: How do you get people to pick that up?
[00:11:56] CO: I start it with channel 11.
[00:11:58] KM: In The Garden.
[00:11:59] CO: In The Garden. They purchase those segments. We produce them, me and Scott Romine, who’s my camera guy. We produce them. They bought them and they used it for fillers in their shows. Because of that, then one of our general manager from here moved and he started showing it in North Carolina [inaudible 00:12:18] and it just got –
[00:12:20] KM: Now, I’ve seen you live on In The Garden, but you actually do –
[00:12:24] CO: No. I pre-tape segments.
[00:12:26] KM: Oh! I just think you’re live In The Garden maybe.
[00:12:27] CO: Oh, no. When I’m at channel 11, that is all live except for I do The Vine now. I’m privileged that they gave me that. I do one Thursday a month live. The rest of them are pre-taped.
[00:12:40] KM: How do you find time to garden, design, entertain in your home, be on TV? Because going on those segments takes preparation.
[00:12:51] KM: It’s not like you’re just going to show up.
[00:12:53] CO: No. I mean, you got to make those projects and make sure they work first and then you have to recreate them on the air.
[00:12:59] KM: How much do you sleep?
[00:13:01] CO: You know what? I only need about 5 hours of sleep.
[00:13:03] KM: There it is.
[00:13:06] CO: I’m an early riser, because I hate to waste the morning. I wake up at 4:30 or so. I workout first.
[00:13:14] KM: You look like it.
[00:13:14] CO: Then I go and do my thing. But by 9:30, I’m in bed reading. But when I fall asleep, I am dead to the world.
[00:13:25] KM: You also have a furniture and plant brand called –
[00:13:28] CO: Jhemajang. Well, you’re talking about making it words.
[00:13:32] KM: This is the weirdest word. You’re going to have to spell it for everybody.
[00:13:33] CO: Okay. Jhemajang is JH, the J is silent. So J-H –
[00:13:37] KM: Yeah, thanks for nothing. Thanks for nothing, Chris.
[00:13:41] CO: It looks good. So it’s J-H-E-M-A-J-A-N-G, Jhemajang.
[00:13:50] GM: I love it.
[00:13:51] KM: No! No! No, you do not.
[00:13:53] CO: It rolls of the – It’s going to be in the dictionary one day.
[00:13:56] KM: Okay.
[00:13:56] GM: Jehamajang, I’m here for it.
[00:13:57] CO: I just started using it. It was funny, I was filling for leisure arts when they were doing all their DVDs and I was doing a couple of DVD lines for them, and we had a producer that came down I think from California, and she was exhausted. Anyhow, so we’re filming, and I said, “All you got to do is just Jhemajang it together and it just all works.”
I swear, I’ve been using it for years and never knew I made it up. Until that point she stopped in the middle of the camera, “What in the world is Jhemajang?” She might have used others words because we’re all just tired. I said, “Jhemajang –” I realized that was the first time that I realized that I made it up. If you talk to my friends, they will tell you I make up a lot of words.
[00:14:40] KM: Why does it start with a J?
[00:14:42] CO: I don’t know. It just happened that way. Jhemajang, this is how I define it, and I trademarked it. That’s my plant line and my furniture line with trademark. Jhemajang is the art of mixing it up. It’s taking items that are related and unrelated and mixing them up in such a fun, funky way that it just works. That’s Jhemajang. We all Jhemejang. We just didn’t know it.
[00:15:05] KM: Sounds like a dance move to me.
[00:15:08] CO: Do you ever get creatively stifled where it’s just to keep coming up with ideas?
[00:15:13] KM: Not yet.
[00:15:15] CO: Really?
[00:15:15] KM: Do I worry about it? Yes.
[00:15:16] CO: Do you really?
[00:15:17] KM: I really do. I’ve learned my most creative time is when I fly in the plane. No distractions. There’s nothing there but you, and I take what I call my thinking book.
[00:15:30] CO: Are you alone on that plane?
[00:15:32] KM: Yeah. No. No.
[00:15:34] CO: Well, I mean like with other passengers.
[00:15:36] KM: Yeah, and you say there’s no distractions and you’re sitting –
[00:15:39] CO: Well, I mean, there’s no distractions because you’re just sitting there. Take a nap in the beginning. Then I have my book and I start doodling. Then it just comes out of me.
[00:15:47] KM: All the people around you aren’t driving you nuts?
[00:15:49] CO: No. I block them out.
[00:15:51] KM: Wow! I wish I could do that. So that’s your most creative, and you get your book out and you just start writing stuff down.
[00:15:57] CO: Yup, and then I’ll design Christmas things, clients, places, my home. It just pops in my head. Like the logo for Plantopia, I love that. I was going to hire someone to do it, to design it, and it was too expensive. I was at the [inaudible 00:16:10] and it hit me, yin-yang, the leaves. Two leaves go in different directions and that’s how I did the logo.
I tell myself, “Don’t worry about it. It will come to you when you least expect it.” Usually that’s when it happens, but I have to write it down. Sometimes I’ll forget.
[00:16:26] KM: Oh yeah. I’ve been to your place. You got fairy gardens, pot faces, air plants. I don’t even know what those are.
[00:16:34] CO: Tillandsias. They grow in trees, on the bark. Not much of a root system.
[00:16:40] KM: And Arkansas orchids.
[00:16:41] CO: Yeah. We have Arkansas grower of orchids. But the Botanica Garden is just very well-known for their orchids, and we ship from California. I mean, you order it that afternoon. They’re there that morning. That’s how fast it comes. They’re fresh.
[00:16:55] KM: Orchids have an interesting story that goes behind them. They used to be worth thousands of dollars. People used to collect it. The only people that could get them were rich people.
[00:17:06] CO: Tropicals were the sign of wealth. If you had palm trees and [inaudible 00:17:09], it was a wealthy home, and now everybody has that.
[00:17:13] KM: All right. You told us how you came to own Plantopia Home and Garden Center, but you didn’t tell us where the name came from.
[00:17:21] CO: Just thought of utopia and then because plants to me are yin-yang type of thing. So I just came up with Plantopia.
[00:17:28] KM: How many employees do you have?
[00:17:31] CO: I have probably with all the companies a little over 50.
[00:17:36] KM: Who hires and manages them?
[00:17:37] CO: I have great managers.
[00:17:40] KM: Okay.
[00:17:40] CO: My maintenance division, I have a residential manager. I have a commercial manager. They hire their employees. I hire the managers. Then each store, each managers hires the employees.
[00:17:55] KM: What’s the difference between your Little Rock store, Botanica Gardens, and your North Little Rock store, Plantopia?
[00:18:00] CO: Botanica Gardens, it’s a little bit more of a boutique store. It’s bigger than people think it is, because when you walk in it and you go outside, you can’t believe how large it is. Since because it’s smaller and in a condensed area in the Heights, it has very cool, fun, funky thing, a lot of one of a kind things. Then Plantopia is acres. So it’s much larger and it gets more into all the different types of plant materials, shrubs, and trees.
[00:18:29] KM: Bushes.
[00:18:30] CO: Yeah, and stuff like that. Botanica has some, but we specialize in more specialty plants there.
[00:18:36] KM: Speak to the challenges that faces a company when you have perishable merchandize and it’s seasonal. I mean –
[00:18:41] CO: That’s the part I hate.
[00:18:40] KM: I mean, you are just ready. I mean, how do you prepare for slow season?
[00:18:47] CO: You do reserves.
[00:18:50] KM: What does that mean?
[00:18:51] CO: Cash reserves. You do that. Really, mostly services. Botanica has a big size landscape firm and maintenance. That’s year-round. That is saving grace technically. That’s where I make really more of my money is doing that.
[00:19:08] KM: What about gearing up for the busy season? Your managers do that? They’re like – Do you go to market? Buy everything?
[00:19:15] CO: I’m the only one that goes to market. I just know what I like, and I buy – We have similar items in both stores, but then they also carry different items.
[00:19:24] KM: Looks like you’re into butterflies this year.
[00:19:26] CO: My manager just said that at Plantopia. He said, “How many butterflies did you buy?” I go, “Apparently my gut said it’s the year of the butterflies.”
[00:19:34] KM: It’s pretty.
[00:19:34] CO: Let’s hope so.
[00:19:36] KM: Then you got a lot of faces, pot faces.
[00:19:38] CO: Yes. That is a big thing and are really expanded that line. We sell lots of pot faces. They have personality that make you happy.
[00:19:48] KM: All right. This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with landscape designer, entrepreneur, lifestyle expert, Mr. Chris Olsen. We’ll be answering gardening questions and talk about his recent renovation project. In 2016, Chris bought the Justin Matthews Jr. home in North Little Rock, Arkansas called the Edgemont. He has since rehabbed it to create a spectacular masterpiece of this 1927 Spanish colonial home, and you can see it. We’ll hear about its public usage for weddings and corporate meetings. Can’t wait to talk about the renovate.
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[00:20:25] KM: You’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Mr. Chris Olsen, owner of the historic Edgemont Home and founder of the Botanica Gardens and Plantopia Home and Center in Central Arkansas.
Before this, we’ve talked about the business of owning your own plant store and the risk-taking that he does and a little bit about education and how Chris Olsen became passionate about what he’s doing. But let’s talk gardening tips now. Changing for the season is a lot of work. Knowing when to prune, when to fertilize is tricky business. I just burnt a plant up in my house during – With Miracle-Gro this past –
[00:22:19] CO: Which means you got to buy a new one now, right? See, it’s not always a bad thing.
[00:22:22] KM: What a business owner right there. But pruning is tricky, because you can cut the buds off, the flowers off. How do you recommend people keep up with that? Do you have the gardening calendar?
[00:22:37] CO: Well, yes. Of course, we have the website now. I mean, not the website, but the internet, which gets you a lot of month to month things to do. But there’s a general rule. When it comes to pruning, usually if it’s a spring bloomer, an azalea, anything that blooms in the spring, you’d only prune it after it blooms and starts to flesh out, never before. Usually you stop pruning that in July, because if you do that and you trip them back in July, they still have a month or two to grow back and they’ll bloom off that growth. But if you bloom them too late in the season, and since they bloom on new wood and new growth, then you sacrifice the flowers. That’s the general rule.
[00:23:16] KM: So spring flowers –
[00:23:17] CO: After they bloom and flesh out.
[00:23:20] KM: Only put flowers on new growth.
[00:23:23] CO: Most do. Some bloom on – They have new hybrids now that do both.
[00:23:25] KM: What about winter? What about [inaudible 00:23:26]? Because that’s what everybody is doing right now.
[00:23:30] CO: Sure. I mean, you can prune those in the south majority any time of the year. Just don’t prune them heavily in the winter time, because if you – Remember, it’s an evergreen hollies and they produce what? Food with the green leaves. If you cut them way back, there’s no way for them to produce any food because they’re not going to flush out for a couple of months and the plant could starve that way. The general rule is you can prune them lightly, but not too heavily.
[00:23:54] KM: My red tip – No. No. What’s the – Nandinas that I have.
[00:23:59] CO: Yes.
[00:23:59] KM: Those I think you have to prune right now, because they put their berries on.
[00:24:04] CO: Yes, correct. You would sacrifice – Once they bloom, if you trim them before that, then they don’t have berries.
[00:24:10] KM: It’s spring. What should we all be doing right now?
[00:24:14] CO: This is the time to get your yards ready. I mean, you should have by now cut your [inaudible 00:24:18] back, great myrtles back. It’s not too late for some things. This is the time to clean out the leaves and re-bark your beds before everything fleshes out like crazy. It’s easier to re-bark before plants flesh out.
[00:24:31] KM: Oh! We should be cleaning our beds.
[00:24:33] CO: Oh yeah.
[00:24:33] KM: Putting down new bark. Why is bark so good for gardens?
[00:24:37] CO: It’s organic. It’s rots. It really does condition a bed. It has two things. It has a couple of things. First of all, it conditions the soil overtime, that’s why you want to mulch it every year as it rots. Put it on thick. We put it on at least three inches thick because if you put a light, it’s going to be gone in a couple of months with all of our humidity and rain. It also keeps weeds at bay because it smothers weeds out in seeds. Weed seeds germinate with light, and if you bury them in mulch, they won’t germinate at all, and it conserves moisture. It really does cut down on water.
[00:25:09] KM: Is there a mulch that you prefer? Which one?
[00:25:11] CO: Yeah. There’s a hardwood mulch, and there’s double hammered and single hammered and so on. At Plantopia we sell one that’s a single hammered but it’s not too chunky, but it’s not too fine. A lot of people like fine mulch, because if it’s already really fine, it’s going to rot very quickly and it washes very quickly. You want something with a little bit more chunk to it, and that’s a single hammered mulch hardwood.
[00:25:34] KM: Single hammered? What’s that mean? Is that cedar? What is that?
[00:25:37] CO: They turn it at the lumber yards. They turn it once or twice, which means that it’s still chunky and it’s not fine. The more they churn it in their – Whatever you call those things.
[00:25:46] KM: We used to all get cedar mulch. You can’t hardly find that anymore.
[00:25:49] CO: You can find it somewhere. It just costs more.
[00:25:53] KM: Why did we quit using cedar mulch? I thought that kind of chased bugs away also?
[00:25:57] CO: Well, there’s some truth to that and there’s some myth to that. People think hardwood mulch actually brings insects and stuff like that. Any organic matter can, even cedar mulch. But I think it’s more the cost and availability of it. Yeah, hardware mulch is more available from lumber yards.
[00:26:14] KM: Is cedar in – Is it threatened or something? I mean, we ran out of cedar trees? Endangered?
[00:26:21] CO: I don’t know if – To be honest, I don’t know. I really think it’s costs. If you need 12 yards of mulch, you’re going to go for the cheaper one. Saves money.
[00:26:30] KM: My husband is going to be mad about this question, because he’s a grass man, but are grass yards [inaudible 00:26:37]?
[00:26:38] CO: No. My other house, I hadn’t a lawn. That was only because I had too many trees. But this house I have a much bigger lawn. No. No. Lawns are coming back.
[00:26:50] KM: Takes a lot of watering.
[00:26:51] CO: Takes a lot of watering.
[00:26:51] KM: Of course, that doesn’t matter in Arkansas.
[00:26:53] CO: Technically, a lawn is less maintenance than a flower bed, because you just mow it. As beds, you have to weed it all the time. You have to mulch them. You have to trim what’s in it and it can be less maintenance. If you have a chemical program, they’ll have weeds in it. It’s less maintenance.
[00:27:11] KM: I have a chemical program for my husband’s, St. Augustine and we put this broadleaf, that weed killer, broadleaf wood killer, ended up killing the trees.
[00:27:26] CO: You have to be very careful with chemicals. There is what’s called chemical drift, and the fumes of it which can injure plants. We’ve had clients’ houses – Last year, for some reason, we had a lot of clients whose plants were mutated. Their oak trees were mutated. Everything around it, all the bushes around the trees were mutated.
[00:27:45] KM: What do you mean mutated?
[00:27:47] CO: The leaves curled up and you can tell something was wrong and they’re defoliating, and majority of the time, that’s a chemical drift. Somewhere, a neighbor sprayed or a chemical company sprayed and it drifted in the wind and it can be very toxic to other plants if it’s not applied correctly.
[00:28:05] KM: Well, I went to the extension office and found out that trees with broadleaf and that when you put down a broadleaf killer in your yard over and over and over, you end up killing your trees.
[00:28:19] CO: Yeah.
[00:28:21] KM: How far out should you mulch your tree to kind of prevent that from happening?
[00:28:26] CO: In the best world, you should come out about 5-foot or so to the tree line – To the tree drip line of a tree. That’s ideally would be the best, but that would be big tree rings. It’s all how it’s applied when it’s applied, if it’s applied correctly and what you apply. For me, technically, I think it’s better to hire a professional company to spray than for you to do it yourself, because for me, I don’t like to deal with chemicals. I just don’t. We need them, but I don’t like to touch them.
[00:28:56] KM: What do you get asked about the most?
[00:29:00] CO: Growing marijuana. I’m just kidding. Just kidding. I haven’t asked that though.
[00:29:09] KM: I didn’t expect that. I had like bees, chickens, flower garden, vegetable garden, marijuana garden.
[00:29:15] CO: Oh! What would be the – Oh god! That’s a good question. Probably most what plants provide the most color and what kind of color or combos look the best.
[00:29:24] KM: Okay. What?
[00:29:25] CO: Everyone has a different flavor, but I believe that if you add three colors together, like a seasonal color it complements each other and brings out more color. If you start to go too much beyond that, it looks confusing to the eye.
[00:29:38] KM: More than three. Don’t do more than three.
[00:29:39] CO: Well, you can. I mean, I’m addicted to plants. So I love color. But usually when I design, yeah, a certain area, I try to stick with three colors.
[00:29:47] KM: Do you like for – Let’s say for spring, what’s your favorite color for spring?
[00:29:52] CO: It’s hard to limit myself to color.
[00:29:54] KM: Three. Give me three.
[00:29:55] CO: Of course, yellow is my favorite colors.
[00:29:58] KM: For summer?
[00:29:59] CO: Yeah.
[00:30:00] KM: For spring.
[00:30:00] CO: I love orange. Orange for summer. I love hot oranges and stuff for summer. I like rich, hard, intense colors for summer and more pastely stuff, soft colors for the spring time. I love pinks.
[00:30:14] KM: I love pink.
[00:30:15] CO: It’s a guy color now too, and so I do.
[00:30:17] KM: That’s all I want to plant, is pink [inaudible 00:30:18].
[00:30:18] CO: I really do love pinks.
[00:30:20] KM: I don’t like red in the summer. It makes me hot.
[00:30:24] CO: You know, red is not one of my favorite colors when it comes to plants anything about it just now. I don’t really buy many red plants. I don’t like red pansies. I think they’re dull. They don’t have a lot of – They’re not vibrant. I always add yellow, because yellow is the one color that seems to complement all of the colors.
[00:30:42] KM: Oh, interesting.
[00:30:42] CO: It really highlights everything.
[00:30:45] KM: I would have never thought to put yellow and pink, but I bet yellow, pink and purple would be really pretty.
[00:30:50] CO: Beautiful.
[00:30:50] KM: Because purple and yellow are lovely together.
[00:30:52] CO: I think yellow if the first color your eye is attracted to.
[00:30:55] KM: Really?
[00:30:55] CO: You notice it. That’s why I use it in commercial properties because it brings people into their signage and it brings them to the signage, so maybe they’re going to rent apartment. If they rent apartment, what are they going to do? Spend more money on landscaping. It all works out.
[00:31:07] KM: He’s always thinking. Do you prefer plants in pots or in the ground? Because you use a lot of pots, and what do you think about that?
[00:31:16] CO: Both. I love containers. I like big pots, because the larger the pot, the less maintenance it usually is, because less water you have to do, the better the plants do. I shove and cram my pots full of plants.
[00:31:33] KM: In a big pot.
[00:31:34] CO: Oh ,yeah. Bigger the better. What they always say, it’s true.
[00:31:38] KM: What’s the number one mistake home gardeners make?
[00:31:41] CO: Watering probably. Here what happens. They can’t read a plant. You have to read a plant. If it’s wilting, what do you do? You water it. If it’s still wilting, you water it again, and then still you water it again. Well, it’s drowning. If a plant doesn’t pop up and it’s sill wilting, it’s overwatered. Once a plant is overwatered, what happens is the root system is suffocating. Once the plant starts to suffocate, it usually never will rebound. But if it dries out and not too bad, but dries out, it usually can rebound. You rather underwater than overwater.
[00:32:13] KM: Interesting. I water my house plants once a week except for the orchid. I water that orchid and the Christmas cactus once a month, and then everything else once a week.
[00:32:26] CO: It comes with time. Sunday is my chore day. Sundays, I water all my plants. It takes me about two hours to water my plants. I got a lot of plants, but I can read them. If it looks moist, I must just give it a little bit of water. But then you have other house plants that dry out every week and you have to give them more. You just have to watch what they’re telling you. If they’re starting to defoliating and they’re dry too much, they’re stressing too much. You need to water it more.
[00:32:49] KM: That is so true. Some people cannot read a plant at all.
[00:32:56] CO: So people are intimated by it. We have moisture meters. It’s great. You stick it in there. It tells you if it’s dry, moist or wet. It helps out a lot of people.
[00:33:04] KM: Climate change. Is there anything we’re doing different? This year has been exceptionally rainy and it seems like it has been a lot lately.
[00:33:11] CO: Well, I can tell you, so many people don’t believe in climate change, and I can’t say scientifically. But I remember when I first move to Arkansas in ‘92, I couldn’t wear shorts usually past mid-October because it really started freezing frost. Now I wear almost mid to end of November. So something has changed.
[00:33:32] KM: Well, it’s so wet this season, and it’s been so wet for so many – Every year, it’s been really, really wet.
[00:33:38] CO: Yes. It’s hard for me in my business, because when it’s cloudy and rainy, they don’t come shopping. But I look at it this way. I much rather have too much water than too little water.
[00:33:50] KM: So you’re not changing anything about the way you’re doing business based on the – Has our zone changed? Has Arkansas planting zone changed?
[00:34:00] CO: We’re 7 and we’re kind of like 7-1/2 here. They changed it one time to 8 and they brought it back down.
[00:34:10] KM: 8 being warmer?
[00:34:11] CO: Yeah. What has happened is this is what has changed. Everything comes in earlier now. You never bought until mid-April. That was the way it is. That changed not only because of the weather, but then you have all these discount stores and everyone is trying to push plants out to get the market share in the beginning. It’s like Christmas. It starts in July now.
Well, technically, our last day of frost in Central Arkansas is historically April 1th. We could still have another frost. Now, it doesn’t look like it this winter, because we haven’t had a frost in almost four weeks. It’s a very mild winter. But everything has getting earlier. We’re pushing it a little too much, and we have to push it, because everybody else is pushing it.
[00:34:51] KM: Can we put our plants out on the porch now?
[00:34:53] CO: If it’s a covered porch, yes. I think we’re okay. I’m taking my big palms and stuff for being delivered from the greenhouses tomorrow to my house. I think we’re going to be okay. But there is always that chance. We may have a frost, but I don’t think it’s going to be a low ground frost.
[00:35:06] KM: Grandmother always said never plant before Easter, and Easter is always based around the moon. So it changes.
[00:35:14] CO: She might know something.
[00:35:15] KM: She might. Grandmother also said –
[00:35:17] CO: But no one’s listened to grandma right now.
[00:35:18] KM: Nobody listens to grandmothers anymore. Here’s something else you might disagree with and then we’ve got to move on, because I want to talk about your house. Grandmother used to say that when you plant a plant in the ground, that you should always fill the hole with water to help with shock.
[00:35:31] CO: I don’t do that, because you can also drown a plant. But I do believe that you need to water plant thoroughly, and I used what’s called root hormone B1, a root stimulator, which helps heal the roots and gives them nutrients, etc., for a plant to really rebound fast.
[00:35:45] KM: Oh, root stimulator. That’s good stuff.
[00:35:47] CO: Yeah.
[00:35:48] KM: I just want to tell everybody before we move on that you’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and that I’m speaking today with Mr. Chris Olsen, owner of the historic Edgemont Home and founder of Botanica Gardens and Plantopia Home and Garden Center in Central Arkansas. He’s a lifestyle specialist. He’s got a great Facebook presence. He’s got 5,000 followers. He post live on it every week. I joined today. I recommend all of y’all join today. Stay tuned. More to come.
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[00:37:09] KM: Now, first, before we move on to this question, I want to preface this segment by telling our listeners that you bought the vacated 1927 Edgemont Home on Skyline Drive in the historic Park Hill neighborhood in North Little Rock, Arkansas, and that the style of the architecture is Spanish colonial. Let’s start with the home’s history. Can you tell us about it?
[00:37:32] CO: Well, it was built in 1927. It was Justin Matthews Jr.’s home, personal home, and they actually start at my neighborhood in Park Hill, which was called Edgemont, and that’s why the house is called Justin Matthews Jr., which it still is, but I call it the Edgemont House. That’s just my short-term for it and because of the history of the neighborhood
[00:37:55] KM: Edgemont neighborhood was to rival Edgehill neighborhood in Little Rock?
[00:37:59] CO: Well, yes. The street in Little Rock is Edgehill. So Edgemont was supposed to be wealthy or wealthy street and they were trying to bring that to North Little Rock. Of course, when they built the house, my house was the first house built in the neighborhood. One of the first houses built in the neighborhood, and of course soon afterwards, the Depression came and that changed everything in the neighborhood.
[00:38:22] KM: Did they lose their home?
[00:38:23] CO: They lost their home.
[00:38:25] KM: How many owners does it had?
[00:38:26] CO: I’m the 9th owner.
[00:38:27] KM: Did you worry about that?
[00:38:28] CO: Well, some neighbors call it the White Elephant, because there people have died in the house from the last owner, and all of them young. One was 23. One was in her 50s. The other in the 40s.
[00:38:39] KM: Are you checking your pulse every day? I mean, your blood pressure?
[00:38:41] CO: Well, here’s the funny thing. When I started working on the house, you’re talking about stress. I had a major colon infection, which the doctor said you have too much stress. That’s when I learned to reduce my stress and I thought, “Oh my God!” because I never get sick. It is happening. But since then, everything has been good.
[00:39:00] KM: You have had anybody come in, like a priest come in?
[00:39:03] CO: No.
[00:39:04] KM: Why not? I have one.
[00:39:05] CO: I was so busy with work in the house. I never thought about the deaths in the house being haunted, and people always told me the house is haunted, until I almost moved in and then it dawned on me what if – Well, I can’t afford to move now. I put too much into the house. I had a slumber party the first night because I was not going to live in the house, sleep in the house alone the first night, and the house is very quiet. There’s nothing that gives me that vibe.
[00:39:33] KM: That’s nice, but just to get – If there is any juju – You said you took your mother over there.
[00:39:39] CO: I took my mom over there in the very beginning before I bought it and she said – She looks at me and she said, “No. No.” It just would – I love the house I lived in before. I built it. It just pondered my mind, and I knew I would move only I knew because a house would find me. It wasn’t for sale. It just pondered me, and I had to have it. Somehow in God’s will, everything worked out the way it was supposed to be.
[00:40:06] KM: So you ended up moving.
[00:40:08] CO: I bought it in June of 2016. It took months to negotiate with the daughters. I almost backed out. Then it all worked out and then I moved in October 2016. We did massive renovation with my guys from Botanica afterhours.
[00:40:23] KM: What’s the first thing you did?
[00:40:25] CO: First thing we did – Well, the outside was the worst of the house, because the house has no eaves. It had no gutters for 27 years. So the water run down the house. We had to rebuild the majority of the windows.
[00:40:35] KM: Oh!
[00:40:36] CO: We started on the outside first to get it dry and then we moved on the inside.
[00:40:40] KM: I’m surprised you didn’t keep the front doors on.
[00:40:43] CO: That wasn’t there. There was no front door on it. Now, I have pictures from the 60s.
[00:40:47] KM: That I saw online.
[00:40:48] CO: Yeah. If there used to be lanterns and everything in front, all that was gone. There was no light fixtures except for one broken lantern at the front door.
[00:40:56] KM: You used to entertain in your other house.
[00:41:00] CO: Yeah, all the time.
[00:41:02] KM: Before the show, I just tripped across a video you did of taking people touring to your house and you entertained there.
[00:41:09] CO: Yeah. It was only 2000 square foot. It was in West Little Rock, and I did bus tours in every – I didn’t do weddings or anything like that, but I did bus tours.
[00:41:17] KM: For people to come see your 2000 square foot home.
[00:41:19] CO: Yeah. Well, it was the yard. It was amazing, because when you came down you drive through my neighborhood and you think, “Does Chris live here?” because it’s just a regular neighbor. Then you’re in a cul de sac, and my house was hidden. All you could see was one garage door and no one knew where they’re going and it didn’t make sense where they were. When they got out and walk through the gates and into the house in the backyard, it was almost an acre. It changed everyone’s mind.
[00:41:46] KM: What do your neighbors think when a bus load of people pull up?
[00:41:48] CO: Well, I had great neighbors in the cul de sac.
[00:41:50] KM: I’ll say.
[00:41:51] CO: But that’s why I ended up moving, because the City of Little Rock was trying to prevent me from having tours. The funny thing was there are Little Rock tours. Anyhow, because it’s a residential neighborhood. So when I bought the edge of my house, that was a concern of mine in the neighbor. So we’re very conscientious of the neighbors and parking. But the City of North Little Rock had an emergency legislation of meeting and voted into law that anyone in North Little Rock that has a historical home with certain regulations can open it up for tours.
[00:42:23] KM: Did they do that because of you?
[00:42:24] CO: I think that was a big influence.
[00:42:26] KM: I’m so glad you saved this house. Tell everybody how many square feet it is.
[00:42:32] CO: I closed parts of it. It’s almost 8000 square feet.
[00:42:35] KM: Can you imagine taking care of an 8000 square foot home? How many bathrooms does it has?
[00:42:39] CO: Six.
[00:42:41] KM: Bedrooms.
[00:42:42] CO: It has 4 upstairs.
[00:42:43] KM: The outside when the house was built, there was no such thing as landscaping.
[00:42:48] CO: No. It was just a hedge against the front of the house.
[00:42:51] KM: If people had great myrtle or had a great myrtle or had azaleas on their front yard, it was like, “Oh! Look at the azaleas.” Today –
[00:43:01] CO: It’s pretty packed. People call it the North Little Rock botanical garden, because – Technically, I got every type of plant you could imagine.
[00:43:10] KM: You do tours.
[00:43:11] CO: Yeah.
[00:43:12] KM: You do weddings.
[00:43:15] CO: We do lots of weddings.
[00:43:16] KM: How do people find out about it?
[00:43:19] CO: Word of mouth now. Of course, we advertise and stuff like that.
[00:43:22] KM: Got a website?
[00:43:22] CO: Yeah, it’s theedgemonthouse.com.
[00:43:25] KM: The. The edgemonthouse.com. I recommend go there, take his virtual tour. It will blow you away. I can’t wait to come to a party there sometime and see it.
[00:43:36] CO: I’ll have you. We’re doing a tour in May, I think May 9th assuming everything is okay with everything that’s going on today, and that’s a spring tour.
[00:43:44] KM: Oh, right.
[00:43:45] CO: It’s on the website.
[00:43:46] KM: If I wanted to get a landscape design from your team, what’s the first thing I would do?
[00:43:50] CO: I am the only landscape designer at Botanica Gardens. You just call Botanica Gardens and it’s a free appointment and I come out and meet you and we just go from there.
[00:44:00] KM: Out of all the stuff you do, which seems like way too much to make money at, which one is your most profitable?
[00:44:08] CO: Landscaping.
[00:44:09] KM: The design or –
[00:44:11] CO: Installation of it.
[00:44:12] KM: The installation of landscaping. You got a great team. Get in there and get it done. Chris, thank you for sharing your story. I have a gift for you.
[00:44:18] CO: Thank you. You do?
[00:44:20] KM: It’s a garden banner.
[00:44:22] CO: Oh! Right! Oh! Perfect. Thank you. I love it.
[00:44:26] KM: Look, you have to have a garden banner stand.
[00:44:29] CO: Okay. Yes. Because I was going to say, “How am I going to hang this?’
[00:44:32] KM: Right here.
[00:44:32] CO: All right.
[00:44:32] KM: Garden banner stand.
[00:44:34] CO: I’m going to hand it with pride.
[00:44:36] KM: There you go.
[00:44:37] CO: Thank you.
[00:44:38] KM: You’re welcome. I really enjoyed talking to you. I can’t wait to see what you do next.
[00:44:44] CO: You never know, because I don’t know.
[00:44:47] KM: Best of luck.
[00:44:47] CO: Thank you.
[00:44:48] KM: You’re welcome, because your continued success is so much fun. I love it. Gray, who’s coming next week, or is it not really next week? I think it’s in two weeks.
[00:44:56] GM: Mm-hmm. We’re doing a rerun next week, and then in two weeks we’ll have a new interview with Governor Mike Bibby.
[00:45:01] KM: We’re going to do it –
[00:45:03] GM: Over the telephone.
[00:45:04] KM: I know.
[00:45:04] GM: Yeah, phone interview.
[00:45:06] KM: Yeah.
[00:45:06] GM: It’d be great.
[00:45:06] KM: Yeah, keeping our distance.
[00:45:09 GM: Yeah.
[00:45:10] KM: To all, thank you for spending time with us. We hope you’ve heard or learned something that’s been inspiring or enlightening, and that it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence or your life. I’m Kerry McCoy and I’ll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[00:45:29] GM: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today’s show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio show and choose today’s guest. If you’d like to sponsor this show or any show, contact me, email@example.com. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Stayed informed of exciting upcoming guests by subscribing to our YouTube Channel or podcast wherever you’d like to listen.
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