When Jade Adams moved from Nashville to Knoxville to start her pre-med education at the University of Tennessee, she had a career plan that would eventually position her in the ER. Upon graduating in 2019 with a degree in microbiology, that’s exactly where she ended up, working as an ER tech with plans to continue with medical school.
However, one unforeseen event, followed by a pandemic, shifted the trajectory of her life entirely.
“My boyfriend at the time was in a car wreck, and we got an ambulance to the hospital where I was working,” she says. He didn’t survive, which made working at the ER more traumatic than she could bear. “I was applying to med school, but there was just too much death, honestly. It wasn’t bringing me any joy. So, I took a year off. I called it my gap year, and I started doing photography, which was completely different.”
Just as she got a handful of proposals, weddings, and graduations photographed, the pandemic hit. People stopped getting married, and graduations were going online. Once again, Jade’s plan shifted.
“Things were really locked down, and everyone was cleaning out their houses, and one thing I knew I needed to clean out was my plants. I had over 300 plants in my sunroom,” she says. The first plant she parented was a Pothos leftover from her boyfriend’s funeral, a little life she was determined to keep.
“I’d buy a plant when I was bored, when I was happy, when I was traveling. It just snowballed. Whatever plant was out there, I needed it. Once you know how to keep them alive, it’s a fast-growing hobby,” she says. “So, I made a Facebook post that I was having a sunroom sale, and people commented and followed. All the plants sold quickly. I was using my new camera and new skills, and it just took off.”
Jade’s passion for her plants was obvious, as each one she gave away had a story and, often, a name. It was less of a sale and more of an adoption process. (“I bought him in Michigan, and his name is Fred.”) Soon, what started as a collection clean-out morphed into a brick-and-mortar shop on Broadway called Oglewood Avenue, The Modern Houseplant Boutique, which boasts more than 16,000 followers on Instagram and 4,000 on Facebook.
“It’s been a whirlwind because I came in with no business experience. I had to Google how to do sales tax, which I do not recommend,” she says, laughing. “I had a vision, but I had no clue about budgeting or how to have employees. I’m still learning how to be a business owner. In the beginning, I was repotting plants and labeling them until midnight, but now it’s answering emails and getting systems together. I have six employees. It’s been 365 days of learning something new.”
Ultimately, the plants still bring her a lot of joy, and seeing customers leave with their new adoptions is icing on the cake. Jade keeps a good balance of tried-and-true, hardy plants – perfect for first-timers – with a rotating selection of plants that require a careful touch from a green thumb. The store is restocked on a weekly basis, and no one leaves the store without instructions. Plant education is key.
“One customer started with a Pothos and now she has 35 plants. She started out as a novice, but people get on their own plant journey. Education sets us apart,” says Jade.
In addition to selling plants, existing plant owners can take advantage of Oglewood Avenue’s repotting service, which is particularly helpful when folks want to repot heirloom plants and are nervous about it. Jade also enjoys helping businesses and homeowners with interior design.
“If you have an office but don’t want to design it, I’ll come in and we’ll talk about what you want, and we’ll deck out your space. We’ll take the guesswork out of it,” she says. “We did a little bit of design in 2021, but it’s a main focus for 2022.”
While some customers are new to plant keeping, nostalgia brings in a fair amount of people.
“When older customers come into the store, they’ll say, ‘Plants are back!’ or ‘I had this as a kid!’ I always ask people and they’ll say plants gave them something to care for during the pandemic. It gave people a hobby, something to care about, and [plants] connect us to nature,” she says. “They give us a sense of peace and comfort.”
Jade’s Top Plant Tips:
Resist overwatering, which is the No. 1 way to kill your plants. Most plants need water once every other week. Plants handle underwatering much better than overwatering.
Choose plants that fit your lifestyle. If you travel a lot, don’t buy plants that need a lot of attention. If you work from home, you’re better equipped for plants that need more care.
Figure out your light conditions before buying a plant. In fact, bring in a photo of the space where you want to put a plant and Jade will help you figure out what might work best. She suggests using the compass app on your phone to help determine the orientation, and therefore the intensity, of the sunlight. (Southern and western light is more intense, while northern light is more subtle.)
Visit Ogelwood Avenue, The Modern Houseplant Boutique at 3524 North Broadway Street, Knoxville (865) 888-6719. Visit OglewoodAvenue.com and follow the store on Instagram and Facebook @OglewoodAve