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Verde Plant Design

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On the heels of Bell Let’s Talk Day, owner of Verde Plant Design Dominika Dratwa reflected on her reason for opening her downtown plant shop.

“I actually started my business in February five years ago. I was making terrariums out of tropical plants to deal with the winter and my depression in the winter.

“It really helped me. Just that connection… having your hands in the soil is such a positive thing. We’re definitely disconnected from that – especially during the winter in Winnipeg.”

Dratwa spent her early career as an artist – earning grants and selling her creations to collectors. Eventually trading her art for a stable government gig, she felt physically drained and uninspired from years of sitting at a desk.

“It really sucked the life out of me,” says Dratwa. “I just craved green and being creative again.”

Growing up, Dratwa was surrounded by green thumbs and elaborate house plants cared for by her grandmothers. The calming presence it gave her led her to uncover this way of expressing herself, balancing creativity with the health and wellness benefits of being with nature.

“I would’ve never expected that creative outlet to work itself out with plants. I’m so glad that it did, because I’m super happy doing it.”

The best part? The benefits it brings to everyone else who gets to enjoy one of her carefully curated house plants, living walls or terrariums – or even a workshop to try their own hands at this unique art form.

“We just had a Kokedema (Japanese hanging moss) workshop this Saturday, and the energy was palpable,” says Dratwa. “That’s what makes me love having a shop – being able to offer something that partners creativity with connecting with nature – and just how good it makes people feel. They just kind of let go of their day and their week.”

When she started creating with plants, Dratwa shared her designs at pop-ups and makers’ markets in the city. After a successful stint with a temporary space on Main Street through CentreVenture Development Corporation’s Pop Up Shop Hop program, she opened a permanent space along Graham Avenue’s transit corridor, and hasn’t looked back.

Growing in popularity are her living walls, which she helps people create themselves or offers by consultation. “It makes me really excited. The bigger the scale, the more people it impacts. It’s very accessible.”

The shop’s merchandise now spills onto the second floor of the Graham Avenue storefront, making more room to savour the immersion in greenery – especially in winter.

“I think you just have to surround yourself with as many plants as you can. It just makes you happier and makes you more engaged,” says Dratwa. “It’s a nice way to spend your time, caring for a living thing.

“January was a super busy month for us. People really need green. I always encourage people to just (come) hang out.”