February 9 // Houseplants

Meet Vera Petersen – Local Plant Parent and Photo Contest Winner

We know we’ve said it already, but we really had a great time with everyone at A Houseplant Event last weekend. And one of our favorite parts of the event: getting to see so many houseplants from each of your own collections. Thank you again to everyone who participated in our Houseplant Photo Contest that took place on Instagram as part of the event. After much anticipation, it was Vera Petersen who claimed first prize with her photo of a beautiful Senecio rowleyanus – string-of-pearls – bathed in sunlight from a nearby window. Recently, we had a chance to talk with Vera about the exciting directions life is taking her right now and the ways her growing collection of indoor plants – including her winning string-of-pearls – provides balance and beauty to the spaces in her life.

The majority of Vera’s houseplant collection can be found just north of downtown Omaha at Bench – a collaborative workshop owned by Vera and her husband, Ben. Bench is an amazing place where professional artisans, woodworkers, and hobbyists can find the space, tools, mentorship, and supportive community they need to be successful in their projects and businesses. Vera is head of community engagement for Bench, meaning she coordinates all of the great workshops and other events that take place there. She also shares their latest happenings on social media and interacts with the other businesses – or Benchmates – who use their space. Vera recently finished her master’s degree and will soon open her own private therapy practice in an office space within Bench as well. As a counselor, creating a comforting environment is a priority for Vera, and she has a good start already. In her office, she has about twelve houseplants she’s collected, including her winning string-of-pearls which occupies a bright south-facing window.

Vera considers herself a plant collector now, but that wasn’t always the case. Growing up, her family had just one houseplant, and it didn’t attract much attention. As an adult, she made her own attempts at plant parenthood, but she says there were a lot of failures initially. But a couple years ago, she decided to give it another try. This time, she’s found success with several new plants and has noticed definite rewards for having them around. She’s glad to see how quickly her string-of-pearls has been growing – its hanging strands of pearls have put on about a foot and a half of new growth since she got it from our store early last fall. It came as a real surprise to Vera though when it started to bloom for the first time. She told us that when the first fuzzy blossom began to open, her initial thought was that she had overwatered and caused some kind of strange mildew to appear. Now, she’s happy to share that it’s been blooming for almost a solid eight weeks.

At home, her favorite plant is a beautiful jade she received as a gift from a friend. She also has a kalanchoe that she picked up from our “plant rescue” table late last summer. It’s currently producing beautiful pink blossoms, which Vera recently shared on Instagram too. Of course, plant parenthood also has its occasional challenges, and Vera is presently in a “difficult” relationship with a goldfish plant who she may have let dry out a little too much. Vera had spotted a gorgeous goldfish plant during one of her frequent trips to Lauritzen Gardens and decided to gift one to herself as a graduation present. When asked about the favorites in her collection, Vera says “I want the goldfish to be my favorite – but I can’t say that right now….” She’s hoping it’ll make a comeback soon though. Despite this one little challenge, Vera’s experience with houseplants has been pretty easy-going and richly rewarding. She’s noticed that their fresh green color makes her spaces seem brighter, and she just feels happier when they’re around. In her office, her plants encourage a sense of peaceful meditation, and she feels like she can breathe better having them there. Vera hopes their presence will help her create a comfortable and welcoming environment when her new clients begin arriving this summer.

As we talked with Vera, we learned that in addition to school, work, and caring for her plants, Vera is an avid reader – she finished sixty-one books last year – and she’s currently writing her own young adult novel. She’s a foodie at heart too, frequently sharing on Instagram about her favorite eating spots in Omaha – including Stirnella, Lot 2, and Au Courant. (We talked a bit too about how much our team enjoyed being a part of helping Au Courant fill their space with houseplants, so it was fun to discover that connection with Vera.) Her love for cooking and unique flavor combinations has led her to Metropolitan Community College for culinary classes too. Photography is another favorite pastime – and a talent, as we can see from her winning photo. On top of everything, Vera and her husband are currently building a new house – one with high ceilings and lots of plant potential. In fact, those ceilings inspired her latest purchases made with the gift card she received for winning the contest. On her wish list? A fiddle leaf fig and a bird of paradise. One will live in her office at Bench and the other in her new home.

We enjoyed getting to know Vera and her plant family – we always love the chance to see our plants venture out and provide their own rewards to new spaces and the people in our community. You can find Vera on Instagram at @veralynnpetersen. Thank you again to Vera and everyone who participated in our photo contest! We’d also like to congratulate @apartmentbotanist and @k_bentley, our second and third place winners. To see all the amazing entries from our Houseplant Photo Contest, head over to the hashtags #mymulhalls and #plantcontest on Instagram.