Going tropical without the trip: London, Ont. business sees growing interest in creating at-home oasis
LONDON, ONT. -- If you can’t go to a tropical destination, why not bring a little of the tropics to your home? A London business launched just over a year ago is importing what are called “cold hardy” tropical plants.
Mark Trainor, president of exoticplants.ca, believes travel restrictions have increased interest in the plants.
“There’s been tons of success stories and people are really getting a lot of joy out of having these tropical palms in their yard. Especially during these challenging times where people are at home and not able to travel.”
Growing tropical plants started as a pastime for Trainor, but his wife thought it might make a viable business.
“I took a stab at selling these a year ago. It went very well and then we started our website, exoticplants.ca, and it’s really exploded over the last few months.”
“It just started to escalate to different palm trees, banana trees,” says Dave Polowick. He has spent the last 25 years building a collection of tropical plants that fill the yard of his Chatham, Ont. home, something he appreciates even more with travel not an option.
“We all can’t be down south all of the time so, in our backyard, you might as well make the best of it.”
The process is called ‘zone pushing,’ taking plants that are accustomed to climates similar to ours but just a little warmer.
“As long as you keep them protected for the winter they get through just fine,” Trainor says.
He has a windmill palm in his own front yard. The plant has been surrounded by snow for months, but he has it wrapped in older-style incandescent Christmas lights, which generate just a little warmth. It’s then covered by a reflective insulation and a tarp.
“You plug them into something called a thermal cube, which just flips the lights on when the temperature drops below 2 C. Then you just build a frame around the palm tree to keep it insulated and keep the water out. It just keeps the palms a little bit warm and dry throughout out the winter. Then you just take the structure down in the spring and they pick up where they left off.”
Trainor says he has seen some impressive specimens growing in Ontario yards.
“There are other folks doing zone pushing, as well. And some people have palm trees here in Ontario that are well above 10 feet tall at this point.”
Trainor takes orders year round, but he’s seen those orders jump in recent weeks. Deliveries happen once a year, in the spring, with the plants brought it from Florida.
Trainor says about half of his orders are for indoor use and the other half go outdoors, with clients from Windsor to Toronto.