How one French landscape gardener saves and sells abandoned plants
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In a greenhouse in Lyon, customers can survey sprouting and flowering plants for sale –– all of which were once destined for the trash.
The Plant Protection Society was founded by Nicolas Talliu, who trained as a landscape gardener. Talliu nurtures unwanted plants back to good health and sells them.
Some of the plants are donated, like a thigh-high orange tree its former owner didn’t want to look after anymore. Most are no-longer-quite-fit-for-sale plants bought — at greatly reduced prices — from nurseries and wholesalers who were going to throw them away.
On a recent morning, Talliu opened the back of a van door to show what he just picked up. The van was full of plants. “There’s a 16-year-old bonsai that’s lost a few leaves, for example. Sixteen years old,” Talliu said, speaking in French.
He said he only has the capacity to save a fraction of the plants on their way to the garbage in his area. “People ask me if I know how many plants are being trashed. I don’t. But I do know I only have space for about a tenth of the plants they’re throwing away in the nurseries, alone,” Talliu said.
Houseplants and plants people buy for their gardens have a heavy carbon footprint, Talliu said. “For example, a cactus grown in Zaragoza, Spain, will typically be flown to a distribution platform in the Netherlands before being flown back down south to Marseille to be sold. Your cactus might have traveled 2,000 miles before you buy it.”
The city of Lyon has started taking note. Deputy Mayor Nicolas Husson said he hopes the city can team up with Talliu.
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