Buellton plant collector shares his hobby online
Behind the Facebook Group “Santa Barbara County Plant Lovers” is Michael McCann, a fourth-generation plant enthusiast.
“Plants are a way to bring a piece of nature back into my house,” the Buellton resident told the News-Press. “And connect with people over it.”
He joined a group on Reddit where members swap plants and loved diversifying his collection through it and meeting new people. He wanted to bring that kind of a community locally.
So, in late June, he started the Santa Barbara County Plant Lovers Facebook group. It has grown to almost 500 members quickly.
“We get new people everyday,” he said. “It’s awesome.”
Members sell or trade plants and give each other advice. Mr. McCann comments on most posts, giving tips on the latest growing techniques or just giving a compliment.
“One of the reasons I started a Facebook group is that plants are such a unifier,” he said. “I really wanted to create a happy, healthy community for plant lovers.”
He even reconnected with a friend from high school after the friend’s fiancee joined the group.
“It has the opportunity to bring people together,” he said. “I’ve made local friends, internet friends, and I have a bunch of people now that do trades over the internet.”
He estimates that he has made 30 trades in the past few months, most through mailing plants to members in the Reddit group.
He likes connecting with local farmers and plant enthusiasts as he delivers his plants around the county.
“Everywhere I go, people are interested in talking about plants,” he said. And he loves every opportunity to discuss his hobby.
His personal collection totals 50 plants, and he’s acquired them all in under a year. But he feels like he has more because he cares for his mother’s 150-or-so plants.
His grandfather opened Rodgers Cymbidiums but died before Mr. McCann was born. So he never got to see his grandfather’s collection.
His family history was interesting, but he gained an interest in plants on vacation to the Cayman Islands.
On the trip, he saw dart frogs and tropical plants and decided to build a terrarium and raise a few frogs. The habitat he built, though, died after the air conditioning went out while he was away.
Because he liked picking out the terrarium plants so much, he bought house plants to set around his home. He built up a large collection when he lived in Texas, but they were seized at the border when he moved back home to Santa Barbara County.
“Santa Barbara County is incredibly diverse. The wine industry is huge because of all the micro climates,” he said. “You can grow all sorts of varieties outside in Santa Barbara.”
The Buellton plant lover uses humidity trays and said he grows lights to “fine tune the environment.” He’s envious of those who can grow tropical plants outdoors.
His collection is worth a lot of money. His most rare plant is a Philodendron 69686, a plant just recently identified and named “Big Ears.” Small pots of the plant are worth hundreds online.
Mr. McCann saw the plant market explode at the beginning of the pandemic as more people bought house plants.
He said the pandemic plant craze is similar to the rush of animal adoptions he saw.
“It’s a living thing you can take care of and nurture,” Mr. McCann said. “It’s like a pet you don’t have to clean out the litter box or take outside.”
He also is a beekeeper, something he said fits naturally with his affinity for plants.
“The love of plants and nature goes hand in hand. It’s really important that we not only extend out love of nature to plants but also our local environment,” he said.
He finds peace taking care of nature and wants to turn it into a professional endeavor. When the pandemic lets up, he plans to study botany.
But for now, he will run a Facebook group and grow his collection.