Julina Abbott comes from seven generations of green thumbs, and now she wants to spread her knowledge to make Southwest a little more verdant.
"Everyone needs a little green in their life," she says. "I can't handle it in our house if we don't have plants. I think they're the best art. They bring a little life inside."
Abbott and her husband, Justin, are gearing up to open their new plant shop in the French Quarter marketplace, 530 S.W. Multnomah Blvd., on Multnomah Village's May 5 First Friday. They're calling their shop Gurton's, after Abbott's great-great-great grandfather Henry Gurton, who was a florist at Buckingham Palace.
The royal florist's gifts were passed on to his son, who emigrated to Canada harboring an obsession for propagating roses. Then his son, Abbott's beloved great-grandfather Jack, came to America as a teenager, obtained a degree in agriculture and opened several nurseries of his own.
Though working in the gardening industry seemed like an inevitable career for Abbott, a bit of a winding path brought her and her husband to open Gurton's. Up until the birth of her 3-month-old, she had worked as a nurse. But during gardening season, she gravitated outdoors to tend to her "Jumanji" vegetable garden.
"She's always outside in the spring and summer getting her hands dirty, spreading bark dust, planting landscaping," her husband says.
It was her grandmother Margery, great-grandpa Jack's daughter, who gave Abbott the push to open the shop. Margery manages a sprawling home garden in the middle of the desert in California.
"Talking to my grandma who was also always an entrepreneur, she was like, 'Do it! It's great to work for yourself and we have green thumbs,'" Abbott said. "So we thought, there's nothing like this on the west side, (and) since we live here, it'd be great."
Both the Abbotts grew up in Southwest — Julina blocks away from the French Quarter on 35th Avenue — and recently returned after a number of years in Seattle. Abbott still remembers exploring Multnomah Village as a young girl.
"We just love the feel of the community; we love how Multnomah Village, the neighborhood, supports its businesses," she says. "I'm excited to have my sons have that same experience."
The Abbotts have three young sons, and the oldest two are already showing signs of enjoying cultivation. Abbott says her kindergartner has taken a shine to arranging.
"We got home the other day and he had all these air plants in different holders. And he was like, 'I'm creating arrangements for the shop!'" she says.
The Abbotts want Gurton's to act as a starter shop for novice plant cultivators. They'll be selling "difficult-to-kill house plants:" air plants, succulents, ferns and the like.
"Everyone I talk to always says, 'I don't have any plants in my house because I kill them," Abbott says. It made her sad that people were missing out on the simple joys of having plants in their house because they didnt know where to start.
"We're most excited about being a part of the community and being able to share our love for plants with our neighbors," she says.