There can be an unfortunate side to having fresh plants.
Sometimes people want to steal them.
At least that’s the case for Mark Hanson, who collects and grows rarities for his one-man business, Rocky Mountain Exotic Plants. He provides the natural decorations at Colorado Springs venues such as CO.ATI, the downtown food hall and event space where Hanson has once or twice seen patrons sweeping up bits of greenery.
“It’s like, at least, people like plants,” he joked.
But the theft has left Hanson less inclined to display his most impressive plants.
He hopes to turn over a new leaf with the launch of a brick-and-mortar store inside CO.ATI A variety of rare and exotic varieties will be sold inside The Plant Vault, which Hanson recently opened in a partially enclosed space previously used as the “selfie room”.
Visitors typically spent a few minutes in the small room, which is near the area that connects CO.ATI to Pikes Peak Brewing Company Lager House, to take photos in front of a neon sign with sometimes rotating phrases, such as “Let’s Get Weird” and “Exist on your own terms”.
The Plant Vault will give the space more meaning and life, Hanson said. And, with the planned addition of a door that locks after hours, he’ll keep his stock safe.
It’s a fitting nod to the space’s former life as a bank vault, when the Tejon Street property was a streetcar service center.
After leaving Alabama in 2012, Hanson began working in landscaping and garden centers.
Then, about five years ago, he founded Rocky Mountain Exotic Plants. It started as a personal collection of plants, common and uncommon varieties.
While working at Skyway Greenery, a customer gave Hanson a cutting of a plant he didn’t want.
It turned out to be leaves of the Monstera Thai constellation, a very desirable and fashionable type. As is the case with other Monsteras, the flowing leaves have multiple slits. Unlike others, the leaves are variegated, which means they have green and cream colored patterns.
In other words, jackpot.
“That’s when I discovered a whole new world of plants,” Hanson said. “It really sparked my interest.”
It kept growing. He is now the collector of many rare, exotic and uncommon plants. In his home in Colorado Springs, Hanson has at least 100 plants. Hundreds more live in his garden greenhouse.
He said he revamped his idea of opening a brick-and-mortar factory outlet amid the pandemic when he noticed a “plant craze” going on.
“I thought I should probably start a local business where people can get rare, tropical products,” Hanson said. “The demand is there, so we need more supply.”
Due to demand, Hanson said he noticed a spike in plant prices.
Take, for example, the Monstera Thai constellation. A quick search on Etsy shows some of these plants listed for $300 or $6,000.
Yes, Hanson plants are rare. But he’s not interested in overload.
This is partly because he experienced the healing powers of plants.
“It helped me grow as a person,” he said.
In some ways, it saved his life.
The 29-year-old says he struggled with drug addiction a few years ago.
“It helped me stay strong in my sobriety,” Hanson said. “It gives me the same feeling as the drugs, but without any of the negative side effects.”
He wants to give others the gift of growing plants. Hanson will be the sole employee of The Plant Vault and plans to offer on-site gardening advice.
“It’s so gratifying to say, ‘I grew this,'” he said. “It gives me a really happy feeling.”