Once you’ve finished your spring cleaning, start thinking about getting your hands dirty. Three, women-owned Pittsburgh businesses — which were all incorporated during the pandemic — can help you transform your yard, porch or balcony into a beautiful and functional green space.
If you want to learn more about plants, Abi Falcioni says the best classroom is your own backyard.
The Pennsylvania Certified Horticulturist — who runs the online houseplant shop Perrico Plant Co. — has expanded her business to include outdoor garden design.
Through Perrico Gardens, she’s helping beginners and weekend warriors take their property to the next level, whether it’s by creating flower beds, beautifying steep slopes or warding off hungry deer. She travels throughout Pittsburgh, the South Hills, North Hills, Robinson and Sewickley.
“I would like to work with gardeners; people who really want to get their hands in the dirt,” says Falcioni.
Clients can choose from three different consultations:
- A one-hour site visit to brainstorm ways to bring an area to life. After the session, Falcioni will write a summary and a four-season maintenance plan to help the homeowner bring the ideas to fruition. $90
- A site visit followed by a trip to a nursery or garden center. Falcioni gives customers a crash course on reading plant tags and finding the right trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs and annuals to make their landscape pop. $145
- A site visit with conceptual site drawings, or plant map, and a full plant list. Clients can either hire a landscaper or tackle the job themselves, emboldened by their newfound knowledge. $215+
More people are taking an interest in their green spaces since the pandemic has forced them to spend more time at home. Falcioni, who went to school for business and worked in corporate retail for seven years, uses gardening to beat stress and reconnect with nature.
“I could feel it in my bones that I just needed to be outside more,” she says. “There’s an innate comfort in picking your own flowers or growing your own food. It’s rewarding.”
Falcioni started selling houseplants — more than 250 varieties that can’t survive outside year-round in Pittsburgh — from her home in 2018 and hosted pop-up shops around town. You can still find her at Redstart Roasters in East Liberty once a month.
Eventually, she rented a warehouse at 158 41st St. in Lawrenceville to store all of the leafy pals she sells online. Customers can pick up their items there or have their plants delivered anywhere in the contiguous United States. On sunny weekends, Falcioni often hosts sidewalk sales in front of the warehouse.
She’s happy to bring her analytical and creative sides together to make Pittsburgh a prettier place … one plant at a time.
Pittsburgh Urban Garden Consultant
Elena Kessler is a genetic counselor at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in Lawrenceville, where she manages an on-site garden. Co-workers and patients are always picking her brain about plants, particularly ones they can eat.
Now, as the Pittsburgh Urban Garden Consultant, she’s sharing her knowledge with anyone who wants to create bountiful harvests in an urban environment.
She’s already met potential clients at the Bloomfield Saturday Market (she offers her services within a 5-mile radius of Pittsburgh’s Little Italy). It seems everyone is excited to spring into a new hobby that yields healthy snacks.
Customers can hire Kessler for a 30- or 60-minute assessment of their growing space. Prices range from $45 for the basic assessment with a follow-up summary to $185 for full-fledged garden coaching. She offers everything from a gentle nudge in the right direction to soil testing to a full blueprint of someone’s potential garden, followed by monthly guides and recipes that help keep clients on track through the seasons.
On April 10 at Trace Brewing in Bloomfield, Kessler will host a free workshop to give people advice on how to start their own garden and dole out seedlings or seed packs to get them started. Most urban farmers choose to grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and peas. That’s what Kessler was tending to when she lived in an apartment while attending grad school to study biology.
Kessler made the most of her small space using the information she learned at Westminster College, where she was in charge of the campus greenhouse. The structure was located on the roof of the college’s science building, so everything was planted in containers and buckets and she got used to hauling tools and supplies up and down staircases.
Although Kessler now owns a house with a yard in Blooomfield, she can relate to the average apartment dweller who wants to produce fresh produce on balconies, patios, porches or rooftops.
Last year, the Children’s Hospital garden generated about 60 pounds of food, including jalapeños, herbs and tomatoes, which were donated to the cafeteria, staff members and patients’ families.
This year, she plans to host a monthly free market and give kids a chance to see the fruits (and veggies) of their labor.
During the pandemic, Deborah Holtschlag wanted to make her front porch a functional living space. But her husband had the area filled with dozens of flower pots, leaving little room for the couple to entertain guests.
She searched for a device that had both curb appeal and could support a potted plant on the thin ledge that extends 4 or more inches beyond the horizontal railing. Unable to find one, she invented her own.
Plant Traps are tool-free, rust-resistant, metal shelves that can hold potted plants up to 35 pounds and 12 inches tall. People with wood or metal railings of varying thicknesses can install them in minutes.
Holtschlag got the idea in July 2021 and had her first prototype by November. At the start of 2022, with 1,000 Plant Traps in her trunk, she began making the rounds to local nurseries. Now they’re available online and in more than 20 businesses — including Best Feeds Garden Center on Babcock Boulevard in the North Hills and Trax Farms Market in the South Hills — for $29.99.
On weekends throughout the spring and summer, Holtschlag will offer free demonstrations at various garden centers. Keep an eye on her website for updates.
Sales of Plant Traps, which are manufactured in Western Pennsylvania, are growing wild online. After promoting the brand on KDKA’s “Pittsburgh Today Live,” Holtschlag got 100 orders in a day. She’s shipped her products all over the country, as more people complete their outdoor pandemic-fueled projects.
Not only has Holtschlag’s invention generated extra income but it’s also drawn her into the gardening world.
“I’m taking more of an interest in flowers like snapdragons and geraniums and pretty things,” she says. “My porch is so beautiful now.”