Alice Maynard - Botanic York

Alice Maynard is happy in York's urban jungle, Botanic

Alice Maynard is happy in York's urban jungle, Botanic - Credit: n/a

Alice Maynard spends her days in ‘York’s urban jungle’ aka Botanic – a shop specialising in healthy, exotic and unusual house plants.

Botanic is home to hundreds and hundreds of plants, so I spend my day surrounded by greenery. When I open the door first thing in the morning I can immediately feel the difference in the air quality, because the plants have been 'doing their thing' in the shop overnight. As a result, the air feels clearer, there's a smell of things growing and it's often cooler inside because our workspace has its own little ecosystem. We're surrounded by growing, living things which require our constant care and attention.

We have two rooms. In the first, there are a lot of succulents and cacti, and a wonderful old dresser that was part of the fixtures and fittings when the shop opened in January 2018. In our second room we have a lot of hanging plants: in the window, on tables and hanging from the ceiling. They're everywhere to make an impact because I wanted people to say: 'Wow!' as soon as they walk in. People who work in sterile, air-conditioned office environments will often visit over their lunch breaks to 'detox'. They'll have a browse to see what's new, but they're also visiting for a bit of fresh air and to relax and soak up the atmosphere. There are four of us at Botanic: owner Emma Grubb - a bat expert who also runs her own ecology business - Nic, Carlos and me. Ooh, and not forgetting Emma's dog, Hairy Man Sam, a lurcher who comes in to 'help' sometimes.

My favourite part of our workspace is probably the little chair with a cushion that sits behind a big specimen plant next to the counter. At the moment that's a large palm. It's nice to sit there because it's like you're among the foliage, really immersed in the jungle. Before the shop opens it's where I'll be, thinking about the day ahead and - because we have a lot of people following us on Instagram and Facebook - working on our social media.

Botanic is bucking the downward trend on the high street. I think that's because plants have really taken off in the last few years. They cross generations and people are understanding the benefits of living with plants. The other thing that sets us apart is that people can get specific advice from us

In fact, we've become 'agony aunts' for plant-lovers, and not just in the shop, either. I'm asked plant questions when I'm out and about, plus we get messages on social media and over the phone. What do people want to know? Everything! A plant that isn't doing as well as they've hoped, and want to know what they're doing wrong. Or an ailing plant they've had for some time, and what advice could we give to bring it back to full health? There's a huge movement towards air-purifying plants at the moment, so we get a lot of questions about which plants can best purify the air in home or office spaces.

My favourite top three plants changes every day, depending on how I'm feeling. At the moment we have these Monkey Mask plants which have been on my list for a long time. I do sometimes think: 'Ooh, I could just fit one of those on my shelf at home.' Trouble is, I don't have room for many more plants. In fact, when I started managing Botanic, a friend of mine came in and said: "Alice, this shop looks JUST like your house!" Working here is a busman's holiday for me.

Alice is a part of Plusnet's Humans of New Yorkshire series which looks at the small businesses who are redefining the region. See all of their stories over on Instagram @plusnet

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