When visiting downtown Canmore, you might have recently passed a bike shop with an unusually large number of plants hanging inside and wondered what was going on. The answer is “Fancy Plants.”
Located inside the Bicycle Cafe is Fancy Plants, a boutique house plant shop.
“We carry both ‘regular' and ‘rare" plants’," says Fancy Plants founder Danielle Trudel. “They are all fancy to me because each has its own unique survival strategy and ways of adapting to its native environment.”
Trudel, who is a plant person, has an immense passion for all plants. This ethos is part of what makes Fancy Plants so unique.
“I believe that every plant is fancy in it's own way and I appreciate all plants no matter how rare or exotic they are,” says Trudel. “Some of my favourites are the most common and inexpensive plants that you can find.”
The real rare “fancy plants” they carry include imported philodendrons, monstera and various anthuriums such as vetchii and spledidum. Many of the plants they carry have been propagated from Trudel’s personal collection.
Trudel, who has always had a green thumb, grew up around plants. Whether it was helping her mom with her family vegetable garden, or spending time out in the woods at their rustic cabin each summer, she has always had dirty hands from playing around with plants.
“I started my indoor plant collection when I was 14 and then later when I was a university student and had my own apartment, I would take clippings from plants in public spaces and propagate them,” says Trudel. “I know that this is considered bad form now, especially when I hear that people steal from botanical gardens and greenhouses. This was over 20 years ago and I don't think it was much of an issue back then.”
Trudel studied biology at the University of Manitoba and took courses in botany and ecology. After school, she worked for the Living Prairie Museum in Winnipeg working with native plants, specifically tall grass prairie species. Her primary mandate was to educate the public about the importance of and the need to preserve tall grass prairie habitat.
“We did propagation projects to preserve native species and encourage the public to incorporate native plants in their landscape design,” says Trudel. “I loved the propagation and hands-on work with plants that this position allowed me. The educational component in this position also resonated with me and my environmental beliefs. I loved working with kids and the public and getting them excited about growing plants and making a difference and impact on the environment even in small ways.”
Trudel moved to Canmore to start a family, but missed her job. She still propagated plants, something that led to a bit of a clutter problem. Her home was overrun by cuttings.
Due to the lack of space at her home, she needed to find a place to store her plants. Meanwhile, her partner Brian Cooke, founder and owner of Bicycle Cafe, had the opposite problem at the shop.
Due to the pandemic, bikes shops around the world were experiencing a shortage of inventory due to high demand. The immediate solution was to keep the plants inside their Volkswagen bus, which was stored in the winter inside the shop and became the unofficial first home of Fancy Plants. When the bus moved out, the plants stayed and moved to the front of the shop.
The name of the shop originated as a play on words mixed with a dad joke.
“‘Hey, Fancy Plants’ (the first name) was a play on words of ‘Fancy Pants,’ so it was never really a reference to the plants I wanted to carry. At the time I thought this was pretty funny and the initial logo was a speech balloon with "hey, fancy plants,’” jokes Trudel.
She eventually let go of the “dad joke” cartoon logo and rolled with plain old "Fancy Plants," developing a simple branding package with Bicycle Cafe employee and designer Kendra Sellick. The less pretentious name still kept things light, but invited more serious customers, who will take care of the plants – something that important to Trudel.
Besides well loved and carefully grown plants, the shop also carries a selection of pots and planters.
“We definitely sell some ‘fancy’ more expensive planters and plant accessories in our shop,” says Trudel. “We have carefully chosen all of our hard goods (pots, scissors, fertilizers, etc..) to align with our philosophy of providing responsibly sourced products that represent good design, are well-made and many with environmentally friendly materials.”
Fancy Plants locally sources where possible and support artists and companies that share their same ethic. In short, Trudel doesn’t carry anything she wouldn’t have in her own home.
“We currently carry conifer pots (made in Vancouver of 3D printed vegetable ink), barebones scissors and garden tools (B certified corp), plant vitamins (small batch out of Winnipeg), black spruce leather plant hangers (couple from Vernon, B.C.) and northern habitat plant pots (maker is based in Edmonton)," says Trudel. “We also carry capra planters and pots. While these aren't made locally (they are designed in Australia and made in small batches in Australia and Vietnam) we carry these planters because they are high quality, long-lasting pieces that are both functional and unique and will transcend trends.”
Trudel might not be able to educate people in the same way she did at her old job in Manitoba, but she is helping to grow and support a like minded community of passionate plant (fancy and plain) parents.
“We want people to leave the shop feeling good: happy with their plant purchase (or non-purchase) and confident in their ability to care for their plants,” says Trudel. “As an added bonus, when people visit the shop to find their new perfect plant baby, they can also enjoy a coffee from the cafe (now serving up Calgary's Monogram Coffee) and drool over some bougie bikes to boot!"
To learn more about Fancy Plants, visit www.bicyclecafe.com/fancyplants.