Poetica Botanicals

The Everlasting Gardener

We speak with Rebecca O'Donnell, the dynamic founder of floral apothecary The Quiet Botanist in Upstate New York, who is creatively parlaying nature's inspiration into bouquets that last.   

Can you share the philosophy behind The Quiet Botanist?
The Quiet Botanist was born out of a desire to slow down and listen. It draws inspiration from apothecaries of a bygone era, wild–harvested Australian botanicals and overgrown European gardens. I think what makes the shop unique is that it’s a sensorial experience: you can smell the store from the street before you walk down the alley to the front door, and then when you enter you are surrounded by large displays of varying botanicals, with much to explore. The Quiet Botanist believes in slow retail - there is no rush and no push to buy; rather, take your time and smell the flowers. The hope is that our community has a nurturing experience when they visit us.

What drew you to botanicals in particular?
Before I opened the shop, I was a Creative Director on luxury brands and spent a lot of time traveling on sets and designing stores and products. However, I needed to take a year off due to Lyme disease.

Healing from a chronic illness forced me to slow down and listen to my body. With more time to myself, I began to envision my dream space and a business concept that fulfilled my own interests and passions. I wanted to surround myself with plants, because despite working in commercial beauty, the natural world is the most beautiful thing to me. I didn’t plan to open a store per se but it really just evolved into the perfect space and concept in which to heal myself.

Tell us more about your special focus on Australian flora.
I’m Australian so I curate the store with what I know and love. My grandmother was - and my mum is - a constant gardener. I learned so much from watching and helping them, and the beauty of their work still holds a special place in my memories of childhood. I especially remember the banksia and protea in our garden, amongst other beautiful natives. These plants don’t need a ton of water when they are alive, and so they dry perfectly. I find so much comfort in these wild botanicals because they remind me of home - especially now with the pandemic because I am not able to travel home to see my friends and family. 
What role does sustainability play in your work?
Our flowers are essentially everlasting, but some are more fragile than others so you can expect to have three full years with them before they might need a sprucing up. The wonderful thing about dried flowers is that you can deconstruct any arrangement and modify it - changing it completely, or adding a bit more color or texture, changing the height and putting it in a new vase or a new room.

The possibilities are endless with how your botanicals can evolve as decor in your home. Sustainability is at the heart of our shop’s concept, and it’s so important to us that the botanicals are used and appreciated for a very long time. We source and wildcraft as many flowers locally as we can, and we are starting to grow more of our own this coming season. I live on a farm of about 15 acres on the Hudson River not far from the store, and we have prepared the fields to grow organic plants for our dried and edible flowers.

In our apothecary, sustainability and clean beauty are essential to us. We avoid plastics and synthetic fragrances, and curate brands that we truly believe in and use ourselves.
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