Plants saved her life. Now she's helping others heal at her L.A. plant shop

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On a Sunday afternoon, wrong a whimsical Redondo Beach works shop, 8 women and I sat astatine a shop table, smiling and laughing arsenic we played pinch dirt.

With vertebrate chirping sounds and meditation euphony humming successful nan background, we closed our eyes and dug our hands into containers filled pinch soil, noticing nan coolness of it and its texture. There were insubstantial boxes wrong scope successful lawsuit we needed to swipe distant immoderate tears.

"PLANT PPL" pinch floral illustrations surrounding

In our Plant PPL series, we question and reply group of colour successful nan works world. If you person suggestions for PPL to include, tag america connected Instagram @latimesplants.

“Remember erstwhile we were little, we weren’t frightened of this,” said Barbara Lawson, who was starring nan group astatine Meet Me successful nan Dirt, which she opened astatine nan South Bay Galleria successful 2022. In nan 2,400-square-foot space, which is brimming pinch houseplants and self-care products, Lawson holds gatherings specified arsenic group journaling events, wellness retreats, condolences counseling sessions and today’s workshop, a ungraded meditation experience.

“The efficacy of farming and intelligence wellness is simply a existent thing,” said Lawson, who is besides a certified condolences counselor. “Not only did it heal me, [I’ve been] capable to usage it to thief heal different people.”

At nan shop table, Lawson offered america gloves but discouraged america from wearing them, truthful we could acquisition nan benefits of putting our hands successful nan soil. Some research suggests that a bacterium recovered successful soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, whitethorn thief fend disconnected stress.

“My mama utilized to show me, ‘A small ungraded don’t hurt,’” Lawson, 51, quipped.

A trowel pinch a mini works rests connected a woody table

“The efficacy of farming and intelligence wellness is simply a existent thing,” said Barbara Lawson, who is besides a certified condolences counselor.

Workshop participants massage their hands successful ungraded to acquisition nan treatment benefits of it.

Workshop participants massage their hands successful ungraded to acquisition nan treatment benefits of it.

Lawson knows firsthand nan effect that playing successful ungraded and being exposed to greenery tin person connected one’s wellness. Although she grew up watching her grandma thin to nan consequence trees successful her plot erstwhile she was a child, Lawson didn’t prime up farming until she was successful her 30s. As a woman and mother of six children — she has a blended family — Lawson utilized farming to carve retired unsocial clip and definitive herself creatively. The self-taught painter, who only paints flowers and has a functional creation business called Barbara’s Delight, planted trees and colorful flowers successful her backyard. The plot was “my escape,” she said.

Then complete time, Lawson stopped spending arsenic overmuch clip successful her garden. And earlier she knew it, much than a decade had passed since she’d tended to it.

“I’m a very optimistic personification — that’s my normal characteristic — [but] I started noticing a very dull sadness [in myself],” she recalled. “It didn’t travel connected each of a sudden, it was thing that crept successful a small spot astatine a time.”

Lawson realized that she was going done a play of slump because she’d ne'er afloat grieved her mother’s death. Her mom died from congestive bosom nonaccomplishment erstwhile Lawson was 24 years old.

A female stands successful her works shop, wherever nan words "Restore My Soul" are painted supra a doorway.

Lawson regularly holds ungraded meditation experiences astatine Meet Me successful nan Dirt.

“If you do not woody pinch [grief], it tin travel backmost to create problems later,” Lawson said. Instead of confronting nan symptom of her mother’s death, she focused connected her profession and raising her family, she added.

“Nobody sits astir and talks astir really to woody pinch nan nonaccomplishment of a person, a narration aliases a career,” Lawson said, adding that different cultures specified arsenic nan Latino organization person holidays for illustration Día de los Muertos to grieve their loved ones. But galore Black group “are not successful interaction pinch immoderate our accepted practices were, truthful beyond nan funeral, location is nary different support there.”

The thought of her mother “not being present wounded excessively much, truthful I pushed nan memories away,” said Lawson, “even if I knew instinctively that I wanted to deliberation astir her.”

In 2016, Lawson started going to therapy for nan first time, and her therapist suggested that she get backmost into farming since it utilized to bring her truthful overmuch joy. One time aft she returned location from therapy, Lawson gutted her plot truthful she could commencement anew. At first, she planted vegetables and fruits, including eggplant, corn, watermelon and cucumber, arsenic good arsenic an herb garden.

When she was sad, she wanted to beryllium astir greenery “because that meant thing was growing,” Lawson said. “Green is serene. It is calming and it conscionable intends growth. That’s what I felt for illustration I needed.”

As she started to consciousness much for illustration herself, she slow added much colour to her garden. She planted an array of flowers including black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), daisy-like cosmos, sunflowers and pansies. She besides dressed up nan plot pinch keepsakes from her life, including immoderate of her mother’s antiques and her husband’s aged activity boots, which she utilized to clasp plants.

“It was virtually redeeming my life,” Lawson said. “Doing sustainable farming helped maine benignant of put myself backmost together.” She documented her treatment travel connected Facebook and talked astir nan relationship that farming had pinch her life.

After discovering respective caterpillars successful her backyard, Lawson decided to raise monarch butterflies successful her plot arsenic well. And to her surprise, they transitioned into afloat formed butterflies connected her mother’s birthday.

“It was for illustration [God] being like, ‘It’s done,’” she said, adding that she felt for illustration she’d gone done a modulation conscionable for illustration nan butterfly. “For Him to springiness maine [that] gift connected her day was a miracle.”

After this experience, Lawson started school group via Facebook Live really to usage plants for treatment successful their ain lives. She besides demonstrated really to turn nutrient and commencement herb gardens. And because her plot was overflowing pinch plants, she began trading immoderate of them.

Then successful early 2020, Lawson was laid disconnected from her firm occupation pinch an anesthesia company. The timing worked retired perfectly, though, because she was already readying to time off truthful she could attraction connected building Meet Me successful nan Dirt.

A draped array holds potted plants nether shelves of much potted plants astatine a store

Much for illustration her ain garden, Lawson has dressed up her shop pinch captivating and agleam creation pieces and different items.

A rectangular creation portion of a silhouetted Black woman's caput successful a colorful headscarf

Lawson designed Meet Me successful nan Dirt to consciousness for illustration a treatment oasis for patrons.

The sheet solid shop window, pinch nan words Meet Me successful nan Dirt connected it, reveals an interior afloat stocked pinch plants

The works shop, which is located astatine nan South Bay Galleria, specializes successful indoor houseplants.

In April 2021, she converted a mini autobus that she recovered connected Facebook Marketplace into a mobile works nursery, which she named “Oasis.” (She refers to Oasis arsenic a woman.) Each weekend, she’d return Oasis to farmers markets and pop-up events astir Los Angeles to waste plants and thatch group astir their treatment powers. After respective months of doing that, she purchased a abstraction to do this extracurricular of nan Del Amo Fashion Center successful Torrance.

A fewer months later, a typical from nan South Bay Galleria asked her if she’d beryllium unfastened to having a storefront for Meet Me successful nan Dirt wrong nan mall. Lawson wasn’t willing astatine first because she loved her mobile nursery, but erstwhile she saw nan abstraction successful person, she knew that she had to person it.

The unit abstraction “fit into my God-sized dream,” she said, adding that she wanted to person a spot wherever she could meet pinch her condolences counseling clients, big events regularly and supply an wide wellness retreat experience. She officially opened nan works shop and wellness halfway successful June 2022.

A smiling female stands holding a patient houseplant successful a achromatic pot

“Doing sustainable farming helped maine benignant of put myself backmost together,” said Lawson.

Meet Me successful nan Dirt sells an array of houseplants and self-care products specified arsenic candles, assemblage oils and bath salts that Lawson makes herself.

Lawson said she wants group to consciousness for illustration they are transported into a treatment oasis each clip they participate nan store. The space, which looks for illustration an enchanted forest, is filled pinch easy-care houseplants including monsteras, different types of pothos, Zanzibar Gems (a.k.a. ZZ plants), calatheas and aglaonemas. Sparkling chandeliers bent from nan ceiling. Floral sculptures look passim nan store, including 1 that is garbed successful a silk robe. A projector surface displays a serene waterfall and meditation euphony plays connected a loop. There’s besides a plaything adjacent nan beforehand of nan shop, and a framed photograph of Lawson’s mother sits adjacent nan rate register.

Once you locomotion complete a turf-grass-covered span toward nan backmost of nan shop, location are 5 “Zen” rooms, which group ages 21 and up tin rent for $50 to $100 per hour. (The value varies depending connected which amenities you select, specified arsenic a meal, an creation box, a massage pinch a master therapist, etc.). The rooms correspond and are named aft what group whitethorn request successful their life astatine that time. The names see worthy, valued, cherished (this room has a massage chair inside), loved and chosen.

In summation to ungraded meditation experiences, Lawson hosts day parties, backstage farming classes, bridal showers, women empowerment workshops and much astatine nan shop. People tin rent nan shop for backstage events arsenic well.

Several women astatine a array taking portion successful a ungraded meditation experience

Brenda Gallow, right, participates successful a ungraded meditation acquisition astatine Meet Me successful nan Dirt.

Although Brenda Gallow has been to Meet Me successful nan Dirt respective times, she started crying erstwhile she walked wrong connected a caller visit.

“It ne'er fails,” she said. “The aroma. The scent. My psyche [feels] for illustration it’s releasing.”

Gallow met Lawson respective years agone erstwhile she purchased a fewer Barbara’s Delight products. She besides held her 60th day statement astatine nan Meet Me successful nan Dirt shop. What keeps her coming backmost is nan emotion she gets erstwhile she’s there, Gallow said.

She believes nan acquisition is much than conscionable playing successful nan dirt. “You virtually find yourself,” she said. “You tin travel and do activity here. You tin beryllium worked connected and blessed each astatine nan aforesaid time.”

Gallow added, “This is simply a safe haven for nary matter what you’re going through.”

For Angela Cooper, Lawson’s caller ungraded meditation arena gave her “permission” to relax and prioritize herself.

“She knows I person a batch going connected successful my life and [that] I don’t get a batch of self-care in, truthful she wanted maine to travel and not interest astir thing else. Not interest astir nan kids [or] my family — conscionable interest astir me,” said Cooper, who has been friends pinch Lawson since precocious school. She’s attended respective of Lawson’s workshops, but this was her first clip doing nan ungraded meditation.

“It was very refreshing and rewarding, particularly erstwhile our hands were successful that dirt,” she said, adding that it felt bully to soothe herself pinch it. “I’m ever blessed erstwhile I travel here.”

Two women hug successful a works store.

Lawson comforts her friend, Tselane Gardner, a longtime intelligence wellness professional, astatine nan extremity of nan workshop.

A manus lifts a potted works retired of its pot.

In summation to ungraded meditation experiences, Meet Me successful nan Dirt hosts day parties, farming classes and more.

Toward nan extremity of nan two-hour workshop, Lawson instructed everyone to prime a works that we felt astir called to. I chose a monstera, pinch its leaves for illustration Swiss cheese, because of its uniqueness. Then Lawson told america to region our plants from nan flimsy integrative pots they came in, truthful we could repot them into larger, sturdier pots . (All of nan materials, including nan plants and pots, were provided by Lawson arsenic portion of nan $75 workshop.)

It was easy to propulsion retired my monstera works from its original pot, but I watched arsenic others struggled to region theirs because nan roots had grown truthful heavy and tight. Some women moreover had to guidelines up successful bid to region their plants.

“Sometimes you’re going to person to return really drastic moves [and] use unit to region yourself from a place,” Lawson said successful a tender, motherly tone. Like plants, we tin get comfortable successful a abstraction moreover though we’ve outgrown it, she said.

That was nan infinitesimal erstwhile Lawson’s connection clicked for galore of nan women, including me, and tears began to fall.

Once we vanished repotting our plants, 1 of Lawson’s assistants passed retired integrative monarch butterflies for america to spot successful our pots. The butterflies were meant to service arsenic a ocular reminder of really acold we’d travel and what we had to shed on nan measurement successful bid to participate a caller season.

“This is still a caterpillar,” Lawson said arsenic she held up nan integrative butterfly. “It’s conscionable a fuller type of itself.”

Source latimes