Red Rose & Lavender had plenty to celebrate last month, with its five-year anniversary on June 22 and the entire month of June being Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Month.
Since opening five years ago, the shop has seen a lot of success. Shop owner and creative mind Kimberly Sevilla has been featured in New York Magazine, Time Out New York and Bride’s Magazine for her wedding flower arrangements, custom terrariums, urban gardening classes and personal garden consultations.
Sevilla opened the shop when she needed a more flexible work schedule after her daughter was born in 2008.
Prior to opening Red Rose & Lavender, Sevilla worked as a designer for window displays, trade show displays and museum exhibits. She worked for organizations like the Smithsonian, Reebok, Pepsi, Nike, NFL, MLB, Calvin Klein and numerous other A-list companies.
During that time, as she traveled for work, she visited botanical gardens all over Europe.
When she returned to Brooklyn, she noticed the glaring differences between the ways Europeans in places such as Italy, London and Paris used their outdoor spaces compared to New Yorkers.
“I opened up this shop with the intention of teaching people how to see their outdoor space differently,” Sevilla said.
In Paris, Sevilla saw apartments surrounding communal courtyards with gardens, and gardens where the strong culinary culture of the city led to garlic being grown next to roses.
In London, backyards are comparable to those in Brooklyn, with long and skinny plots behind each home. The difference is that in London, people fill those spaces with gardens, small trees and fruit and vegetable plants.
I came back to Brooklyn and I saw a lot of grey, a lot of concrete and a lot of urban space not being utilized,” Sevilla said. “It was built to house people but not to house people’s lives. And in other counties that are a lot older you see outdoor spaces really being utilized.”
For that reason, Sevilla teaches classes at the shop on topics such as widow box farming, how to grow herbs in small spaces and how to grow plants vertically.
She said there is plenty of room for gardening in Brooklyn, if people take advantage of their space by using window boxes and hanging plants.
Outside of a more attractive neighborhood, Sevilla said that gardening is important to revitalize what has become an unhealthy food industry.
“Up and until the 1950s, people had kitchen gardens, they had homegrown tomatoes. They were very connected to food,” Sevilla said. “Then the women’s liberation movement and factory farming came into play, and cheaper produce was available, and people became very disconnected to food. They put that power into the hands of corporations, and what has happened as a result is that many of the food we eat has 80 percent less nutrients than the food our grandparents ate.”
This loss in nutrients occurs when fruits and veggies are picked early and kept in confinement until they are ready to be sold. During the intermediate period, the nutritional value of the food seriously diminishes.
“Fresh to me means I walk out the door, I pick food off of a plant and I eat it,” Sevilla said. “I may or may not wash it. That’s fresh to me, and that‘s important because to me, it’s a human right to grow and eat your own food.”
Sevilla clearly has a passion for the work she does, and she has enjoyed sharing it with the community in Williamsburg.
“I really love the customer base here, just all of the creative people and people who have room to let me be expressive as an artist and do things that are not in magazines or on Pinterest,” she said.
And, she believes, there is hope for the future of gardening in New York with a new generation of young people moving into its neighborhoods.
“I think more and more, especially with the younger generation, they really see themselves as stewards of the earth,” she said. “They view the planet as different than Generation X. They want to grow things and they want to be involved and they’re looking for sound advice.”
With that level of interest, Rose Red & Lavender will be around for many more anniversary celebrations.