Lonely Planet Writer

Prickly oasis in the heart of the city - a pop-up cactus greenhouse has opened in New York

Have you noticed more and more of your friends adding a prickly cactus to their chic homeware decor? There’s definitely a revival of this low-maintenance plant happening, and it’s thanks in part to a group of enthusiasts who’ve just opened a pop-up greenhouse called Cactus Store in New York. Max Martin, Carlos Morera and Jeff Kaplon already run a store in LA, and have even penned a book about their beloved cacti. They made the decision recently to move east once they realised a prime piece of real estate was up for grabs…

The pop-up greenhouse called Cactus Store in New York.
The pop-up greenhouse called Cactus Store in New York. Image by Cactus Store

“Our friend Andy was at the shop one day”, begins Max, “and he just nonchalantly mentioned that he had an empty lot in NYC that he thought could be just right for a summer greenhouse. It was one of those deals we couldn’t refuse. The view from the lot looks out onto Seward Park, so when you’re in there, it’s this alternate, peaceful realm.”

The empty lot in NYC was just right for a summer greenhouse.
The empty lot in NYC was just right for a summer greenhouse. Image by Cactus Store

We have to ask… why cacti? “Well, I guess there are a number of things,” says Max. “They come from such desolate and hard-to-find locations, they are – for the most part – largely under-researched, they regularly outlive their caretakers, many people believe they have a consciousness, they’ve been part of religious and spiritual ceremonies since the dawn of time, they are violent and passive, beautiful, ugly, and slow.”

Max describes cacti as being 'violent and passive, beautiful, ugly, and slow'.
Max describes cacti as being ‘violent and passive, beautiful, ugly, and slow’. Image by Cactus Store

“Slow is probably the most important,” he continues, “because in this day and age, I think we need more things to remind us that there are other models of time existing outside of the one we subscribe to. You could go contemplate the time elapsed in all the generations of your family tree, and some 500-year-old Copiapoa sitting alone in the driest desert on earth hasn’t even flowered yet.”

The view from the lot looks out onto Seward Park.
The view from the lot looks out onto Seward Park. Image by Catus Store

For Max, seeing these mysterious plants in bustling New York offers up a wonderful juxtaposition. “NYC is great, because these plants are so foreign here. You walk into the greenhouse, fans are blowing, and there are hundreds of these sentient desert-dwellers that the city has never seen before, with spikes and poison and beautiful flowers just staring at you. It’s electric. It’s sort of a micro ‘Worlds Fair’ type situation, showcasing all these alien plants from different corners of the world.”

Hundreds of sentient desert-dwellers that NYC has never seen before.
Hundreds of sentient desert-dwellers that NYC has never seen before. Image by Cactus Store

The guys are delighted to have had lots of curious visitors popping into Cactus Store for a look. “The reaction has been amazing, we feel really really lucky. We’d like to think it’s the best thing since Christo’s Gates.”