Carlos Detres is a planner, so it’s still a bit of a surprise to him that, a year ago, he accidentally started a plant nursery in the front room of his home.
“I just wanted to sell off some plants,” he said.
After Detres began collecting interesting and carnivorous plants, he quickly figured out that the lessons his grandmother taught him about caring for them while growing up in Florida translated quickly to more plants.
“I just started… doing pop-ups, just selling whatever we had and started seeing the money come in,” Detres said.
A photographer by trade, Detres operates We Bite Plant Parlor and Nursery as a labor of love — and plant obsession — with his wife, Aryn. The pair have no traditional brick-and-mortar location; instead, they run the business through pop-ups around New Orleans and appointments and events in their half of a shotgun double.
Sitting in the airy space filled with lush greens and brightened by lights trained directly on the carnivorous plants from which We Bite gets its name, Carlos Detres explains his fascination with the little monsters began about two or three years ago.
“I was going out less and less, spending less money on booze and more money on plants,” he said. “I was doing nighttime gardening and checking on plants with a flashlight. I just couldn’t stop doing it.”
Soon, he realized he’d have to let his hobby pay for itself. As he saw the pop-ups become successful, he started an Instagram account to chronicle the goings-on in his tiny nursery. Now, @webitenola is a page filled with greenery and plant care suggestions.
“When you’re selling plants at a local nursery here, to know what every single plant does is hard, so you end up selling off a lot of carnivorous plants to people for what will eventually be a dead plant because there’s no care sheet,” he said. “There’s not a lot of advice. … I thought, there’s a lot of dead plants going home.”
Carlos truly cares about his plants — he feels like they’re a distinct window into our ecosystem — so care-taking is an important part of his process.
“Carnivorous plants are really, for me, the introduction to how plants function in nature,” he said. “You can actually see a plant move. … Once you see that, you start to understand these plants really need a lot of the same things we do. They’re also just really, really strange.”
That outlook, he said, feels a lot like the ones he sees his customers experience.
“People who are into plants are also getting more into their connection to nature, and they want a piece of that in their home,” he said. “Their awareness of that is getting them more active into where their plant came from. There’s a little bit of activism here, and we can do that because we have no overhead.”
The unique approach to We Bite means Carlos and his wife get to really enjoy their pop-ups, which typically happen twice a month. This summer, they hope to pair their plant sales with a visit from a tarot card reader, a macrame maker and terrariums.
“People want the more unusual, hard-to-find stuff,” he said. “The way I relate to that is, there are different kinds of things people collect: baseball cards, weird, hard to find stuff, but then to also have a chance to care for it? Everyone wants something to care for.”