Brooklyn-based plant designer Lisa Muñoz, founder of Leaf and June, wants to bring bold, bright leafy greens into our homes. We city dwellers often forget to buy plants, because at least for me, I seem to keep killing them. Without enough sunlight and water that's bound to happen, but once I got into the low-light plant game, things changed. Muñoz earned her Certificate in Horticulture at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 2013, and has since worked with renowned fixtures in the houseplant scene, Sprout Home and The Sill. As she was working in new spaces, the idea of Leaf and June started to evolve. Some of her favorite memories are of her grandparents' garden in Texas, where she grew up. Leaf is a nickname for Lisa, and June is the name of her maternal grandmother who continually inspires her.
But for Muñoz, a skilled freelance producer who has worked with the likes of Google and MoMa, working for another company wasn't her ultimate goal. She's launched Leaf and June to design plant installations and personal experiences for folks looking to beautify and energize their environs. As much as I love flowers, there's a nice "permanence" to plants...
Leaf and June's editorial photos show really beautiful manicured homes. The plants are accents to the beauty that exists. What's your philosophy when you enter someone's home?
I find New York home's can be sterile and lifeless. Everyone's got beautiful furniture and windows, but I want to inject extra life in there when I can. It's nice to have something that's purifying the air. Going into the spaces, I'm ideally trying to find something that complements their aesthetic and follows mine. I just love something that's lush, a little tropical, lots of succulents and cacti. Between my partner and I we have too many plants in our apartment. It's challenging to move things around to see how things work. There are little things like pest management. It's a fun challenge. Plants are like your kids.
You name your plants after 70s soul singers and family members?
I do. We name them after members of our family, of course, June. Rafaela and Royella. You have to be respectful and careful though...I used to name pairs of plants Marvin and Tammi (as in the late Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell), but I realize that the plants didn't survive long. I realized that what I name my plants matters.
How did you transition from a day job to starting your own company?
I produce TV commercials and music videos. It's rare you get to work on rewarding projects. I was sick of coming home and feeling like my day was not worth talking about. I thought about finding a creative outlet that would be good for me and bringing something good to other people. Seeing my grandparents and their huge garden, lots of fruits and vegetables--it was really beautiful to see. I wanted to do that, so I initially took classes at Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Horticulture program. I needed my brain to be more stimulated everyday. I'd go to class, you go to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, you take notes on someone telling you great details about where the plants from, what it does. It was really therapeutic. It helped create balance. Now I want balance all the time!
How do we city dwellers decorate our homes? A lot of us don't have tons of light!
For a really colorful place, I'd probably go crazy. My favorite plants right now are the Swiss Cheese Plant. They have a mind of their own, you never know which direction its going to go. They're good for a lot of New York apartments, they need moderate light. There are some great plants for lower light, like a bird's best fern. They just acclimate to our homes. I love fiddle leaf fig trees, as well, though they're pretty temperamental. If you move them slightly, they start shedding leaves, so you have to be careful. Until you have it in your home, you really don't know.
Where do you see yourself going with Leaf and June?
I want to do plants all day, everyday. I've been a freelance producer for eight years. I bounce around from company to company, but the hope is I grow this relationship in a different way.
Have you ever faced a crazy plant challenges?
I once worked on a plant installation for a corporate office in Midtown You'd think a huge multimillion dollar company would have beautiful offices with lots of sunlight. There were cubicles, low ceilings and fluorescent light. In a space like that, you could do low light snake plants, philodendron or pothos that trail. They wanted plants in areas with no natural light so they'd have to rotate some of the plants to be near the windows weekly.
Are you into flowers?
I love flowers. Love, love flowers. I did flower bouquets for a friend's wedding at Mass MoCa, the centerpieces for all the tables and stuff. It was so much hard work. But there's so many people doing flowers, I think the need is more for leafy greens into people's homes. Flowers don't last forever. I don't like thinking of plants having an expiration date, but it's typically twenty-plus years.
(Tip for Those Interested in Classes at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, says Lisa: "The classes are under $300 each, you meet once a week for 7 weeks. It's just so fast-paced, that you squeeze a lot of information into a little bit of time. Those conversations would kickstart me doing additional research on my own.")