This plant lover is on a quest to show Black men have green thumbs too Stay-at-home restrictions allowed 31-year-old Barry Greene more time for his passion: plants. It's a passion he hopes catches on with more Black men.
Barry Greene, a local plant enthusiast, reminds us that some of the best hobbies are discovered at the intersection of passion and purpose.
Greene, 31, recently launched Greene Thumbz — all puns intended — a plant-related Instagram page educating followers and sharing stories behind his longtime interest. While all are welcome, Greene is specifically hoping that his efforts help reshape society’s view of what interests Black men.
“My whole idea with the Greene Thumbz page was to give a positive perception of Black men and plants,” he said. “I think it’s a big misconception that plants are just for women. We were farmers before we were ballers and businessmen, so it’s weird that we have that complex now.”
Gardening is a family interest. As a child, he developed a green thumb after his mom introduced him to the world of plants. He drew on those experiences, and a previous job watering plants at a Lowe’s home improvement store, to revive his interest once he relocated from Brooklyn, New York, two years ago.
Greene is a frequent visitor of Malone’s Nursery in Charlotte. With most people now sheltered in place due to coronavirus-related restrictions, Greene used the downtime to lean into his plant hobby. His collection has grown from two plants to 15 since the pandemic hit.
“The quarantine is allowing me to get back to what I enjoy, the liveliness of having plants in your house and seeing something grow,” he said.
By day, the Charlotte transplant works as a wine sales representative. It was during his visits to large-scale retailers like Target, Walmart and Food Lion where he noticed how plants from non-specialty stores run a higher risk of being discarded. He saw the opportunity to “save a plant.”
He turned to resources like Baltimore-based plant/interior designer Hilton Carter for aesthetic inspiration, YouTube for care instructions, and Google for species pronunciation and other fun facts. Greene has cultivated a collection, including several types of pothos (a species of flowering houseplants considered among the easiest to grow), bamboo and aloe vera.
He launched Green Thumbz last month with a photo of his yucca tree in hopes of inspiring others and supporting them in their plant journey. “I have quite an assortment of plants. I stick to those with heartier foliage for the most part, and I’m a sucker for any plant that trails or climbs,” he explained.
Adding some fun to his plant life includes naming each plant. Some carry playful monikers that he’ll easily remember. There’s his collection of Tillandsia — commonly known as air plants — named after Nike’s Air Max line of shoes. Or Yoshi, a yucca tree he named after a popular character from the Super Mario Bros. video games.
Then, some carry names with a deeper meaning. His favorite, and the one that gets the most Instagram love, is a 3-foot-tall snake plant affectionately known as Stretch.
“I’m a God-fearing man,” Greene said as he reflected on Stretch’s origins. “Currently, our finances are being stretched, our faith, even our imagination. We are having to get more creative with how we spend our time.”
Greene named his 3-foot snake plant “Stretch” not only as a description of its length but also a nod to his faith. Photo courtesy of Barry GreeneHe continued, “I named him Stretch as a reminder that we can accomplish anything we want. We just may have to be stretched for it. It’s good to look over and be reminded that God is still in control.”
Greene hopes to expand his brand beyond social media. His goal is to partner with existing community gardens and forthcoming plant bars to provide educational workshops around Charlotte.
“I’d love to get more into those spaces,” he said. “I’d love to be more than a guy who posts pictures with his plants.”
Photo Credit: Barry Greene