written by Cara Strickland
In 2007, sisters-in-law Marisa Mercer and Sheila Mulvihill began looking around for organic textiles with style for their growing families, but all they could find was white. Both avid collectors of vintage, the pair drew inspiration from their favorites, playing with color and scale to make linens that felt more modern. That idea became Plover, which specializes in organic cotton bedding, curtains and table wear with personality.
Around the same time, Mercer and her husband moved into a house with a large yard. Though she hadn’t done much gardening before, it soon became her passion. She’s always reading books and magazines about gardening, and she regularly travels to the UK to glean horticultural secrets.
I really love unusual seeds, things that you don’t see at the nursery. The idea was to get some unusual things in there so that in the garden people will be like ‘I’ve never seen that before. What is that?’ Really putting together plants that look great, almost like a painter’s palette.
— Marisa Mercer, co-owner of Plover Organic
Though Plover textiles were initially featured in stores across the country—you might recognize them from Anthropologie—last spring the duo opted for a smaller business model, selling directly to consumers exclusively through the website.
Along with that change, Mercer began to wonder how her love of gardening might fit in with Plover. She’d noticed that when friends came over, they would always compliment her garden. “I would just give my friends seeds, bring plants over, or give them tubers,” Mercer said. “It would be kind of fun to just put together basically what I’m already doing in my own garden and just give them to friends.” These gifts formed the beginning of the idea for Plover’s new Cutting Garden Collection, which features a selection of seeds, tubers and step-by-step instructions, all wrapped in a Plover tea towel.
Whether you’re a novice gardener or more experienced, it’s likely you find unfamiliar seeds in these kits. “I really love unusual seeds, things that you don’t see at the nursery,” Mercer said. “The idea was to get some unusual things in there so that in the garden people will be like ‘I’ve never seen that before. What is that?’ Really putting together plants that look great, almost like a painter’s palette.”
To create the kits, Mercer started with color schemes. “I think that’s how most people buy flowers,” she said. “I’m the same way—I’m drawn to certain colors in the garden. I also love flower arranging—sometimes you’ll see a beautiful bouquet and you’ll see the way colors are combined and I like to try and re-create that in a planting scheme.”
Beyond color, Mercer chose annuals that were easiest to grow and had the best “garden habits” (they didn’t completely take over, and they looked pretty even when they were dying) so that they would work with a variety of climates and skill levels. She’s confident these kits will thrive throughout the continental US.
Though Mercer picked some of her favorite combinations, she also invited Solabee Flowers and Botanicals, of Portland, Oregon, to create two collections. “One of their collections—we’re calling it Victorian Christmas—is orange, red and yellow—definitely not colors I have in the garden. I planted them and it looked amazing. I was like, ‘I would never have chosen these, but they are great.’” That’s an experience she hopes will be repeated often for her customers.
This year, Plover will offer five kits, available to ship from early March (though the tubers will need to be in the ground by the first week of June). Each kit is a limited run, and Mercer is planning to change it up for next year, choosing a new floral designer to curate a collection and mixing up the kits she’s designing herself. Keep your eyes open for fall kits, which will bloom in the spring, as well.
For Mercer, one of the kits’ priorities is to make gardening fun and accessible for people at all stages. “You can give the kit as a gift. The instructions are really explicit. Everything is going to be blooming at the same time—different heights, different textures, all the colors will look great together,” she said. “It’s also great for experienced gardeners because a lot of these are seeds that you don’t see very often.” Even if you don’t have a yard, this garden can be planted in a container as small as 12 inches in diameter.
Though the garden kits are created to beautify the outdoor space, they are also designed to make the indoors more lovely, as the name suggests. “Your flowers will look beautiful outside, but then you can cut them and bring them inside,” Mercer said. “You can have them by your bedside, your children can pick them—it’s the best of both worlds.”