Winter Haven Nursery Brings Globe’s Rare Edible Plants to Central Florida
by TERESA SCHIFFER
When it comes to landscape design, there are plenty of styles and themes to choose from, especially here in Central Florida, where our climate allows for quite a range of options. One Winter Haven nursery, however, really takes the cake when it comes to offering edible options for your lawn and garden.
Sow Exotic was established on Earth Day 2016 by Brittany Bandi and her husband, Jared, as an online nursery catering to anyone with a taste for the unusual when it comes to gardening. Now, almost seven years later, the couple has seen their project grow into a thriving business that ships thousands of plants throughout the U.S. every year.
It all started with the couple’s passion for gardening on their own property and a growing zeal for finding uncommon edible and medicinal plants to add to their landscape. As their homestead began to blossom, an idea emerged.
“The interest came from wanting to grow anything edible and interesting and useful and medicinal that we could,” Bandi says of the inspiration to open the online nursery. “We really focus on the most unusual edibles – the rarest, unique, and unusual edible plants.”
They began sourcing plants from all over the world from various online retailers, with a special focus on plants that have culinary or medicinal uses. As their garden grew, they began propagating the plants using clippings and seeds.
“We had really worked up quite a collection,” recollects Bandi. “We decided that there were so many things we were growing, and we were spending so much time trying to source seeds from all over the world and all corners of the internet, we just wanted to make it easier for other people who wanted to start a project like this. We wanted to have everything all in one place. That’s when we decided to start our own nursery.”
The collection the couple has accumulated is indeed vast. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the selection available on the Sow Exotic website, as it ranges from the familiar succulent aloe vera to the more exotic dragon fruit and passion flower vines, to tropical trees with peculiar names like jocote, bilimbi, and kwai muk.
“A lot of the plants are hard to find elsewhere,” Jared explains. “We’ve had to do a lot of research and talk to people. We have a lot more plants than are listed currently that we’re in the process of growing out and getting big enough to propagate from.”
They’ve taken the notion of a global village to heart, really digging deep to find what people prize most in their gardens throughout the world and then learning how to grow and propagate those treasures right here in Central Florida. They currently have over 400 different types of plants available for sale, including a healthy selection of various citrus trees.
“Our inspiration comes from what people are growing all over the world,” says Brittany Bandi. “What are the most valuable things to grow, or the most interesting, or delicious? What are the most nutritious things you can grow in every country? What does every culture value and love to grow? That’s what we get really excited about.”
Although Bandi and her family have welcomed visitors onto their property for tours of their 2-acre food forest, they do not currently conduct in-person sales at the nursery. They do participate in some of the local plant sales, such as Plantopia, which will be held at Hollis Garden in Lakeland on February 26.
For now, if you want to get your hands on a jackfruit tree, goji berry bush, butterfly pea vine, or any of the other fascinating plants offered by Sow Exotic, you’ll have to visit their website to order.
One thing you won’t have to worry about when you order from their online nursery is excessive, wasteful packaging. They offer plastic-free shipping, mindful of creating truly sustainable business practices to complement the eco-friendly nature of the nursery. Each plant shipped from Sow Exotic travels to its destination in a special plant-based, biodegradable bag that is designed to retain moisture and hold soil securely in place, creating a safe and comfortable vessel for seedlings, herbs, and forbs to be transported in.
When you receive your order from Sow Exotic, you can pop it right in the ground immediately, because the plants arrive in biodegradable planters that are garden-friendly while supporting healthy root growth. This helps ease the transition of the plants into their new locations so they can become a happy, productive part of your landscape more quickly.
Brittany and Jared have plans to expand their operation in 2023, as they have acquired a 5-acre parcel of land near where they have already been living and working in Winter Haven.
“We’re getting ready to open a nursery that will be accessible to the public,” Brittany Bandi says. “Right now, it is online only. We have done some local pick-up, but we’re not doing that currently. And we’ve done some really awesome events, like food forest tours that we offer seasonally. But at the new location, we’ll be doing some really exciting stuff, so stay tuned for that!”