We met Abby Barber of Tiny Nest Botanicals a few years ago at one of our favorite New Orleans outposts, Sunday Shop. Abby had outfitted the store and garden with indoor and outdoor plants that nestled among the store's wares, bringing its warm and welcoming aesthetic to another level. Since then, we've seen Abby's indoor plant-scaping around New Orleans in other inviting spaces, both residential and commercial, large-scale and small. Her personality mirrors these spaces she helps create: warm, charming, sweet, with a touch of curiosity and magic. Usually trailed by her kids Etta and Zeke, we love how Abby can evolve environments with a touch of the organic.
Read on for our chat with Abby, photographed from afar by Augusta Sagnelli in some of our Summer 2020 new arrivals.
Etta and Zeke are your shadows — I feel like every time I run into you they aren't far behind! We love seeing how parents are finding creative ways to keep their kids educated and occupied during this time. Any tips and tricks?
Oh man! So many tips and so many tricks but when all else fails we try stick to the "B"s ; baking, bubbles, balloons, books and baths. Baking can be therapeutic for adults and just plain fun for kids but if you need to make it educational you can with measuring, counting, telling time and spelling words. If a child is young enough you can just sit them on the floor with bowls and spoons and maybe a splash of water, but let the older ones really get in there and crack eggs and do all the things that will drive you nuts if you try to control the situation too much. Be prepared for a mess and make cleaning up a part of the fun! Bubbles — again therapeutic for adults (think breathing exercises) and whether they are homemade or store bought/big or small they are always great for all ages. Etta, my six year old and Zeke, my two year old are equally entertained by bubbles. Balloons are especially good if you are indoors — we like to play "keep it up" which is self explanatory I think. Of course if there are younger babies in the house this could be played with a soft ball instead of a balloon. My kids love to be read to, and we do it every night- you'd think they would get tired of it but anytime I offer to read they are ready to sit and listen. Both of my kids will sit and look at a book on their own for short periods too! And baths — any time of day — with or without bubbles and books — I put measuring cups and bowls in for Zeke and he makes "sno balls" and for Etta I put in dried flowers and pink salt and make it a "flower fairy bath"
Such cute and creative ideas! They seem to follow in your footsteps — digging, getting dirty, and getting creative. What kind of family projects have y'all been doing together?
I've been known to take my kids to work with me on my back — literally — so they hear and see a lot about plants. Sometimes I am impressed with Etta's knowledge of botanical things. At home we have lots of plant projects. They like to plant seeds in small containers and watch them grow, they have their own small garden bed where they can transplant the seedlings when they are big enough to go into the soil. We also propagate lots of cuttings in little glass vases and jars for them to watch as well. And they recently acquired some red wrigglers so they have been composting their apples to feed their new pet worms.
It's great that those existing projects and activities just carry forward now, and they have even more time for them. Are you personally finding inspiration from anywhere during this time at home? Anything in particular that you've been reading, cooking, listening to?
I find a lot of inspiration from other humans, whether in an article I read or a phone conversation with someone I love or a book that I had put down and have now picked back up. I also find inspiration in the still moments that come between feelings of uncertainty and the busyness of life. When there are many things flying through my mind and something tells me to just take a breath and sit and watch and wait, the following moments usually unfold into something pretty great.
I kind of have a hard time sitting still so I have been doing a little more cooking and listening than reading and watching. I have been reading Fanny in France with Etta which is a fun collection of stories about Alice Waters's daughter traveling in France as a young girl and also a cookbook so it's a two-fer. I love music. It's essential for my well-being. I have a playlist for everything and every person in my life. I've been meaning to commit to rewatching Lonesome Dove because I try to do it every few years so I'll guess I'll do that soon. The last book I finished was Solitary by Albert Woodfox and I would highly recommend it to anyone.
Any good or bad habits you've started to form since the "stay-at-home" order? Personally, I've been sleeping in later than usual, and definitely sneaking more sweet treats.
Good: I try to get up before everyone else which gives me a quiet moment to prepare myself for the madness that is about to ensue. I make myself some coffee or tea and stretch. I also started to do a little check in/journaling type thing in a designated notebook where I write some brief descriptions of how I feel in general — fears, worries, things/people I'm grateful for, and things I need to be putting into practice. I have been doing this since right after Mardi Gras and I kind of like it.
Bad: I feel the need to consume sweets more than ever these days and also drink caffeine too late in the day. It could be worse I guess.
Anything in your home that's provided an unexpected source of joy?
Killing fruit flies.
It must be done! Do you have a go-to stay at home outfit?
I dress in layers, and underwear counts. I spend a lot of time in no clothes but when I do put them on it's usually some well-worn-in jeans with a tank and some sort of open front jacket. If no pants are involved its a muumuu or sundress. If shoes are involved its a mule of some sort.
Like your Lekha sundresses and robes. You've been acquainted with the brand for a few years now, how do you feel in Lekha?
Wearing Lekha makes me feel a lot of ways. I feel flattered and defined as a woman in the pieces I wear. They make me feel feminine in a natural and unadulterated way. They also have become staples for home and traveling that can be incorporated into many different looks.
We approach clothing from a place of comfort — we always hope that Lekha wraps our community with warmth and tenderness, thereby being able to go forth and spread that internalized peace with others. In this time it can be difficult to find a balance between personal wellness and being there both emotionally and financially for others. What has been your approach to this?
Lots of deep breaths! I'm a bit of a worrier and always have been so I have learned how to navigate uncertainty to the best of my ability and try to be patient with myself and those around me. I check in often with those near and far. I laugh a lot about the human condition and cry a little too sometimes. Listening to John Prine helps with this. I try and find connection between people and things and feel grounded when I do. When I offer my support to people around me I feel it in return. If I begin to feel untethered from reality I can usually come back down with a good conversation or a good meal or a good walk somewhere in or out of the city. Or maybe all three!