When the sorority sisters left the big Pi Beta Phi house and moved in together for their junior year, they knew each other pretty well.
But they didn’t know everything.
“We all knew we liked plants,” says Kayla Allen. “But we didn’t know we liked plants that much.”
That much is this much: Four roommates bunking down with dozens of houseplants (big and small) in a shoebox-size living space.
A houseplant Instagram page (plantsof1107).
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This Green Oxalis is very happy today. #ShamerockShake Here he is wiggling in the wind. This is one of two of our oxalis plants... the other one is a dark purple. These are some cool dudes because they close at night and open during the day! . . . . . . . #girlswithplants #plants #plantsofinstagram #purple #green #oxalistriangularis #shamrockshake #plantsmakepeoplehappy #plantsplantsplants
Plants with names. (Say hello to Seymour.)
Prize-winning plants. (Well, OK, one prize.)
It’s been a few months since the four roommates earned first place in an Omaha nursery’s houseplant photo contest, although they just recently divvied up and spent the $100 prize. (A gift certificate for more houseplants).
They point to the winning entry — a funky-looking cactus officially called an opuntia subulata on the dining room table. (Although they renamed it Mulhall in honor of the nursery that honored it.)
The plant sisters are telling their story at the end of UNL's dead week in the oxygen-filled living room of their Q Street apartment, where plants fill a sunny window sill, hang from the ceiling and line tall metal shelves meant for paint supplies.
These are plants that do not go unnoticed.
Visitors — they have many, judging from the empty wine bottles that line the top of the kitchen cupboards — occasionally topple a plant and almost always comment on the greenhouse decor.
They love the spider plants and the snake plants, the trailing pothos and curling ivy, the shamrock-shaped oxalis regnellii, the adorable vases filled with many variety of cacti.
Their Instagram page — “Just some plant moms showing off our plant babies” — was born out of the oohs and aahs of those guests and has 184 followers — “this page has changed my life” — and dozens of well-composed photos with attention-grabbing captions.
Among them, tips: Burnt-out candle jars for fun pots ... just add rocks for drainage.
And jokes: What did one hungry plant say to another? I need a light snack.
And obituaries: Recently, we’ve seen our maidenhair fern and lemon cypress pass away. ... It’s hard to let them go.
Last week, the roommates elaborate on the dead cypress (named Cyprus) and report they’ve managed to keep the rest of their garden going.
They’ve rescued plants — meet Toucan Sam, the once-bedraggled tropical saved from a $2 clearance sale near Chicago.
And they’ve propagated a few, such as Seymour the jade plant, which has recently sprouted baby jades.
Their plants are like pets, says Madison Farnsworth, a communication sciences and disorders major from Illinois, but easier.
They need water but never a walk.
“There’s no way we’re going to be able to keep a pet alive,” Madison says. “This is low-risk.”
Sarah Wozniak is the group’s novice.
“I was kind of a new plant mom,” says the marketing major from the Minneapolis area. (Her roommates steered her toward green things she’d have a hard time killing. So far, so good.)
Emma Limas, a nursing student from Omaha, and Kayla have longer plant histories — and overflow plants in their bedrooms.
“They’re kind of like part of our little family now,” Emma says.
“It’s something for us all to go do together,” Madison says. “Go to Earl May or Campbell’s and look at plants.”
Each roommate waters her own plant family. Although recently, Emma did ask Kayla a favor: Can you bring Alvin the Tree into the shower with you? (Larger plants are easier to water that way. Alvin is a Norfolk pine.)
“We sound crazy,” Emma says.
Oh, not so much. Not if you like plants.
And now nearly everyone knows that they do.
They will return to UNL in the fall as seniors, although Madison is going home to Illinois for the summer and debating the wisdom of leaving her soil-bound offspring behind.
Right now, the four plant-loving roommates are staring down the last week of spring semester. And perhaps feeling like they did when they posted a closeup of a flower-shaped cactus on Plants of 1107 at the end of the winter semester.
“I wish I was a plant, because plants don’t have to take finals.”