Jill Jensen Botanicals
Jill Jensen Botanicals aims to bring tropical beauty into Canadian homes and businesses. They offer a wide range of tropical plants many of which are unavailable at larger commercial retailers.
Jill Jensen, founder and owner of Jill Jensen Botanicals, is no stranger to the tropical plant business. Her grandfather emigrated from Denmark to Canada in the 1930s, bringing his previous knowledge of the greenhouse industry with him. He quickly brought his experience into Ontario through his Scarborough-based business, through greenhouse facilities he built in Scarborough.
In the late 1960s, Jensen’s father entered the family business. He changed the company’s focus away from plant growth and supply and into interior landscaping and design, founding Bruce Jensen Nurseries in the late 1970s. The contractor business quickly grew into one of the largest within Canada, with Jensen herself working alongside her father.
When the family sold the company in 1995, but retained the greenhouses and infrastructures, Jensen saw this as an opportunity to bring the business back to its roots, and, in 1997, Jill Jensen Botanicals, tropical plant grower and wholesale provider, was founded.
Today, Jill Jensen Botanicals operates about 40,000 square feet of greenhouse space on a 15 acre property in Newcastle, Ont. They regularly distribute throughout Southern Ontario as well as provide logistics solutions to distribute tropical plants into eastern and western Canada.
“Not all tropical plants are commercially grown. Some just aren’t commercially viable,” says Gary Oudyk, General Manager, “but we source anything that is.” Innovation and leadership in sourcing, producing or otherwise making plants available in a variety of ways to the end consumer have always been hallmark characteristics of the Jensen family’s approach.
Jill Jensen Botanicals offers a variety of tropical plant-based products, from 2-inch potted young plants to large, leafy potted plants to 20 foot or taller specimen trees. However, the company’s newest focus is on living walls – plants fitted in picture frame-like displays. “Space is at a premium,” says Jensen, “and the design industry’s modern aesthetic is based on clean, straight lines. A Living Wall can be self-watering and hung on your wall. Living in a condo doesn’t have to exclude you from having plants in your home.”
Industries and Institutional buildings are recognizing the role in botanicals as a competitive/marketing edge for attracting tenants. Their attraction is also driven by policy pertaining to issues such as waste disposal and carbon emissions — LEED certification towards Green Buildings. Many do so through the inclusion of stylized or green roofs. Jensen’s work can be found in households across Canada, as well as in notable public buildings such as the University of Ottawa’s six-floor vertical garden.
Jill Jensen Botanical’s Newcastle, location utilizes both glass and poly greenhouse facilities. This allows them to grow a large number of tropical plants within province. These resources are supported by the company’s two sister nurseries located in Apopka, Florida.
“About 70 to 80 per cent of our product is imported primarily from Florida, but also California and around the world, while the remaining 20 to 30 per cent is grown in Ontario,” says Oudyk, “We have certain lines that are better grown here than in Florida. We might choose to do it here due to a certain species’ shipping sensitivities.”
“While there remains consistent demand for plants that have long been familiar to the consumer, our core objective is to provide a wide selection of tropical plants of a higher quality built on a strong foundation of customer care,” explains Jensen.
Businesses show an increasing demand for tropical plants within their facilities. Not only do the plants improve interior aesthetics, but there is evidence supporting a range of other positive outcomes.
Jensen explains, “There are studies that show plants in the workplace decreases absenteeism and increases worker morale. This increases overall productivity. It gives a connection that’s so vital. Plants provide the counterbalance to the technological environment we live in. They allow us to maintain a connection to something more.”
In recent years, indoor tropical plants have captivated the interior design fashion industry. Notable publications such as Canadian Gardening and Homelife praise indoor plants in their features. As interior tropical plants become more popular within businesses and households, companies such as Jensen’s face a breaking opportunity for potential growth.
The Human Connection
Jill Jensen Botanicals values them deeper than sale pushing. Jensen believes her company influences global trends. Between 2006 and 2012, Jensen took a leave from her business and attained a graduate degree in agricultural economics with a focus on international agricultural development and value chains at the University of Florida. She spent several years –working on research, training, and project evaluation missions throughout Africa and the Middle East with organizations such as the World Bank and USAID, assisting local farmers with entering the global supply chain. Her experiences opened her eyes to the influence her company could have in developing countries worldwide.
“What we do in Ontario as part of the global supply chain is a development tool to help those in developing countries,” says Jensen, “Through our purchasing network, we are directly supporting and improving the livelihoods of the underserved and impoverished. When people buy plants from us, they’re supporting our development and humanitarian objectives.”
Jensen wants Canadians to know the value of interior tropical plants within their homes and workplaces. “I would love to see the general public especially the younger, millennial generation appreciate the value of having plants in both home and work environments,” says Jensen, “Relevance is an issue. We need to educate people and help them realize the broader significance plants can play in society.”
As tropical plant fixtures such as living walls and glass terrariums play in increasing role in how buildings are designed, companies such as Jensen’s grow more and more significant. “Our main challenges are helping people understand the relevance of what we do and matching it to the current trends,” says Jensen. Through doing so, Jill Jensen Botanicals expects continued success within the industry.