Not Your Grandma’s Garden Party

Say “goodbye” to a typical dinner or get-together with friends and “hello” to trendy terrariums and handcrafted cocktails. Plant Nite was something I had heard about vaguely through Facebook posts and overlooked in emails, but it was not until recently that some friends and I decided to finally find out what this event was all about. 

Each Plant Nite begins with a request to raise one’s drink and repeat the following oath: “I hereby promise to relax and have fun, to not throw soil at my neighbor, to not say ‘I like his or hers better,’ to embrace getting dirty and believe I have a green thumb.”

You have likely attended or at least heard of events that consist of painting canvases as you sip glasses of wine in a secluded art studio, but in an effort to pull people out of their usual routines and encourage them to try new bars and restaurants while creating something they could actually use in their homes, Plant Nite was born. As a branch of Paint Nite, the enterprise was founded only a few years ago in Boston in 2012, and it has quickly taken the nation by storm. There are now events hosted by local gardeners across more than 30 states. While the establishments that host events do not make a profit off the event itself, the food and drink orders from Plant Nite guests bring in more than enough sales to cover what would normally be a slow weeknight for a bar. 

My friends and I found an event at High Fives, a casual bar with a dog-friendly patio in uptown Dallas, and bought tickets online from Plant Nite’s website, not knowing much about what we were getting ourselves into. You can check the website and see when events are scheduled in and around Frisco. When we approached High Fives, we cautiously entered the open-air venue glancing around in search of other Plant Nite attendees. We quickly noticed three long tables draped in green tablecloths, each seat furnished with a Plant Nite apron, a white planter box and latex gloves. We were directed toward our host for the evening, who checked us in and instructed us to claim our seats and place our food or drink orders. 

After some mingling with other guests, I was relieved to learn not many of them had attended a Plant Nite before and they also had no prior gardening experience. My group and I slipped on our aprons and took our seats, leaving us feeling a bit like children in a classroom, but this time with an adult beverage in hand. Looking down the table, there was not much to see other than boxes of soil cushioned between appetizers and conversation shared among friends. It was not hard to understand why some of the bar regulars around us might be confused as to what we were doing. One gentleman asked from a nearby table as he looked on in curiosity, “So, you guys just put the plants in the soil and that’s it?” Being Plant Nite rookies ourselves, we could not give him a very good explanation, but we quickly found ourselves wrist-deep in soil and eagerly awaiting further instruction. Each attendee was told to fill their planters with the soil and then our instructor began bringing around trays of various plants from which to choose. Each guest was allotted two medium plants and one mini plant. It is also worth noting that all the plants are from the succulent family, meaning they are very low maintenance and require only the occasional watering. Next, we all got to tap into our creative side and explore our own unique eye for plant design.

The instructor passed out boxes and trays filled with colored pebbles, brightly-colored mosses and even lizard and dinosaur figurines we could use to design our personal mini gardens (a traditional element included in Plant Nite creations). She passed out a few papers with different design ideas, but strongly encouraged we all just have fun and make the design our own. Some people dove right in. I noticed the man sitting next to me immediately grabbed a toy triceratops and a handful of purple moss, while others pulled out their phones to seek inspiration from their Pinterest DIY pages. The designs ranged from paths of black pebbles twisted through the plants as pathways for toy dinosaurs or lizards to walk on, while others created a center oasis of blue pebbles surrounded by desert fauna. I opted for an orange dinosaur nestled among some traditional green moss and white pebbles.

One of my key takeaways from Plant Nite was that gardening can be quite relaxing. When I have attended similar painting or DIY classes, I often find myself stressed over making sure my painting turns out identical to the example or worried I am being judged by the talented artists surrounding me, rather than actually enjoying myself. Typically, I have left with a painting I am not pleased with and would be embarrassed to even display. At Plant Nite, the atmosphere embodied the definition of laid back, the only hazard being you might end up with some bits of soil in your drink. Oops! Gardening also takes less time than creating an entire painting. The event only lasted about an hour and a half. After doing my research, I found that Plant Nite co-founders Dan Hermann and Sean McGrail say it was the relaxing nature of the activity that originally inspired the unique and crafty idea. In fact, a study from the American Psychological Association showed that just having plants in offices and workspaces increases employee happiness, as well as overall productivity. I am happy to say my new terrarium resides next to me on my own office desk.

Tickets are around $45 and this cost covers the plants and materials you need to work with, such as the dirt, rocks, planters, spades, aprons and more. It is also a perk that instructors clean up the mess while you are left sipping on cocktails and capturing the perfect picture of your new creation to show off on Instagram. Guests need only bring money for drinks and appetizers (which are not included in the price) and their creativity. Events are available at a variety of bars, pubs and restaurants across the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, and the type of planter varies by event. 

Whether you want to plan a girls’ night out or a first date, Plant Nite is the perfect way to unwind. Mix up your routine by trying a new activity and a new bar. While your thumb may not be green by the end of the night, you are sure to leave with some new décor for your home or office and the title of amateur gardener.

Rachel Beaird is a recent University of Arkansas graduate, travel enthusiast and a public relations aficionado.