Local Vendor Spotlight — Good Host Plants: A Personal Passion That Grew Into a Startup

Karen Melton, for the Shuttle

When John Janick and his family moved into their first home with a real yard on Sedgwick Street in 2008, he sought information on how to make it bird friendly. The expert advice he received as part of an Audubon audit program included Doug Tallamy’s book “Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife With Native Plants.”

A biology major, John was already interested in bugs and birds, but learning about the critical role of native plants in supporting them started him on a new life venture that would eventually lead to his native plant nursery, Good Host Plants.

Tallamy, an entomologist at University of Delaware, writes and lectures about his research showing the connection between native plants and healthy populations of local insects that have evolved to eat them. Those insects are the protein source vital to birds, particularly during nesting season. Ironically, non-native plants have become popular precisely because local insects do not recognize them as food, but a garden with a variety of native plants will sustain only minor chewing damage.

As John began filling out his yard with native plants and trees — and helping interested neighbors do the same — the difficulty of finding the plants and having to drive to nurseries an hour away in Springfield or Quakertown turned his personal passion into a startup business.

In 2015, John erected his first hoop house on a hardscrabble plot of land near Front Street and Erie Avenue, and began developing a network of growers. In his second year, he opened for some weekend retail hours and began selling online (he’s a web developer by day).

John started selling plants at Henry Got Crops Farm Market in 2017, and you can find his plants this year at both the farm market and at the Mercantile. Many of the plants he delivers will be in bloom or about to bloom, and he will keep introducing new plants throughout the season.

Over the years, he’s taken thousands of photographs of native plants and insects, and uses them in talks he gives throughout the area.

Good Host’s spring plant list includes more than 100 species of perennials, shrubs and ferns native to the mid-Atlantic. All are available at his Butler Street Nursery, which is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and on weekends. A list of plants available and other info is on their website, www.goodhostplants.com.