Robbin Ward

Robbin Ward always had a special relationship with flowers. As a young girl, she grew a full garden.

So, ask her decades later how she overcame the difficult challenges of entrepreneurship to make a business bloom across Brevard County and she simply points to her company name: A Passion for Plants, where Ward is the owner and horticulturalist.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with plants and flowers. … Then I found out I just loved the industry,” said Ward, summing up the past 25-plus years.

Ward went from helping out a friend in the earliest days and working for more than 20 years at a large company to starting her own enterprise in 2017. In other words, she’s a lifer in the world of “interiorscaping.”

Interiorscaping? Ward defines it with an emphasis on emotion. By strategically placing plants throughout a space, one can help reduce stress, increase productivity, clean the air and generally brighten both the indoor environments and moods.

Ward’s clients come with a variety of commercial settings, ranging from small medical facilities and large hospitals to car dealerships, restaurants, country clubs and office lobbies. The common thread: They seek to lighten and warm places that tend to be cold and dark.

“A lot of them are just looking to warm up the place, to make it more welcoming,” Ward describes. “And whether your establishment is a busy office, relaxing resort, or a wonderful restaurant, having plants that were selected specifically for your space not only adds beauty, but also provides health benefits.

“It is widely known that the presence of plants in the workplace helps employees by reducing stress levels and increasing productivity. Plants are also great for cleaning the air, so your employees can breathe easy.”

Consider these statistics: According to published research, introducing plants to the workplace reduces tension and anxiety levels by 37% while lowering feelings of anger by approximately 44%. Also, fatigue was reduced by more than one-third. Further, employees whose offices included natural elements scored 15% higher in creativity.

And there is a method to the madness of interiorscaping, as the saying goes, in form of some common sense mixed with art and science.

Initial considerations encompass such topics as business type, time of year and overall project vision — a formal look or tropical look, for instance — before moving into the more complex, such as traffic flows and light levels. Then plans are created, and specific plants selected.

“Not every plant will survive indoors,” Ward noted. “Some plants belong outside. Others can thrive inside. We educate our clients.”

An example: the Bromeliad, a tropical plant that can grow anywhere indoors and even in luminescent light. Bromeliads, by the way, are especially good for providing seasonal color, as are orchids and, for this time of year, poinsettias and Christmas Cactus.

Those considerations represent the science, noted Ward, who studied horticulture in school. Then there’s the art.

“You have to have a design aspect in there to make sure things look good together,” she said. “You have to have an eye for detail, for sure.

“You don’t need a lot of plants. If they’re strategically placed, and there’s the right plant for the right place, it’s amazing the difference it makes.”

A Passion for Plants handles all of the above, plus installation and maintenance, which is especially important but often overlooked, she said, citing: “You need to understand the growth habits of the plants being installed. How to trim them, keep them clean and other things, in addition to watering.”

Through it all, Ward relies on a simple approach to business: Be yourself. For her, that means talking plants — being friendly, informal and informative — with a realization that people don’t see plants quite like she does.

“I just love sharing the knowledge of plants. And I have no problem helping people take care of their plants,” said Ward, an active member of the communities throughout Brevard and Metro Orlando.

Similarly, Ward focuses on relationship- building with regional plant growers, what she calls the literal lifeblood of her business. “It’s a full circle,” she commented. “And when you have that relationship with the growers, it goes a long way.”

And for Ward, in the end, there is one big payoff — people’s reactions to what she produces. The wow-factor.

“The ultimate goal is for someone to walk in and say, ‘Wow, these are real? They are so beautiful. I thought they were fake,” Ward concluded.