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Shopper’s Diary: An LA Store that Sells Rare Houseplants from Private Collections

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Shopper’s Diary: An LA Store that Sells Rare Houseplants from Private Collections

March 19, 2021

All plants have personalities. Anthropomorphized, a fiddle-leaf fig tree is the young urban dweller with a beanie collection, an orchid is the elegant suburban mom, a snake plant is the post-grad bohemian. As for the plants sold at SANSO? They are all Tilda Swinton—that is to say, elegant, weird, soulful, and wholly unique.

SANSO, located in Los Angeles’ Lincoln Heights district, is the beautiful brainchild of Yunice Kang, a former photographer who found solace in plants after the death of her father. “During this time, I began practicing meditation for the first time in my life. I [also] began to connect to individual plants in a whole new way,” she says. “I visited countless nurseries and greenhouses but realized all the nurseries in LA at the time were offering only a few of the same selections.”

Above: Early on, “I became increasingly aware of the need to co-develop a line of ceramics to house my collections,” says Yunice. “The plants I was collecting were so interesting to look at, they needed a beautiful color palette and simple shape to accentuate the characteristics of the plants themselves.” Her solution: an in-house ceramics studio. Photograph courtesy of SANSO.

That would become her lightbulb moment. Flummoxed by the lack of plant diversity in stores, she reached out to plant collectors and private growers who generously shared their knowledge—and their rare plants. SANSO (Korean for “oxygen”) was borne from the relationships Yunice forged with this community of passionate plant lovers. “Many of our rare selection of plants come from private individuals who have acquired their collection from various regions over the last 30 to 50 years,” she says. “I visited as many greenhouses and nurseries in Southern California as possible. I would ask a lot of questions and start conversations with the growers to feed my own curiosity.”

SANSO moved into their new location in Lincoln Heights this past summer. &#8\2\20;Building out the studio was very DIY, and the vision for the space was really informed by living with the plants and letting the space guide us into what worked best. I wanted the plants to be properly showcased so we built simple and functional fixtures and furniture. I’ve always been passionate about creating spaces,&#8\2\2\1; says Yunice. Photograph by Daniel Shipp, courtesy of SANSO.
Above: SANSO moved into their new location in Lincoln Heights this past summer. “Building out the studio was very DIY, and the vision for the space was really informed by living with the plants and letting the space guide us into what worked best. I wanted the plants to be properly showcased so we built simple and functional fixtures and furniture. I’ve always been passionate about creating spaces,” says Yunice. Photograph by Daniel Shipp, courtesy of SANSO.

SANSO opened three years ago. Today, like so many retail businesses this past year, it’s evolved into primarily an online store. Plants are available for curbside pickup only, which means, for now, you have to be local to shop from the store. This may change in the near future, though. “We are working on making more of our products accessible online for shipping, delivery, and gift options. We have a lot of people who reached out to us from outside of Los Angeles, and we want to be able to offer them the same level of care and attention that we would someone locally,” says Yunice.

&#8\2\20;The most important inspiration for me right now stems from my own connection and constant learning around the history of Korean culture,&#8\2\2\1; says Yunice, pictured here with her daughter, Cleo. &#8\2\20;As I do more personal research and develop a deeper connection to Korean history and traditions, I see it reflected in how SANSO approaches its relationship with making, nature, and connection.&#8\2\2\1; Photograph by Justin Chung.
Above: “The most important inspiration for me right now stems from my own connection and constant learning around the history of Korean culture,” says Yunice, pictured here with her daughter, Cleo. “As I do more personal research and develop a deeper connection to Korean history and traditions, I see it reflected in how SANSO approaches its relationship with making, nature, and connection.” Photograph by Justin Chung.

For those living in the Los Angeles area, you’re in luck: Tomorrow, Saturday, March 20, on the first day of spring, new arrivals will go live on their site at 12 PM PST.

Below, a sampling of their new offerings:

A trio of kokedama arrangements. (Kokedama is the Japanese technique of wrapping a plant in a moss ball.) Yunice wrapped a couple in reusable Korean bojagi wrap.
Above: A trio of kokedama arrangements. (Kokedama is the Japanese technique of wrapping a plant in a moss ball.) Yunice wrapped a couple in reusable Korean bojagi wrap.
Above: A jasmine kokedama and a Tetradenia riparia. The potted scenes are inspired by kusamono, the Japanese art of botanical arrangements that reflect the season.
&#8\2\20;What makes SANSO different is the personal experience behind our products. I personally pick out each plant that we sell, and our team prunes and pairs it with our planters to showcase each plant as a living sculpture. The whole process is filled with care and intention,&#8\2\2\1; says Yunice. Photograph courtesy of SANSO.
Above: “What makes SANSO different is the personal experience behind our products. I personally pick out each plant that we sell, and our team prunes and pairs it with our planters to showcase each plant as a living sculpture. The whole process is filled with care and intention,” says Yunice. Photograph courtesy of SANSO.

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