Saratoga County

Ballston company among those tending to great indoors

Ever see anybody tending the lush plants growing in the mall’s main corridor or the office building
Karen McGowan, who owns Capital InteriorScapes in Ballston with her husband, waters large plants in their warehouse in the Curtis Industrial Park on Wednesday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Karen McGowan, who owns Capital InteriorScapes in Ballston with her husband, waters large plants in their warehouse in the Curtis Industrial Park on Wednesday.

Ever see anybody tending the lush plants growing in the mall’s main corridor or the office building lobby?

A lot of work goes into keeping them green, but most of that work is done when no one is around to see it.

Capital InteriorScapes in Ballston is one of the companies that keeps things green. It visits about 135 sites a week, feeding and cleaning the healthy plants and replacing the dying plants, everywhere from St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany to Wilton Mall.

Owner Karen McGowan said if the team — five people plus her and husband Gregg McGowan, the co-owner — does its job right, it remains anonymous.

“We’re so under the radar,” she said. “You see the plant and nobody realizes where they come from.”

The downside of that, McGowan said, is that not enough people appreciate the benefits of interior foliage: improved aesthetics, better air quality and higher morale. People would rather work and shop in a landscaped setting, she explained.

Capital InteriorScapes recently completed two big installations before the Easter holiday, both at malls: Colonie Center and ViaPort Rotterdam.

Malls are among her biggest jobs, and among her most tightly scheduled, because the team can’t work when the shoppers are there.

“We need to be in and out of there before hours, especially if we’re doing a major planting,” McGowan said. “We usually go in earlier in the morning, especially in the mall, because we need to have the light.”

Once or twice a month, Capital InteriorScapes gets a shipment of plants from Florida, the source of most of the foliage used in the interiorscaping industry. The dracaena is the genus of choice, with 24 to 36 species suited for indoor ornamental use, depending on the specifics of a given planting site.

Capital keeps them at its office in the Curtis Industrial Park on Route 67 until there’s a need to plant them.

But some places just aren’t suited for an indoor plant.

“I go in with a light meter, assess the environment, and assess what can grow there,” McGowan said. If nothing works, she’ll recommend some artificial plants.

The Buffalo native was an art student who became a chef when she needed to make a living, then became a floral designer to satisfy her creative side.

“I went from smelling like garlic to smelling like roses,” she laughs.

Along the way, working in Connecticut, she met the Long Island native who would become her husband, and they worked for years in the interiorscaping industry while raising a family.

In April 2010, they became business partners, when they started Capital InteriorScapes.

“We had been doing this so long and making money for other people and also our children, our last one was leaving the nest,” she said of the rationale.

McGowan likes interior landscaping better than floral arranging for two reasons: She gets to work on a larger scale and she has fewer competitors.

“This gave me a different palette to work with,” she said.

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