I first became familiar with Elise's work by seeing it at local shops like my favorite spot for groceries, Riverwards Produce. I was very excited to get a tour of Elise's gardens and learn more about her path to herbology.
Elise wears the Hanima Smocked Back Dress in Blue Dip Dye
Can you tell us about your work?
Terra Luna is a small-batch apothecary and urban herb garden based in Northeast Philadelphia. I am a one-woman show—overseeing two growing spaces, as well as hand making all of my products and teaching workshops throughout the city. My goal is to offer herbal products for a wide range of clients, encouraging people who may not have any much experience with herbalism, to take their wellness into their own hands. I utilize many ingredients grown in my own garden spaces and my goal is to eventually rely solely on my own crops for recipes. I also teach herbal workshops where I teach people basic skills in subjects such as herbal tea blending and natural skincare.
You mentioned you studied fashion originally, what brought you to become an herbalist?
When I graduated college, I wasn't entirely sure that I wanted to enter the fashion industry, so I took a chance and joined the WWOOFing volunteer program—an organic farm volunteer program in which you can learn the basics of farming by living and working on organic farms around the world. My good friend and I chose to go out West to farms in Utah and Arizona and I totally fell in love with the work. When I returned to Philadelphia, I yearned to continue working with plants, so I began basic herbalism courses and started my own herb garden. The rest is history!
How do you approach developing a new product?
I try to keep my product base very universal, in the sense that I want to create products that can be helpful for a wide audience of people. Oftentimes, the inspiration comes from personal needs of my own, or requests from close friends. I then fine-tune the recipes with ingredients that can translate to an array of clients.
I’m very curious about your wellness box service, what does that involve?
The inspiration behind the service started with the idea that wellness is an ever evolving process and includes not just your physical health, but a general sense of peace and growth. It was created with the traditional CSA model in mind, offering members a curated box of goods every month, but I made the model my own by establishing that in each share, members receive five products, four of which are created by me, and one by another local maker. I love featuring other makers that I admire and oftentimes their products are outside the apothecary realm, tying into wellness in another way. I offer 7 different pickup locations in neighborhoods around Philadelphia, or you can have the boxes shipped anywhere in the United States. Each month is a different theme, often coinciding with the seasons, and includes a detailed description of all the contents so that members can feel comfortable trying the teas, skincare, or emotional wellness products for the first time.
You have a wonderful list of stockists, how did you start selling your herbal products to stores?
I actually started selling my first products at Punk Rock Flea Market and was approached by Moon + Arrow to potentially sell in their store. It was a huge surprise and a wonderful first step to getting up the courage to approach other retailers. Since then, I have slowly been welcomed into other boutiques and am currently working on expanding outside of the Philadelphia area.
We chatted about positive habits, what advice do you have for starting positive habits in your morning routine?
Take it one day at a time. Change is hard, so give yourself some credit for making small changes first. I, for instance, have made it a goal to replace a few morning coffees per week with a cup of herbal tea. Even though herbal tea is one of my most favorite things, I still have a habitual routine of consuming too much caffeine...so slowly weening myself off has been a great way to make that change. The great thing about preparing tea is that it also provides a few moments of calm while you wait for it to steep. A built-in morning meditation!
Do you have any tips for how someone who doesn’t have a knack for gardening can start growing plants in their home?
I encounter so many people who claim to have a "black thumb" and I always tell them that they are likely just not choosing plants that fit their lifestyle or environment! Start small and do some research into what the plants you are growing really need. When buying a plant, confirm how much light and watering it needs and if it seems like too much work, don't get it! Much like positive morning routine habits, start slow, take your time, and be honest about what kind of time you have to give to your plants. It truly is possible to have thriving plants indoors or in an urban setting, you just have to educate yourself first. I actually provide a consultation service in which I visit your space and help you figure out what plants would do best for you. I even offer a personal plant buying service if you want to go that route. Let me help you turn that black thumb green!
How do you continue to develop your skills over time?
I am always learning from my mistakes. Much of my gardening and herbal education has been online and from books, so inevitably a lot of my experience is trial and error. It can be a frustrating journey, but I am endlessly curious about plants, which helps motivate me to continue developing my horticultural and herbal skills.
What is your definition of success?
In reference to my business, success is simply being able to build something that I am proud of, that can financially support me. More than that though, I want to use my business to spread the word about the importance of individuals taking charge of their health and the environment around them. If I can influence my audience to be conscious of how they are treating their bodies and how to live a more sustainable lifestyle, I will feel successful. A big pillar of my business is to provide education and products that encourage people to focus on wellness, both personally and globally.
Elise wears the Louisa Wrap Dress in Lavender
Favorite flower or herb?
Calendula flowers were one of the first medicinal herbs I grew successfully from seed, so have always held a big place in my heart. They are so bright and friendly and are a core ingredient in almost every one of my skincare products. They just make me smile!
Do you have a favorite article of clothing?
I have a pair of lime green, sling back heels that I am obsessed with. Since I am always in the garden, it feels so nice to put something on that instantly makes me feel dressed up, yet casual and comfortable. They are my personality in a shoe!
What’s your favorite travel destination?
My grandparents live in Little Compton, a small beach town in Rhode Island and I have been going there every year since I was a kid. It's so quiet, refreshing, and nostalgic for me. Wild Elder bushes also grow all along the roads in their neighborhood, so it has also become a yearly ritual to harvest Elderflowers and Elderberries every time I go.
Do you have any events coming up?
I am so excited about an outdoor, family-style dinner that I am co-hosting with Yalla Yaya on August 16th. Yalla is a wonderful duo of female chefs who host pop-up dinners throughout Philadelphia and NYC, and we will be bringing in tables to create a dinner at dusk in one of my garden spaces. Many of the ingredients will come straight from the garden and I will be serving signature herbal cocktails. A portion of the proceeds will also be going to The Lutheran Settlement House, a non-profit that owns the land on which my garden space exists. You can get tickets on my website.