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Betsy Begonia | Getting Back to Society and Plant Community in France | Wine Down the Week Ep3

Betsy Begonia | Getting Back to Society and Plant Community in France | Wine Down the Week Ep3

Our guest today is Betsy Begonia

Betsy makes YouTube videos about houseplant love and care from plant care tips to plant history and other fun, plant-related topics.

Where you can find Betsy:


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Wine Down the Week is created in partnership with:

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Steel City Plant Co:
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Angie 0:10 Hey plant fam, welcome to the Wine Down The Week Podcast, I'm your host Angie, owner of Steel City plant Company here in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This podcast is brought to you by Soltech Solutions. We are going to chat with Betsy Begonia today while enjoying a drink or two. And she makes YouTube videos about houseplant love and care, and plant care tips, to plant care history and other fun plant related topics. So she covers a lot in these YouTube videos. And we're so excited to have her here today. Welcome, Betsy!
Betsy 0:46 Hello, thank you so much for having me!
Angie 0:49 Hi, how are you?
Betsy 0:51 I'm really good. How are you?
Angie 0:53 Good! And Betsy is coming to us all the way from France. So where in you France do you live?
Betsy 0:58 I'm about as North as you can get on near the border of Belgium. I'm north of Paris, in Lille, France. And I really just realized that my my humidifiers going behind me it looks like I'm at a disco. Like a roller skating rink or something - like I have a fog machine.
Angie 1:19 I love it - the vibe with the neon light...
Betsy 1:23 living room is basically a bowling alley!
Angie 1:25 I love it. I love it. And I see your stags thriving over there, with the Soltech lights...
Betsy 1:32 Yeah! I just have one on right now so you can see how bright they are.
Angie 1:37 And that's just one! Wow. That's awesome. So, let's kick things off with an icebreaker. We're going to play Petal and Bloom. So Petal is something that happened recently that was exciting for you, and Bloom is something that is coming up that's exciting!
Betsy 1:57 Okay. And then I just go? This is it? Petal and Bloom? Oh! Okay. So - Petal. Um, well, right now in France, it's a period called le rentrée, which is like "the re-entry". So it's when kids go back to school, but it's also when everyone kind of comes back from holidays, because in France, we do love our holidays! And so everyone, I mean, basically all of France, goes on holidays in July and August. So we actually have words for that - we call them July-ers, or August-ers. And then in September, you know, we all kind of come back, and much to our dismay, we have to return to work, and we have to return to school. And so there's a name for this period. And there's another element that this year! And that's that, you know, they're lifting restrictions. So for me, I'm not returning to school, and I'm not returning to work, but I am returning to society, which is really exciting! It's just, I'm absolutely thrilled, because we've been in confinement for so long. And so for me, it's just a really exciting time - I'm going to social events, again - you know, safely and with the correct precautions, and always; outdoor events. And I've, you know, I've returned to the gym. And so that's what's happening for me right now - and it's extremely exciting.
Angie 3:24 Things we didn't think we would miss right? Like, going to the gym...
Betsy 3:28 ..Oh, yes! I'm just so grateful. And every day I say, I'm just so grateful for ordinary life again. I used to dream of an extraordinary life... I'm okay with an ordinary life at this point.
Angie 3:42 Just the bare minimum, regular social interaction...
Betsy 3:46 I just want to put my shoes on and walk outside sometimes!
Angie 3:49 Yeah! yes.
Betsy 3:51 And then what's coming up? I suppose, mm I guess, I've already started my second channel, which is really just for vlogging or anything else creative and fun. And I'm also working on third channel haha! So the third channel is extra fun because I get to put on wigs and makeup and react to fun and interesting things. And it's called Little Miss Wiggy. So that's, you know... I haven't published anything yet... but I've been working on that for about a month or two at this point, And that's my next upcoming project!
Angie 4:36 I feel like we're getting the secret scoop today!
Betsy 4:40 Yeah nobody knows about this yet, except for my best friend. Which is Miro from Basie Plants! is my very best friend...
Angie 4:50 Amazing! Is she also in France? or is she...
Betsy 4:54 He! He lives in Serbia. His name is Miroslav, and he has a YouTube channel @Basie Plants and he's extremely... really popular with the Hoya community. I think he has over 112 Hoyas at this point. He also collects orchids, and he makes really wonderful videos that are funny and extremely informative - he does his homework and his research - and he's just is a wonderful creator. Yeah!
Angie 5:20 That is the perfect segue! Because... what my exciting thing that just happened was: we got a huge shipment of Hoyas today! So that's the highlight of my... my week, my month...
Betsy 5:32 How many different types of Hoyas?
Angie 5:35 We got in a collector series... so it's a mixed batch of the more rare types with the tags and everything. So we have them in hanging baskets, we have teeny tiny cute ones that are a little pots, we have big ones, so we have all of the Hoyas!
Betsy 5:52 That's very exciting!
Angie 5:54 ...And what do I have coming up that's exciting? Oh! I'm going to Salem, Massachusetts for the first time to do all the Halloween things. All the spooky!
Betsy 6:04 Hah! yeah, that's gonna be October. Yeah...
Angie 6:08 Can you believe that? That is already going to be October?
Betsy 6:12 I went to a social gathering last week. It was like the first time that I went to like a... gathering of sorts. And, you know, it's just like some expats who live in Lille - and on my way, I was thinking of people that I used to talk to when I would go to these events - and I realized I haven't seen them since October of 2019. Wow! It's been TWO years! And I just didn't, I didn't realize it.
Angie 6:42 Yeah, I feel like I keep saying: "Oh, this past year has been crazy. This past year...." No, it's been two years now.
Betsy 6:50 Oh, yeah, oooh yeah! Time has passed in a really odd way, yeah. So you own a shop in where? in Philadelphia?
Angie 6:58 In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania - so right where Soltech is - so we're on the other side of town from Soltech. But we're only an hour from Philly. So it's very, very close. We used to be considered a suburb of Philly, but now it's kind of growing into its own bustling city here in Bethlehem...or the Lehigh Valley, lot of people call it. We are right on Main Street in the downtown; so we specialize in already potted pet friendly houseplants.
Betsy 7:26 Oh, nice. Oh, but Hoyas are in the milkweed family. Did you know?
Angie 7:33 The what? I'm sorry, you broke up.
Betsy 7:35 Hoya is in the milkweed family; and actually my cat had a very bad reaction when he took... this is actually not common knowledge.... most people think that Hoya is pet friendly, but it's part of the, it's a member of the milkweed family, and it will cause a reaction if pets take a bite of it. I know because.... well, my cats don't typically touch my plants, they're not really interested.... but one day I was walking out onto the patio with them.... I don't remember which one it was, it was one of my Hoya.... and it had, you know, dangly bits everywhere and my cat was all feeling silly - and as I was coming by with the vines, he batted at them and he took a nip and then his mouth filled with foam! and I just took him to the vet, but everything was okay because he didn't swallow anything. But it caused his saliva to foam up in reaction. Then I researched it, and I saw that the ASPCA labels Hoya Kerrii, (or Karri-I, however you want to say it), as um... it's the only Hoya on their website I think, and it says it's non toxic to cats...but considering it's a member of the milkweed family I think that actually it's toxic to cats.
Angie 8:46 Can have a reaction huh? Yeah, that's really good to know!
Betsy 8:50 It is very good to know Yes. Yeah. I've been trying to spread the word - this is the perfect place!
Angie 8:57 I'm a cat mom of two - I saw you have... do you have two?
Betsy 9:03 Yeah.
Angie 9:04 Oh, they're so cute! I was looking at the pictures of them on your Instagram! They're adorable. Ours are twins - they were the same litter so yeah.
Betsy 9:15 Are they ...just are they? What is the word for this? Like a word starts with an M....are they... not strays?... Moggies! Are they moggies? Or are they pedigree?
Angie 9:27 Not pedigree! Strays! from the streets.
Betsy 9:33 From the streets! the street cats. Okay, one of mine, Yes, she's a real street cat. And then the other one is a Siamese that I adopted - but for free. I didn't... uh, there was a man who... he had just, bought the cat from a breeder, and then he discovered that he actually had to go into hospice, so it was very, very bad news for him. So he was looking for someone to adopt Teddy - my cat - immediately, and I just happened to be looking for kitty cat and I found this picture of - it was a terrible picture of just like a hand holding a kitten, like it was holding him a hostage! - and I was like I have to get this cat, I have to save him at the very least!
Angie 10:20 Haha save him from this situation!
Betsy 10:25 ...So I traveled like an hour outside of Paris and the guy didn't bring a carrier or anything. I just scooped him up...
Angie 10:31 He just like handed you a cat? Oh my god..
Betsy 10:36 I brought a carrier luckily! I was glad I brought a carrier.
Angie 10:40 My god. Well, they are lucky to have you then. So what are you drinking today?
Betsy 10:48 Oh, I'm - I'm drinking my Home Brewed Kombucha!
Angie 10:51 Oh, fancy!
Betsy 10:53 Yeah, it's not wine. Sorry.
Angie 10:56 I'm not drinking wine today either. I have Bonn Brewing, which is local in Bethlehem. So they're over on the south side by Soltech Solutions. They make a wide variety of beers, and they always have eight or more beers on tap - so it's a really fun place to visit! It's a college hotspot for sure in our town, and you can check them out on for our listeners, and we thank them for being our sponsor today! I am drinking their Fresh and Wet - it's Fresh and Wet Hop Harvest Pale Ale. So it's a really fun fall drink.
Betsy 11:32 yummy! Is it very strong with hops?
Angie 11:35 No, it's not too strong. It's like the just perfect amount - right in between.
Betsy 11:40 I can't drink a hop heavy beer anymore, or I'll just end the night sobbing in my purse, and then fall asleep.
Angie 11:49 Well good that you're not drinking a hop-heavy beer right now... Although that would be a very entertaining way to end the podcast!
Betsy 11:56 Yeah! It's a beautiful color though! It's a really nice color. I saw it and I was like: "ooh, that looks delicious". It's the same color as my kombucha, but I have a pink glass.
Angie 12:07 Well we match! So cheers! All right, we're gonna play a little drinking game today - going off of this theme - and so we're gonna take turns thinking of plant puns - and we're gonna go back and forth. The first person that is stumped has to drink.
Betsy 12:26 Okay!
Angie 12:27 I'll let you start...
Betsy 12:30 I don't know... I'm really good at puns... I'm no one trick Peony!
Angie 12:36 Oh! okay. That was a good one. That was that was a hot start.... Hoya doing?
Betsy 12:47 Hoya my gosh, I'm really wonderful!
Angie 12:54 Really gonna Poke today in the face?
Betsy 12:57 Um, um..... uuugh I have to drink! I can't settle on a plant!
Angie 13:18 I'll drink with you..
Betsy 13:21 Long time no see Kombucha!
Angie 13:26 Alright, I have some more questions for you. So let's get this started. We were talking about your second channel and your third...
Betsy 13:33 Hahah how was that for a segment!
Angie 13:36 Yeah, we, we lost.
Betsy 13:37 We're like: "I can't do any more puns. We're done, whatever."
Angie 13:40 I took a sip, Like, let's call it. Haha!
Betsy 13:45 Okay, haha I'm sorry.
Angie 13:46 So, your second and your third channel are launching. So tell us about the differences between each of them.
Betsy 13:54 Okay, so, Betsy Begonia - Yeah, I decided to go strictly with houseplants because I am a person who enjoys working on different projects - different sorts of projects - I'm a creative person! And I have tried to publish alternate content on my main channel, Betsy Begonia, And there is an audience for that! But it's not my entire audience. I decided to try that for one year, and if it wasn't working after one year, I would start a new channel for alternate content. So that's what I've done. Because I've really felt like a lot of people came to my channel seeking plant related content and then I started posting other things and it's kind of like turning on the Discovery Channel! And you know, learning about the Third Reich - and it's not exactly like that - because I have a really upbeat and happy channel, but! you know..
Angie 14:48 ...a little better than that.
Betsy 14:50 You never go to that discovery channel to learn something completely unrelated to whatever it is that they do... (I don't know I haven't had cable the very long time). But, so I, I decided to start Heavens To Betsy, which is really just for any sort of alternate content. Most, you know, I expected to do vlogs because there are a lot of people who enjoy my vlog content. And to give people a little closer look to what my life is like here in France. People are especially curious about that since I'm an expat, and I've been here for a long time. And - my third channel is really just for fun, because I like playing dress up. So Little Miss Wiggy is to feed my wig-collecting habit because I have...I don't even know.... maybe... less than 20! I have less than 20 wigs in my collection!
Angie 15:48 So you still have more plants than wigs?
Betsy 15:51 Yes! So I'm not crazy yet, but... I still have more plants than cats or wigs, so I'm doing good.
Angie 16:01 Yeah, that's a good balance.
Betsy 16:03 And so I basically just I put on a wig, and I do makeup to - you know, finish the look - And then I react to videos on the internet, or subreddits, or things like that, just for fun, really! Because I needed something else that, you know, was less pressure and could just allow me to sit here at my desk, turn my camera on, and have a really good time.
Angie 16:28 So when will that launch? Because I know it didn't yet, right?
Betsy 16:33 No, not yet. Probably next week! So well, I would say that the first week of October - the end of September was my deadline. And I have some ideas prepped. So probably the first week of October. Yeah.
Angie 16:47 Awesome. I can't wait to see it! It sounds super funny and entertaining. How many plants do you have then?
Betsy 16:54 I have no idea. Yeah, less than I used to. I used to have more plants than I do now. Um, I stopped collecting plants and just you know, I enjoy the plants that I have. But mostly because when I moved to Lille, my apartment - it's a very rainy climate, it's quite gray. And, I'm on the ground floor. So I'm not getting as much sunshine as I did when I was in Paris. And so I have to work with what I've got. So that's why I have the lights on these plants. This other entire shelf usually lights up as well, but it's a very like, cold white light. So I've turned it off for now. Otherwise it looks like I'm coming out of a spaceship! And any others, I try to put them as close to the window as possible, but... Oh, I don't know probably - around 100 probably - probably less. It's still a lot T times, sometimes it feels like a lot.
Angie 17:56 How did you get into houseplants?
Betsy 17:59 Uh, well, I was in Paris, and I was living in a furnished apartment. And it was a really cool apartment! But it had a really cold feel to it - like the furniture and the kitchen was like stainless steel - and the living room you had like - I had two club chairs. I didn't have a sofa, small apartment. And it was just very clearly decorated by a man. Right? There was a lot of metal. A very industrial feel. And in the bedroom, you know, there was like a wardrobe and stuff, but there was also this giant, metal filing cabinet in the corner. And just - why would you put that in a bedroom? I don't know. I never used it. But I just felt like it was so cold and empty feeling! And then one day I went to the shopping center nearby to do my grocery shopping, and I saw dieffenbachia, (I think that's how it's pronounced), Just, you know, a little leafy plant. Yeah. And I was like: "Hmm it's gonna die here in the basement outside of that hardware store, it's only three bucks, like, eeeh I'll take it". And I took it home and I put it in my living room - and it just immediately felt a little bit warmer. And then I went on Reddit, to identify, to ID plant. So I was like: "I don't know what this is!" Like, I didn't know a thing about plants. I knew what a jade tree was! I had a jade tree, I guess. But it didn't matter much to me. And so I had the plant ID'd on Reddit, like r/HousePlantID's?. I don't remember the subreddit. And then I discovered - I think somebody in the comments said like - Hey, you should go over to r/Houseplants - and I was like: Okay! And I discovered there's like an entire community of people who are into house plants! and I was like: "well this is cool!" I had no idea this is like.... this is a thing! Like I just thought grandmas and mothers, like at the age of 55, they just sprout plants and like pick them outta their heads, and pop them up and then they have plants! It just didn't occur to me! And, I was like.... I just got really into it. And then when I started seeing pictures of plants I was like: "Oh well that's interesting plant, oh, that's an interesting plant... but I wonder if I could find that plant here in Paris!" And then I found a greenhouse and that just.... shoot - it was downhill from there! But you know, I just discovered that adding plants to the apartment made it feel really cozy and nice - and adding too many plants made it cozier and nicer! worked!
Angie 20:40 Right. Yeah! How is the plant scene in France? How does it does it differ from - I guess you got into it in France - but are there to to like plant swaps and meetups? Or is it thriving over there?
Betsy 20:54 I think that there are plants swaps and meetups, I haven't been to any. I did meet one girl - like, I've met a couple of French plant collectors through Instagram, in the early days of starting my Instagram account. And, um, there is a pop up store! ...I can't remember the name of it right now for the life of me.... but they travel from city to city and they bring, you know, monstera deliciosa, and dieffenbachia, a couple different types of Hoyas, I think I found a Dischidia at one of their pop ups. I think it's grown in popularity just as much as it has in the US. But I think that plants still remain a little cheaper here. Because I know that even now, I'll buy, It's been a while, but like last December, for example, I bought some Hoyas, and people in the US were amazed by the prices. I paid less than 15 or 20 euros for a cutting, whereas in the US it would be like $50. So prices here.... Like they have risen! Since 2018 when I started collecting plants, but not as bad as in the US.
Angie 22:04 Yeah, we're experiencing some sort of plant shortage right now, I don't know if that's across America, but it's definitely happening on the east coast. A lot of the greenhouses in Florida had people retire, and then no one take over. And that's where a lot of the plants come from here. And, at the same time that that happened, was like the plant boom, during COVID - the shutdown - and people wanting to fill their place with plants. So it was bad timing for that, and it really just backed things up. So - it's hard to get some stuff right now. Making prices more expensive. So - it's been it's been a struggle! But we're powering through.
Betsy 22:47 Yeah, I always tell people to have patience. Yeah. Because people are always like - "How did you get that plant for X amount of money!?" And I'm like: "Well, I waited two years! I just waited for it to show up at my local greenhouse!"
Angie 23:00 Yes, supporting local.... waiting it out is the best way to do it.
Betsy 23:03 Yeah! And it's so much more fulfilling because - I've always kind of been that way - when I was younger, I collected records. So I was a hipster in college. But I enjoyed the hunt, and I enjoyed the you know, like - going to the record shop and weeding through all the labels, and like you find that one gem! But like, it's also the waiting! In the payoff of your patience! And I don't know, for me, it's very fulfilling.
Angie 23:35 You'll have to come visit us then! Because in addition to a plant shop, it's actually called Plants plus Vintage! And we have vintage records, we have a lounge where you can listen to the records, and a whole lot of other like flea finds. So... right up your hipster alley.
Betsy 23:50 I love that...
Angie 23:52 So are you still involved in theater? I know that that's your background. I know you're starting the third channel, which will have a focus on that. But outside of that.
Betsy 24:02 No, no, no, no. That wouldn't be too fulfuilling for me.
Angie 24:06 Yeah? And that's what brought you to France? Or because you love France, you ended up in theater?
Betsy 24:13 No, it's what brought... it's what brought me to France! Because I studied theater in Ohio for five years, and then one of my professors convinced me to study in France. I didn't speak French at all! But she had studied in Paris and, I remember the students gathered around her one day after class and they were like: "Where do you see me? Where do you see me?" And she was like: "I see you in New York City - you are... you know.... you should go into theater! You? Oh, I see you in LA - you're definitely - you have a film face!" And I was like: "OOoh what about me?" And she said: "I think that you should go to Paris!" And I think that was more like: "I have no frickin idea where you belong!" But To me and my, you know, my 22-year-old brain, I was like: "Oh, this is so romatic!" And so I decided to do that! And I just, - I went on a trip to Paris first - like my first solo trip. made me feel like a very independent woman, to travel! To go to Paris by myself for 10 days! And, of course, I fell in love with Paris - because anybody does the first time they visit it. Then I went back and just spent an entire year saving up money, making plans, figuring out how I was going to get there, what I was going to do, how I was gonna learn French - and it was just, you know - once I have my eye on the prize, I can't be stopped! And so, it ended up with me, selling everything that I owned -except for what I could fit into a suitcase! And I became an au pair, like a nanny. I was a nanny for two years - for two different families. One of them was the family of a previous president of the French Republic!
Angie 25:57 Wow!
Betsy 25:58 Yeah! and so I lived in Paris, and Lyon, and that's kind of how I started to learn French. And then I eventually did get into a theater school outside of Paris, basically. And after about six months, I said, You know what? This is not for me anymore. I didn't, I didn't feel at home because it was a very.... there's just so much ego... and it's very, very pretentious! And I was just like: "I don't feel this important!" Like, I can't connect with this anymore. I really loved it... you know, in Ohio! but not here in Paris, I'm not diggin' it. And I also saw, you know, I have an accent! And it doesn't matter how long I'm in theater, I'm always going to be cast as the person with the accent.... I'm always gonna! you know, and I just said to myself: "I think I want a regular paycheck! I want a desk job!" - And then I ended up in a startup, and I ended up working in tech. And that's where I am today. Yeah,
Angie 27:05 that's awesome. So how long did it take you to like, be fluent in French?
Betsy 27:09 I wouldn't say I mean - it depends on who you talk to. I wouldn't say that I'm completely fluent. I still you know - I hesitate - and I stumble on my words - and sometimes I'm searching, I make grammatical errors! But here are the North people are really nice! They're always like: "Oh my God, you're French is so amazing!" And elderly people, especially! Because my French is very formal... I don't know a lot of slang....because I studied from books. So, elderly people will always tell me: "your French is so much better than any young person today!" Because I'm speaking so formally. But if I go to Paris, they'll they'll correct me all day and all night.
Angie 27:53 So the differences between the different cities are pretty big. It sounds like.
Betsy 27:58 Paris and the rest of France.
Angie 28:00 Okay.... so Paris is just its own thing?
Betsy 28:03 Yeah, Paris is completely different. Yeah, yeah. It's like New York City versus Pennsylvania. You know what I mean? Yeah, it's a very different vibe, different place. So a lot of people come to America...or sorry, they come to France. And they only go to Paris, and that's their only impression of France entirely. And It shouldn't be...It's like going to New York City and saying like, that's America! ....Not at all. Yeah.
Angie 28:31 All right. Well, we are going to get ready to wind down, but we're going to tackle some trivia first! So first - last week's trivia question was: How many species of edible plants are there? - Do you want to take a guess before I read the answer?
Betsy 28:50 How many species of edible plants? They're like over 1600 types of.... oh my god! I can't even I can't even like ballpark! uh like...10,000!
Angie 29:08 300,000!
Betsy 29:10 That's it?? .....Oh wait.... hahaha I was like: "300!?"
Angie 29:16 300,000! So of Earth's estimated 400,000 plant species, we could eat about 300,000 of them if we really wanted to! Yet humans only eat a mere 200 species globally. So we are only.... about half of our plant-sourced protein and calories are coming from maize, rice and wheat. So we're not doing all we can do! Those flowers that are like ornamental...
Betsy 29:44 We know we can eat them... but we're not gonna!
Angie 29:47 And congratulations to last week's winner! Keep an eye out for a message from us and you'll receive a free Soltech Solutions t shirt for getting that answer correctly. So today's riddle:... and we'll announce The correct answer next week.... "I'm yellow, but I'm not a banana. I can be over 10 feet tall, but I'm not a giraffe. I have seeds, but I'm not a lemon. I can provide oil, but I'm not canola. I'm a plant, but I'm not a rose."
Betsy 30:21 Sunflower?
Angie 30:23 Maybe? We'll find out next week! So write down your guesses in the comments, or in your reviews, and we'll pick a random person with the right answer and give them a shout out in the next episode, and then you'll get a free t shirt or another fun prize as well! But you gotta tune in. So thank you, Betsy, for joining us for today's episode - It was so nice speaking to you and getting to know you better! Is there anything else that you'd like to say to close out today's episode?
Betsy 30:50 No, it's just been an absolute pleasure.
Angie 30:53 It was so nice meeting you.... and let's hear your social tags so that everybody can follow along from home.. for our listeners. Where can they find you on all of the channels?
Betsy 31:02 you can find me at And, or! I don't know why I said that! WHO is going shopping on the web browser, I don't know!
Angie 31:22 Well thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in! We can't wait to keep the conversations... and the booze flowin' so we'll talk to y'all next week! Wine Down the Week is created in partnership with Soltech Solutions, Steel City Plant Company, Tomasi home and Lehigh Valley With Love. Thanks, everybody. Cheers!
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