Four - minute read
Cheese plants, spider plants, philodendron, peace lilies – nope, you’ve not been transported back in time to 1972. House plants are back in vogue, and if your conservatory or windowsill isn’t filled with them, your Instagram feed probably is.
The growing trend for indoor greenery has seen the birth of a number of new independent plant shops ready to feed our fetish for exotic vegetation. Our favourite is The Watered Garden in Nottingham, a lovingly curated indoor jungle based in one of Sneinton Market’s greenhouse-like units.
It is the labour of love Chris and Rebecca Tucker; newlyweds whose passion for plants began during the preparations for their wedding. “We wanted these centrepieces,” explains Rebecca “and we couldn’t afford to buy them from the high street, so decided to make them for ourselves.” They shared some photos of the terrarium-style creations on social media, and they were a hit. “The more quirky terrariums we made, the more plants we had, so we had to learn about plants to learn about terrariums and it kind of escalated into a conservatory filled with weird and wonderful things,” she says.
Sowing the seeds
In January 2017, they found their current space in Sneinton Market, but they didn’t have a clear-cut concept yet. “We fell in love with the space as it’s beautiful, but we didn’t really know what we’d do with it yet,” admits Rebecca. “This is a creative quarter, so you have to put in a creative application; it’s not just whether you can afford it,” adds Chris. “Our original proposal was wishy-washy at best. We didn’t know if we were going to do a wood workshop, or a coffee space, or a co-working space. We always knew we wanted loads of plants in here, but we didn’t necessarily have that as a definite focus. As a side thing, we were collecting plants for ourselves and for our wedding, and we just gradually put two and two together.” By the time they got the keys to their unit three or four months later, Rebecca’s parents’ house (where they were staying to save money to buy their own place) had begun to look like the Amazon rainforest, and thus, The Watered Garden was born.
All hands on deck
The couple’s working background couldn’t be further from foliage. Rebecca was a youth worker, providing support for young victims of sexual exploitation and knife crime. Chris used to be a business analyst at Capital One, but has recently changed careers to become a teacher. “It was very different,” says Rebecca. “But we’re both creative and we just wanted to do something that wasn’t so heavy going.”
They called in favours and relied largely on the help of family and friends to get the shop up and running. “I started teacher training after we launched this place, so it was actually the three months between jobs that allowed us to set it up,” says Chris. Rebecca’s dad is a shop fitter by trade, so they were able to tap into his knowledge and list of contacts, and also make use of materials discarded from previous shop-fitting jobs. The beautifully imposing hardwood table in the centre of the shop was made out of reclaimed wood from scratch. “We rescued that ladder from a community centre,” says Chris proudly, “and all of the other wood you can see is condemned wood.”
In July 2017, the shop was ready for business and had been transformed into a beautifully lit space with a rustic yet tranquil, atmosphere. This welcoming, laidback feel has made it a sort of impromptu gathering place for local groups, including a stand-up paddleboard yoga class, and the Sneinton Market tenants meeting. “Loads of friends come in and do work here too, that’s why we’ve got wifi,” says Chris. “They just bring their laptop and chill.”
Down to business
A pivotal moment for the couple was when they discovered a reputable plant wholesaler in Nottingham who could help ensure they had a steady supply of interesting, on-trend species. This has allowed them to create a more sustainable business model, as before that they’d been rescuing plants from garden centres and cultivating from off-cuts.
To supplement plant sales, they also run a variety of plant-related workshops, including how to create a terrarium in a demijohn jar, and a ‘kokedama’ workshop where you can learn how to create beautiful ornamental moss balls filled with plants. But their real value as a business comes from their ability to get hold of rare and interesting plants, which larger, generic garden centres don’t tend to stock, says Chris. “Our niche is finding the things that people just can’t get in Ikea or Wyevale.”
Their photogenic shop and eclectic range of plants lends itself well to the world of Instagram. “Instagram world is plant obsessed,” says Rebecca. And what influencers are talking about on social media has a tangible impact on sales too. “When a vlogger like Zoella posts something about a specific plant, it flies off the shelves,” she says. “It is very much a fashion game,” agrees Chris, “which can be quite a worry sometimes!”
But, luckily for Rebecca and Chris, it’s not just Instagramming millennials who are rediscovering the creative potential of plants; businesses are also seeing how a bit of greenery can provide a cost-effective way to transform a space. The Watered Garden has been commissioned to create a number of installations for local cafes, bars and hair salons – no mean feat when Rebecca is largely running the place herself. They’ve also recently launched a stylish new website where you can browse and buy plants online and book workshop spaces, too.
Running a small business is no picnic and it takes time for your efforts to pay off, a fact that doesn’t fully register until you’ve tried it for yourself, says Chris. “It’s a long haul. I didn’t really believe what people were saying. I thought, surely if it’s popular from day one, it will do well from day one.” Rebecca agrees. “We’ve had to learn to hold our nerve a little bit, because the time when you want to give it all up is about the time when you’ll start to see the fruits of your labour. I remember talking to someone who’d had a business for three years and she said the second year was the hardest, pushing through the scary bit.”
Far worse than failing though, is not trying at all, says Rebecca. “If it all goes tits up, we can say we’ve tried. But the worst thing would be to have not opened, and then see a plant shop pop up in Nottingham three years later and think ‘we should’ve done that.’ It’s better living without regret.”
Check out The Watered Garden’s new website and online shop: https://thewateredgarden.co.uk/