It's a truth universally acknowledged that plants make you happy. Well, I'm pretty sure it is - I don't have the scientific stats to hand to back me up. But whatever the official word on the matter, I know for me that as I fill my home up with plant babies of varying shapes and sizes, everything just feels fresher, greener and, well, nicer. I used to have a total fear of plants - Which should I pick? Where should I put them? Why won't they stop dying? But thanks to cheerful initiatives such as the #urbanjunglebloggers I've grown in confidence and even kept my plants alive, for the most part. One thing I have struggled with though, is the lack of amazing garden centres in London. That's not to say there aren't any, I know there are a lot of top-notch ones, it's more that there don't seem to be any great ones near my home. And when I find myself without the car a trip out to a nearby garden centre seems daunting - especially if you factor in the return journey on the bus, laden with all the plants that could not be resisted. There are of course many wonderful florists and boutiques selling beautiful plants too, but again these seem to be few and far between in my part of town. And so, when the team at Patch gave me a shout to tell me about their offering, I jumped at the chance to speak with their founder, Freddie, to find out more.
Please can you tell me more about Patch and its philosophy?
Whether inside or outside your home or office, Patch helps you discover the best plants for your space, delivers them to your door and helps you look after them. We are looking to fill a gaping hole left by traditional garden centres, which are struggling to deliver value to customers due to rising costs and a slowness to respond to wider consumer trends in retail and online. We are on a mission to transform the UK's gardening market for the digital age by making it easy for people in cities to green up their indoor and outdoor spaces.
For too long, the pleasure of living with plants, whether indoors or outdoors, has been out of reach to young city dwellers. We hope to make it simpler for people to buy the right plants for them and their space. We’re going to use technology to equip them with knowledge, discovery and inspiration and, in turn, provide superb service and convenience. Our aim is to help more people bring their their home or workspace to life with plants..
How does it differ from other online plant sellers?
Back in 2014 I moved in with my girlfriend, and in an effort to put my own stamp on her flat I took on the task of transforming her unloved balcony into a plant-filled oasis. I quickly realised that I’d taken on a bigger challenge than I thought; I was going to have to travel across London to find a garden centre, and once there I wouldn’t know where to begin with choosing plants that were right for the space. Instead I tried looking for a decent online garden centre, but there was nothing out there for an inexperienced urban gardener like myself. In the end I picked up some supermarket plants that died after a few weeks despite my tender care.
While this was going on I heard from friends who had come up against the same problem. That’s where the idea for Patch came from. Lack of experience or living in a city shouldn’t prevent you from getting enjoying all the benefits of living with plants - inside or outside your home or workplace. The way plants are sold and knowledge required to keep them alive in the traditional gardening market is complicated and exclusive, catering to people that measure their space in acres not square feet.
We're trying to make living with and caring for plants as easy as possible to get into. For example, the lingua franca of the traditional gardening market is Latin, which we try to avoid. Instead, we give our plants nicknames that are not only more memorable and familiar, and also reflect the tendency of plant owners to name their own plants. For example, Sansevieria, also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, is nicknamed Susie after my own mother-in-law!
How do you select what plants make it onto Patch?
We know that people in cities without a lot of experience with plants have a different lifestyles to rural counterparts. To account for this we favour plants that are hardy, as well as good-looking, and can therefore withstand an occasional missed watering or a lack of sunlight. We also stock a lot of plants that purify the air, removing harmful toxins found in polluted cities to make for a healthier home or workspace.
Unlike most large out of town retailers that sell house plants, we only stock plants from growers with the top EU quality rating. This is because we’re in it for the long term with our customers. We know that delivering the healthiest plants possible, alongside our simple care guides and unlimited access to our plant care experts, will make it much more likely that their first urban gardening experience will turn into a lifelong passion.
What do you say to people who say they always end up killing their plants? Is there hope?
Absolutely. All of us at Patch have a few plant murders in our past, but that’s part of the learning experience. It’s also part of the reason why we offer lifetime plant care support - if you’re worried that your Pippa (Peace Lily) is drooping, or your Chaz (Cheese Plant) is going brown, we can help. We give every new customer access to a free Plant Parenting Course, which consists of up to 20 lessons delivered via email in bite size chunks. All Patch customers can also have a chat with our Plant Rescue Team via our website if things go wrong and their plants need emergency resuscitation. We put together a collection of our toughest houseplants called The (Almost) Unkillables, which are a great starting point for anyone nervous about dipping their toe into plant ownership for the first time.
What are your thoughts on the urban gardening revival?
The traditional gardening market can seem very daunting and inaccessible, so it’s great to see more emphasis on bringing plants into your life regardless of your past gardening experience. It’s particularly important for city-dwellers to try their hand at plant parentship as we spend more than 90% of our time indoors. As well as bringing a touch of nature into your home, some plants filter the air of pollutants that are a more serious issue in cities than suburban or rural areas. For example, in our Air-Purifying collection we’ve got plants that can reduce levels of nasty things like Benzene, Formaldehyde and Carbon Monoxide.
Houseplants are a fantastic way to bring any space to life and make it your own without having to get the builders in, which is particularly relevant in urban areas where the majority of people rent their homes or offices. We have hundreds of professional interior designers as customers and have been featured in a number of top interiors magazines, so it seems that more and more people are realising how easy and effective plants are as living art or furniture - indoor or outdoors.
What unique challenges do urban gardeners face?
Urban gardeners usually measure their space in square feet rather than acres, so have to be strategic about how they use it. You might not have any bright south-facing windows, for example, so have to go for plants that are happier in shade. We think about our collections from different angles to accommodate this. For example, our bedroom collection is full of plants that are good air-purifiers or increase Oxygen levels at night to improve your sleep, but won’t clutter up your space at the same time.
We also get time-poor Londoners asking how much care their plant will need. It’s clear that there’s a lot of anxiety around neglecting your plant, and we often see plant owners overcompensate; when we get questions about why a plant is unhealthy the most common reason is actually that it has been overwatered! We live such busy lives that looking after a living thing can seem daunting - but by offering our customers unlimited access to our plant care support team we hope to assure them that it doesn’t need to be.
What are your hot plant picks for 2018? Will succulents and cacti still be faves or is something else coming up to steal their crown?!
Succulents and cacti are always a great option for a lot of people, as they’ll need very little watering. However, I think we’ll see health and wellness trends make their way further into the plant world with an emphasis on the health benefits of living with plants at home or in the office.
Which plants are your faves in the Patch gang?
Big Ken (Howea Forsteriana) is a staple in the Patch plant gang - he has a remarkable ability to transform a room thanks to his statement palm fronds which cast amazing shadows on the wall. On the smaller side, Rapunzel (Golden Pothos) has beautiful heart-shaped leaves that tumble off a bookshelf or from a hanging planter.