Hello, Patch!

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.

Pictured - my favourite Fiddle Fig plant that I've successfully kept alive!

Pictured - my favourite Fiddle Fig plant that I've successfully kept alive!

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..

Patch Urban Gardening interview on Gathered Cheer blog

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.

Patch bathroom collection

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.

Big Ken (Howea Forsteriana) Patch Urban Gardening

Thank you for your time, Freddie! You can find Patch over on their website, and give them a follow over on Instagram too!

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Photo credits // All images courtesy of Patch, except for image 1, which is styled and shot by Ruth Garner for Gathered Cheer. 


Book Review : The Crafted Garden by Louise Curley

You can, I think, never own too many coffee table books. Books, which by definition demand a prominent place in the home. Always ready to be picked up, leafed through, notes taken. I find my own stash at home rapidly growing as more and more books catch my eye. Books on florals, design, photography, creativity and crafting. Books filled with incredible images, beautiful words and inspiring projects. Books which cause me to dream, to plan and to see the world differently. (See some of my other book reviews here, here and here).

Recently, I was happy to receive the second book by writer Louise Curley (of 'The Cut Flower Garden' fame), The Crafted Garden. With the promise that it would marry two of my great loves - crafting and flowers - I eagerly sat down to read. A little mention too must be given to my reading location. I was so happy to join in on my third Makelight weekend away with the lovely Emily Quinton and the spectacular location was just the place to settle down with my new tome. (More on the Makelight weekend soon!) 

The Crafted Garden book review | Gathered Cheer blog

Arranged by season, each section is packed full of craft ideas for things to make using seeds, flowers, sprigs and twigs to celebrate the passing months. There is also a wonderfully helpful section made up of a list of crafting tips and kit, along with advice on foraging and aftercare. Each craft project is clearly set out with materials, ideas about which flowers or plants to use, and step by step photos. While they are all beautiful and inspiring, the projects are also accessible and I'd feel confident attempting any of them. (Pretty good for someone who isn't always the most adept at crafting!)

The Crafted Garden book review | Gathered Cheer blog

Despite the ever popular trend towards urban jungles (filling your home with plants and greenery) I am still yet to make my own terrarium. This unsealed terrarium tutorial is top of my to-do list come spring. Filled with beautiful fritillary, it will be a fun project that will herald spring's arrival wonderfully. 

The Crafted Garden book review | Gathered Cheer blog

Autumn is so stunning, with its soft light and warm colours, and the tutorials beautifully reflect and celebrate this season. The winter squash vases DIY is so simple, and striking too. While gourds and pumpkins make frequent appearances on my social channels in the autumn and winter months, this fresh take on seasonal produce is most welcome. 

The Crafted Garden book review | Gathered Cheer blog

Just to divert away from the book briefly, take a look at my reading spot - if only this was my own home! Reading in the warm autumn sunshine with a view like that was so wonderful. Oh to be back there again soon...

The Crafted Garden book review | Gathered Cheer blog

The Crafted Garden is a lovely book full of insight, inspiration and achievable craft projects. Louise's passion for nature and all its treasures is contagious, and will soon leave you wanting to forage in your own garden and nearby parkland. With year-round tips and a list of handy resources, it's a book I'm sure I'll be dipping in and out of as the seasons pass by.

The Crafted Garden by Louise Curley is out now, published by Frances Lincoln.

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All photos styled and taken by Ruth Garner for Gathered Cheer.

Please note I was gifted this book for review purposes. All opinions are my very own! 

Hello, Spring!

I don't know about you, but as soon as spring is in the air, my thoughts turn to summer. It's not that I don't relish every bright, sunny spring day - but there's such excitement in the season which lies ahead. 

So, without wanting to wish away the days, I thought it would be fun to dream a little, plan a little and get ready for the summer season. And where better than to prepare than our own back garden? Ours has lain dormant for the winter months, but now that the days are becoming a little longer, lighter and a little less chilly, we've felt spurred on to get out and prepare it for the months to come. Yesterday we had a good sort out in the garden, clearing the clutter away, weeding the flower beds, planting bulbs and sweet peas and giving the patio a good clean. It felt so good to be out and I think the gardening gene may just have kicked in at last! Much like a good spring clean inside, I find that an exterior spring clean brings a fresh perspective and a renewed sense of purpose and calm. 

One garden item I've dreamt of having for a long while is a garden shed. And, while we do have one at the moment, it's currently stacked high with piles of odds and ends ready for an upcoming car boot sale. But, what I'd truly love is to empty it out, paint it white (outside and in) and to turn it into a sweet potting shed - complete with a potting bench lined with terracotta pots, of course. That's my house and white picket fence dream, right there!

Luckily, sheds aren't that expensive these days, take a look here for some great advice on picking and assembling one. Then it's just a case of priming the wood, and plumping for an exterior wood paint in whatever colour you love most, if you fancy adding your own personal touch.

Aside from a trusty garden shed, I've also got my heart set on a few more garden bits and bobs, to help usher in the warmer weather. Here's my wishlist...

Hello, spring | Gathered Cheer

I'm longing for those perfect summer's days, the ones where hot days roll into balmy nights. Where all you need is a comfy chair, your friends, drinks and flickering candlelight. Dreamy. Until then, I'll work out in the garden, prepping away and enjoying every last drop of spring.

What are your plans for spring and summer in your garden? 

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This post was sponsored by Homebase, but all product picks and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who help to keep Gathered Cheer up and running! 


Book Review: Cutting Garden Journal by Sarah Raven

Hello friends, how are you? Today, it's my pleasure to tell you about a book that I was delighted to receive recently - Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal. Based on Sarah's original Cutting Garden bold,published nearly twenty years ago, this updated edition includes a monthly journal section for handy notes on your own garden project.

Having just moved into a house which has a garden, this book is now my trusty sidekick as I navigate the new, and frankly intimidating, world of gardening. As I grew up I watched my mum out in the garden, growing all sorts of pretty things, and I often wondered when the 'desire to garden' gene would kick in for me. We even sat and watched Gardener's World together, as I grew fascinated by the many beautiful varieties of plants. I must be honest and confess that I still feel pretty daunted looking out into the patch of green outside, and often stand there wondering what on earth I'm supposed to do, cut, plant or water. All that said, I do love cut flowers and if I had £10 in my pocket, they're the first thing I'd buy as a treat. My heart is cheered by all kinds of flower - from scabious, peonies and anemones to roses, sweet william and hydrangea.

A book such as this, which takes the reader through a year of cut flowers is something of a revelation to me. I have no clue what I should plant and when, and if I do then plant bulbs and seeds I struggle to know when and how to cut, condition and preserve these precious blooms. Who knew that some varieties demand frequent pruning to keep them in flower? {Probably a whole lot of you lovely readers, but not me, that's for sure!} And so, with this book holding my hand, and explaining clearly what to do and when, I have found the help I need. I'm now super excited as I make plans for the garden, planning space for the cut flowers I'd love to see blooming in the coming year.

The book is handily arranged by month, with suggestions for projects to do then, in accordance with the season. So, for September as the leaves turn and an autumn chill creeps in, the focus turns to flowers of the season, including gladioli and dahlia. The project for the month is a lovely autumn collection, a simple arrangement of gathered stems which when displayed individually, appear minimal but when combined become a part of a larger and beautiful arrangement. This sort of arranging is definitely for me, as I'm definitely a 'pop a few stems in a jam jar' kind of person. At the end of the September chapter there is then a list of jobs for the month, and a few lined pages for jotting down notes about your own garden.

It's a very practical book, jam-packed with information on everything from planning a cutting garden {whether your garden is large or small}, to a list of key bits of equipment that make arranging flowers a cinch and lots of advice on sowing, cutting and keeping cut flowers. As it's an updated edition, those owners of the previous incarnation may not feel they need this book, but for those coming to it fresh, like I am, it certainly is a very handy reference book to have on your shelf. I did feel a few of the photos and arrangements veered towards the more dated or traditional look, but that said it is still a lovely book and the wealth of handy information contained within makes it a great and valuable read.

The lovely people at Frances Lincoln have shared a special code with me - so if you fancy getting your hands on Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal at the discounted price of £11.99 including p&p* {RRP: £14.99} simply telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG200. *UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas. Hurrah!

The journal is out now and is published by Frances Lincoln.

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Ps - want to read some more book reviews? Here's my review of Decorate with Flowers by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring and also Home for Now by Joanna Thornhill.