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. 


A Working Lunch

You know those lunches. The ones with your favourite people, that take hours and that leave you inspired and bursting with ideas. They're the best. I had one such lunch recently, with the ace Renie from A Gray Life. We met in the morning for a coffee (always on the hunt for incredible coffee in beautiful places), a quick photo walk and then we ended up in Prezzo, ready for a long lunch. We'd been invited to try the new SS16 menu, a menu filled with lovely flavours like sweet chilli duck and roquito pearls. All the new dishes are inspired by the flavours of an Italian summer, which ticks all the boxes for me! 

We visited the St Martin in the Fields location, and how pretty it was. Wherever you go in London I'm always blown away by the incredible architecture.  A stone's throw from Trafalgar Square, it was a busy restaurant but had a relaxed atmosphere - full of tourists and locals alike. 

Prezzo SS16 menu | Gathered Cheer blog
Prezzo SS16 Menu | Gathered Cheer blog

The staff at the restaurant were incredible, and not because they knew we were tasting the menu - I could see the time they took with each table, and how friendly they were, sharing their own menu favourites and so on. Having worked in retail in busy parts of London, I'm always so impressed when I see others working in such a demanding role while still being smiley and unflappable. 

Once seated, we read the menu for ages. Slightly bewildered by choice, it was one of those "what are you having?" moments, where you change your mind about five times, with the waiter stood beside you patiently. 

In the end we went for the amazing superfood bruschetta to start (goat's cheese, beans and peas on sourdough), followed by the duck and sweet chilli salad (me) and the superfood bean and goat's cheese salad (Renie) for our main course. Handily we were sat right by the window, so we were able to snap our meals in all their glory.  For dessert we chose a delicious white peach and amaretti cheesecake. Trust me, this was amazing. We shared, but I definitely could have eaten a whole slice myself. We finished off the meal with an espresso martini each. I've just learnt to make these at home (maybe I'll blog the recipe on here?) so I'm always keen to try them, to see how to make mine better. These were delicious, and the perfect end to the meal. Who doesn't love vodka, kahlua and espresso?!

Prezzo SS16 Menu | Gathered Cheer blog
Prezzo SS16 Menu | Gathered Cheer blog
Prezzo SS16 Menu | Gathered Cheer blog
Prezzo SS16 Menu | Gathered Cheer blog
Prezzo SS16 Menu | Gathered Cheer blog
Prezzo SS16 Menu | Gathered Cheer blog

Even looking at that photo of the cheesecake now is making me hungry. I'll be sure to visit again soon to remind myself of how good it was! While lunch was a long affair, full of dreaming dreams and making plans I thought it would be fun to film a little too - so you can see a little snippet from our visit below. I'm still very much a beginner when it comes to making mini videos, but it's super fun and I'm determined to keep practicing! 

Our Prezzo lunch was the perfect backdrop to an exciting chat - more of which I'll hopefully fill you in on soon! 

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This post was written in collaboration with Prezzo, who invited me to try a complimentary meal. All opinions are of course my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep Gathered Cheer going! 

All photos taken by Ruth Garner for Gathered Cheer


Visiting Clerkenwell with Village England

Once in a while you stumble upon a treasure, right on your own doorstep. For me, this chance came unexpectedly one slightly rainy morning in May. I met Rebecca, a dear friend who never fails to stir my creative dreams, for a wander around Clerkenwell Design Week. Being new to the festival I was pretty amazed to find out that Clerkenwell is home to more creative businesses and architects per square mile that anywhere else in the world - who knew?! To make things even more fun, I'd been loaned a bag to review by the gorgeous company Village England. I'd long lusted after several of their bags I'd spotted in Anthropologie, so I was more than happy to bring it along the new (and as yet unnamed) style for our little London adventure. Keep reading until the end to find out how you can name and win the bag...

Village England competition with This is Your Kingdom | Gathered Cheer blog

The bag was a dream and totally perfect for our outing. Made in the softest natural grain leather with beautiful brass stirrup detailing, it was as practical as it was pretty. While I wouldn't usually pick a red bag (I tend to play it safe with more neutral hues), I relished playing dress up a little, pairing it with blue jeans, a Breton top and my trusty duffle coat. And, having never really been a bag aficionado, I was surprised by how much more 'together' I felt - like the bag just completed things nicely. Dotting the i's and crossing the t's. 

Village England and This is Your Kingdom bag competition | Gathered Cheer blog
Village England and This is Your Kingdom bag competition | Gathered Cheer blog
Village England and This is Your Kingdom bag competition | Gathered Cheer blog

Rebecca and I picked our way through the streets of Clerkenwell, following an outdoors trail hunting for words which had been dotted around - some made of wood, others vinyl and others spray painted onto walls. It was a brilliant exhibition that showed off the best of what the area has to offer. My trusty saddle bag faired so well throughout, offering enough space to stow away my chunky dslr, a brolly and my phone - quite an achievement. I don't even consider buying non cross-body bags anymore, and so this bag was right up my street. Not too heavy, but weighty enough to feel like it would last well, ageing beautifully over time, and oh-so practical. An investment piece, without the crazy designer price tag. 

Village England and This is Your Kingdom bag competition | Gathered Cheer blog

After wandering around some of the larger exhibitions (The Design Factory at the Farmiloe building was ace), following the outdoor trail and darting in and out of the rain, a sit-down was needed. Thankfully Workshop was on hand and its industrial space, complete with living wall, was the perfect place to shelter. The coffee was delicious and the staff were lovely. The entryway to Workshop also made for a good spot for this non-camera friendly person to pose for a few photos with my bag, guided by the ever patient Rebecca. A posing natural I am not. Never fear, this is not about to become a fashion blog. But we got there, and thankfully the bag did most of the work, looking pretty and taking centre-stage.

Village England and This is Your Kingdom bag competition | Gathered Cheer blog

Now, here's the exciting bit - you can win (and name) this new style Village England bag over on the lovely This is Your Kingdom. Having only just joined team TIYK, I can honestly say I'm honoured to write for such a site. Beautifully designed, and now even easier to get around, it really is the place to go if you're looking for inspiration for places to visit in the UK. 

Inspired by this fair isle, and in celebration of all things British, each bag is named after an English village. So, to enter the competition click here and simply write what you'd name the bag and why, and then keep your fingers crossed. For my competition entry I'd opt to call the bag 'Clerkenwell', which admittedly isn't a village per se, but it does feel like one to me. It's also the place where we had our fun mini adventure, in which the bag had a starring role, so it feels jolly appropriate. How about you? What village would you name if after? Pop on over to TIYK and share your idea - good luck! 

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Photo credit // All images taken by me, with the exception of the photo of me which was taken by Rebecca Portsmouth.

I was loaned a bag to review for this blog post but all thoughts and opinions (and supreme modelling skills) are my own. Full terms and conditions can be found over on the This is Your Kingdom competition page. 


The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers

Hi friends, hope all is well with you. It's Friday, hurrah! Today I wanted to share a few snaps from the most incredible course I attended recently - the Hand Ties & Posies class at The Academy of Flowers. They were so lovely and invited me to come along, and as a big flower fan I jumped at the chance! You've probably gathered I have a weakness for fresh flowers, and while my love for house plants is growing, I still have a tendency to kill them, so cut flowers are a safer bet! That said, I am definitely more of a 'snip the stems and pop them in a jam jar' girl, to keep things quick and easy. So I knew a course in more formal and artistic arrangements would be really interesting and give me lots of tips.

The Academy of Flowers in Covent Garden is a wonderful place to go, even if you don't go for a class. You can of course pick up some gorgeous flowers, they can build a bouquet for you, and they sell all sorts of sweet gifts too - everything from candles, to notecards to books. After class I spent a while perusing the shelves for extra stocking fillers. One of the most tempting things for me was the range of teeny tiny succulents they had, they were £1 and I couldn't resist of trio of little babies. Well, everyone know a succulent is a blogger's best friend, right?

Anyway, back to the class. I went armed with my camera as everything else was provided {though some folk were clever and brought an apron along with them}. We immediately set to work, getting cups of tea and settling in to learn from our lovely teacher. First up was learning the art of the hand tied bouquet. Now, these look amazing, and quite a challenge to make, and it was a bit of a fiddle but I was so delighted to {sort of!} get to grips with the technique. There was a fair bit to learn, and I definitely see the importance of preparing the flowers before arranging them, too. We all made a mess on the floor with the amount of stripping and snipping of the stems that we did!

When it came to arrange the flowers in the classic spiral of stems, as you can probably imagine it involved a lot of turning {always in the same direction}, and strategic placing of the 'hero' flowers and the greenery filler, too. It was so awesome seeing the class teacher assemble a bouquet as she made it look so easy! One thing I learnt that has stuck with me, is how important the filler and greenery is. I often overlook this and just opt for a bunch of flowers, but when building a lovely and full bouquet, a few stems of leaves can really make it look super. In class we used everything from oak leaves to eucalyptus. We had buckets of pretty, seasonal blooms to choose from, and I opted for classic roses and alstroemeria, along with some winter berries. After this we learnt how to securely tie them before then wrapping them and popping them in a gift bag. Here's my hand tied arrangement, I'm so proud of it!

After lunch {I popped to Bill's which is almost next door and always a good place to go!} we moved on to work with wire, to learn how to make a sweet hand tie posy, a little bit like a bridesmaid bouquet. Made up of a few rose stems {I chose five yellow roses} and a collar of green leaves, we learnt how to wire each flower and leaf stem, before then binding them together with floral tape. Having never used wire in arrangements before, I was chuffed with the result, and how quickly it all came together. {Please excuse this more grainy photo, the week I took these photos it was such gloomy weather!}

With Christmas around the corner, these courses are a great idea for gifts for your nearest and dearest. In fact, the day I went there were several folk there who had been gifted their class. One lovely lady had even been brought to the flower class by her fiance, not knowing at all where she was going, just that she needed an apron. How sweet is that?! There are lots of courses to choose from, from day courses like the one I went to right through to much much advance courses, so there is definitely something for everyone! I'd definitely be keen to go back to learn even more - it's so addictive!

The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers

St Martin’s Courtyard, 9 Slingsby Place, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9AB 

Nearest tube: Covent GardenPhone: 020 7240 6359

Thank you so much Academy of Flowers, for inviting me - I had the most wonderful time!

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Renegade Craft Fair - London 2015

Hello! I just had to pop by this evening to tell you about the Renegade Craft Fair, which I had the pleasure of visiting today. I've visited this craft fair for the past few years, and it felt like this year's is even bigger, with so many incredible designer/makers selling their awesome creations. {You can read a little about my previous visits here and here.} It's the ideal place to pop along to if you're looking for Christmas gifts, as there's such a variety of things for sale. From geometric jewellery and cheeky pun-laden prints, to macrame planters and cards aplenty.

Today I had such fun getting distracted by every.single.stall, and so much so that I didn't really snap all that many photos. Oops. Bad blogger. But never fear, these ace designer/makers have happy websites, so I can still tell you all about my highlights! Aside from catching up with a few sellers who I know and love - including Oh Squirrel, Oh No Rachio, Anna Dent, Zeena Shah and Rosehip - I also spotted lots of lovely new bits too. Here are some of my highlights:

DISPLAY: Flamingo cushion, Rosa & Clara Designs // Cloud felt coaster, Pygmy Cloud // Brick vase, Stolen FormHANG: Wooden wall hanging, Lucie Ellen // Plant hanger, Pikku Potin // Mountain print, Clare NicolsonWEAR: Chevron necklace, Wolf & Moon and Alfred & Wilde // Bobble hat, Rose B Brown // Mars sunrise necklace, Custom MadeSIP: Porcelain mug, Kina Ceramic Design // T Rex mug, Yas-Ming Ceramics // Black drippy cup, Duck Ceramics

So there you have it, if you're in London tomorrow and are looking for something fun and inspiring to do, you'd do very well to head on over to the Old Truman Brewery to visit the Renegade Craft Fair. There are lots of train/tube stations nearby, but I like to go there via Liverpool Street as it's a lovely walk from there to Brick Lane, through Spitalfields Market.

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