My goal for this 'blog' (an ugly word) has always been to shine a light on companies and people doing great things. It can be big or small, but as a small business owner, I always appreciate seeing someone start out. As Julia will outline below, she started the English Potted Plant Company in covid. While I was killing plants by the dozen, she was making a company out of her green thumb. I've been known to love an antique vessel or two, and in the words of Elton John when he was confronted with his £293,000 flower bill, 'Yes, I like flowers'. Unsurprisingly, I fell head over heels for The English Potted Plant Company. So without further ado, let me hand you over to Julia!
(I have no idea why these intros always sound like I am making an after-dinner speech)
I started the English Potted Plant Company in June 2020, a few months into Lockdown, after my consulting contract was abruptly cancelled, signalling the end of my corporate career. I didn't intentionally mean to start a business. I knew nothing about online retailing, but I just had an over-optimistic feeling that if I potted up all the lavender we were growing on our allotment into the few crates of old clay pots I had found in the local reclamation yard – I'd be able to sell them. It took us a while to work out the persistent 'kerching' notification on my phone until we realised it was Etsy informing us that we'd sold all the potted lavender – and we've not looked back since then!
The most significant design influence for me has been David Hick's 1982 book on Garden Design. Not only did the sketchbook-type presentation appeal to my teenage sensibilities at the time, but I was very impressed with how he potted up narcissus in the spring and brought them into the house in their pots! As India Hicks noted, "he thought you certainly did not buy flowers. You picked them from your garden" Likewise, "special attention was paid to the containers, as they were important to the overall effect. He might take an early 19th-century jug and fill it with a pastoral bunch of herbs and hedgerow gatherings." I loved this rather raffish approach. Along with mildly bohemian artist parents, I was bound to be insouciant about 'house plants' and constantly encouraged to be a bit more 'original' with whatever I set out to do. So with these influences under my belt and the timing of covid - The English Potted Plant Company was born!
The blur and excesses of the festive season receding, and the ground has begun to thaw. I've just got my notebooks out again and have started to think about what needs to get going in the garden and greenhouse for the seasons ahead. Despite endlessly trawling through seed catalogues, I've had to concede that I'm not very good at growing from seed apart from a little direct sowing of Myositis into little Tom Thumb pots and sweetpeas in loo rolls on the kitchen windowsill (both of which should be done now) and instead of seeds I focus on plugs and bulbs. For the garden, I'm going to go with Iceland Poppies and Cosmos this year, and on the bulb front, -I'm planting more Martagon Lilies in pots after some success last year. Our spring bulbs are already starting to pop, but I love summer bulbs too – now is an excellent time to plant – so I'm planting more Lily of the Valley, Nerine bowdenii and Fritillaria Imperialis, all gorgeous in their pots and ready to bring into the house in the summer and the Nerine in the Autumn.
The simple pleasures of growing, the scent of flowers in the home and the cycles of planting them out again into the garden and recycling their containers is somehow reassuring and grounding. There is something incredibly fulfilling about having a beautiful plant in a beautiful pot, and the repetitions of the seasons and their corresponding plants – Paperwhites in winter, Hellebores for Christmas, snowdrops in January and tulips in early summer – bring a sense of continuity in this fraught age of anxiety. I will happily continue to grow for the house and keep bringing pots indoors and feel extremely fortunate that many so many others do to.