As this is my first ever Blog post I thought I would write about how my love affair with plants began, and how it has developed over the years to become a business rather than just a hobby.
My first memory of growing something myself was when, with Mum’s help, I turned our old sandpit into a small garden when I was about 7. I grew beautiful Cosmos taller than me, with blue morning glory’s and my favourite, the dwarf Echium plants, in all sorts of blues and pinks and violets.
After that my plant choices were quite strongly influenced by what I could grow from seed. My Nan, also a very knowledgeable plantswoman, lived in Taumarunui and had large concrete troughs, filled with all sorts of treasures, mainly alpines and dwarf bulbs and the like. She grew lots of species from seed Cyclamen, Anemones and Dianthus to name but a few, and I spent many hours poring over books and seedlists, probably trying to keep up with her and Mum. She eventually gifted me my own subscription to the NZ Alpine Garden Society, which I have maintained ever since.
I grew tiny little Dianthus species, dwarf Aquilegias were a favourite, species Delphinium, Helleborus, and Penstemons native to various parts of the US. Infact anything resembling Penstemons was on my wanted list for a while.
Throughout this time, I was always learning, and I think the books and seedlists encouraged me to use the Latin names with confidence. I guess I always loved the written word, and languages in general, so I was never concerned about referring to plants by their proper names, although people did and still do, look at me as though I’m swearing at them.
Eventually, whilst working part time as an office manager, I also ran small nursery business in Te Kuiti, in partnership with my mother. We grew and sold all sorts of things from vege seedlings, potted colour, to perennials and bulbs. But this was in the days before the internet changed how we buy and sell, so sales were limited to local garden centres, and eventually I got married and moved away, so the business was eventually wound up.
Around this time I discovered the genus Salvia, and joined the Salvia Society, which I was a member of until it amalgamated with the Auckland Bulb & Perennial Society many years later. Initially my knowledge of Salvias was very limited, and I was surprised by the seemingly endless array of species and cultivars. There are reputed to be around 900 species in the world would you believe! What attracted me the most was that there seemed to be a Salvia suitable for any style of planting, in any soil type or climate. I started off with the basic ones available at the time, and have steadily built up my collection to around 100 different types, always losing some along the way and gaining others. They have so many appealing characteristics – long flowering, bright colours, attractive to bees and butterflies. Some have scented foliage as well which is lovely, although some can be quite pungent!
When I arrived here on the Thames Coast, I needed to figure out a way of supporting myself and my family. Working in town was one option, but working from home was even better as it allowed me the flexibility to be around when my children needed me.
My parents said to me one day….think about what you are good at, and do that. So I did. I worked out a business plan, and went from there.
I started selling plants via mail order in September 2014, and haven’t looked back. I knew that my plants were something different, something that people were always looking for, but were generally hard to find. I also knew that the way I grow them produces healthy plants that grow once they get out in the garden. The pot sizes were also important - they are kept small enough for gardeners to handle easily, and plant the plants in the garden without digging to China to fit it in, but big enough to produce a quality plant with a good root system. So I was looking at filling a niche market, selling rare and unusual perennials, and specialising in Salvias. I then branched out into selling bulbs once a year, as there is a high demand for the special and rare bulbs that I grow as well, and I seem to have amassed a huge collection of those over the years.
There is always the temptation to sell vast quantities of things to landscapers etc, but I have kept focused on my customer base of everyday gardeners, and will continue to do so as I love keeping them all supplied with quality plants.