28 Jun 2018 |
Meet the Maker
The Little Book of House Plants
House plants are having a moment. Inexpensive to purchase, easy to care for and a statement in any space, growing these indoor plants is virtually fool proof. In her new book, The Little Book of House Plants and Other Greenery, Emma Sibley tells you everything you need to know about nurturing and growing your own indoor jungle. We caught up with Emma in her shop and workshop space, London Terrariums, to find out more about her love for plants and what it takes to set up a business.
What was the first plant you ever owned? Is it still alive?
I think the first plant I ever owned and have taken ownership of (other than the sunflowers I grew at Brownies!) is a Ficus my mum bought me when I moved to London about ten years ago – it was in the discount section of Wilkinsons and was 50p! I called it my twig because at the time I didn't know it was a Ficus. I still have it with me now and it has actually been split into two plants and my friend has one of them. I am more attached to this plant than most of my other belongings!
When did you first realise that working with plants was something you wanted to do?
London Terrariums started completely as a hobby and turned into a job. I realised this love of compost, and the relaxation that making terrariums gave me, was something that I could pass on to other people – it was at that point that I realised that I wanted this to be my job.
When did you start up London Terrariums and why?
I started when workshops weren't really a thing. While I was fascinated by terrariums, not many people actually knew what they were! It was then that London Terrariums was born. As I mentioned it was just a hobby that turned into a job so there hasn't ever been a real business plan. The company came about four years ago and has been growing and changing since then.
How did you know the time was right to take the leap and run London Terrariums full-time?
London Terrariums started with two of us, myself and my friend Tom. Tom decided to leave LT about 18 months into the business and, although this was quite scary at the time, it was actually great as it gave the me possibility of running it myself and being able to take a small salary from it. Taking the leap to leave my full time job was always going to be scary, but they were very understanding and I was able to cut my shifts down to four days a week, and then three, until finally the time seemed right.
Favourite plant and why?
At the moment it is a Monstera Obliqua (below) but it changes all the time. I like the leaves of the Obliqua and the fact it is a shrub like plant but always has one or two trailing vines that come down, we have one in our front room at the top of a book shelf and it looks great!
Who are your plant influencers or idols?
I think Nik Southern from Grace and Thorn is a G! She is great. When I started London Terrariums there weren't many 'cool' florists out there who were doing things differently and Nik's approach to gardening and plants really inspired me. Also Alys Fowler; I got to be on BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour at the end of last year with Alys and I was pretty star struck by that! And last, but definitely not least, is my great granddad. I remember visiting his garden with my grandparents when I was younger and was in awe of his garden shed, so many tools and stacks of empty plastic pots! He was still growing broad beans for our family well into his 90's!
If you weren’t running London Terrariums you would be…?
Probably in Ecom or digital design somewhere. That’s what I was doing before LT and I really enjoyed it so I think I would be there still.
Why did you decide to open a shop?
I was always very undecided about whether I wanted/needed a shop. Before we opened we were working out of a studio space in Bermondsey and this was great for what we needed. It was in a messy artists studio block so it was ok to have all the boxes and palettes of moss scattered about, but it wasn't very practical for when people wanted to come and see and buy the terrariums. Last year I was planning to set up a few pop up shops to get an idea of locations, but the shop we are in now suddenly became available and it was just around the corner from our studio so we decided to take it! For a first shop it is very low risk; I needed to see if London actually wanted a Terrarium shop – the answer is yes, they do!
Best thing about owning a shop?
Opening up on a morning and walking in a year after I first opened and having the feeling of 'oh I really do still love this place’! And also meeting all the people – we have a lot of regulars now which is wonderful!
If you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 things would you take with you?
Lip Balm! My dog Walnut Wiggins. And a box to collect things in.
Who should we be following on Instagram / Twitter / Facebook / blogs?
@spreadlondon – Two great ladies and great friends of mine who have a catering company and make the most delicious food and run supper clubs
@shitgardens – basically what is says, hilariously bad photos of very shit gardens!
@_sightunseen_ – just the most gorgeous design pics
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to start a creative career?
Just go for it and plan – but not too much!? I’m not sure if that is good advice or not but I do know that finding your way as you go has worked for me, and its not that scary!
Another shop...maybe!? And a Terrarium book!
Click here to find out how to care for Emma's favourite five indoor plants!
Photography by Adam Laycock