In our first Guest Blog Martin Pallett writes of how he and his wife turned their passion for growing unusual plants into Bleujyowa – Curious Plants. They propagate a range of interesting and unusual plants – many of which are tender – from seeds and cuttings, and raise them in their garden in Carlyon Bay. They sell home grown plants to a growing market of local customers from their road-side Plant Stand and for collection by arrangement. They do not sell by mail order, preferring the personal contact with their customers.
Martin says, “I am something of a plant enthusiast reading and researching about plants, visiting gardens as well as sharing my knowledge with others. I am largely self-taught and admit to my own share of gardening mistakes over the years. I gain huge satisfaction from being outside and active in the garden, growing plants at the same time as encouraging wildlife and trying to create something which is beautiful and satisfying too.”
Located close to the coast on an attractive road with sea views, our front garden catches the attention of many passing by. When people started asking if we sold any of the tender exotic plants we grow in our garden, we both thought that perhaps we were missing out on a potential business opportunity.
We have developed our seaside garden over the last twenty-seven years focussing on many Southern hemisphere perennial shrubs that grow particularly well here including unusual palms, Leonotis, Sonchus as well as Echiums. Using our own greenhouse, a neighbour’s and a number of cold frames, we propagate a range of plants in small quantities. We do not really regard ourselves as running a nursery.
Potting on seedlings and preparing plants ready for sale can be quite a juggling act, optimising the limited space we have in our back garden. This winter neighbours kindly offered to over-winter a few plants for us. We look after a local Church garden and this provides another opportunity to test out our plants in a different setting. We also both have main jobs elsewhere.
Bleujyowa’s loyal customers
Many gardeners sell surplus stock at the roadside with an honesty box but Bleujyowa – Curious Plants is much more than this. We have gradually built up a growing band of loyal customers many of whom we keep in touch with, through social media. Prior to the Covid 19 Pandemic we attended two plant sales in the area each year as well as running our own event in our front garden. In 2019 we experimented with an advice session at the same time as offering plants for sale.
During the pandemic we have removed our road-side Plant Stands when garden centres were closed. Otherwise we have sold all our plants from here and through a collection service from our drive. This has avoided unnecessary contact and promoted everyone’s safety. Customers have told us that they have felt very safe shopping outdoors for plants with us in this way.
A micro nursery of unusual plants
A growing number of customers appear keen to purchase plants that are grown and sold locally on an informal basis through a ‘micro nursery’ of this kind that can also give advice. Customers also appreciate being able to see these same plants growing in our garden.
We get some very varied kinds of request. One neighbour, admiring Lampranthus flowering in our front garden, commissioned me to take cuttings that were subsequently sold to local customers, a few months later.
Many tell us that they find garden centres very expensive and the plant range they offer, rather limited. We don’t want to compete with local supermarkets, who we feel usually sell a limited range of good quality plants at very reasonable prices. We acknowledge that much of our propagating from seed and cuttings is experimental (and from their own garden) and that we try to focus on the more unusual – the ‘curious plants’. I am particularly fond of many South African tender perennials and shrubs (more about these in future blogs). One customer was recently directed to us by a local garden centre to buy Watsonias. These South African gladioli grow very well indeed here and I am a huge fan of them.
Flexibility and sustainability
Whilst there are constraints on what we cab offer at Bleujyowa – Curious Plants, we also have a lot of flexibility. Space constraints mean we have to keep most of our plants in small pots. We don’t have the overheads of a garden centre and believe we offer something quite unique which is high quality, unusual and moderately priced for customers. We use peat free compost and also recycle plant pots as much as possible. Many customers like the idea of buying plants locally in a more sustainable way. Bleujyowa shows others how it is quite feasible through this kind of micro nursery, to propagate and sell plants successfully from your own garden.