To kick off this year’s Creative Personalities we caught up with nursery owner and peat free plant advocate, Harriet Thompson, to talk everything plants and why we should all be growing peat free plants.
Why is it important to grow peat free plants?
Peat free is so very important and is a topic that isn't discussed enough. Peat is a wonderful medium that is used to grow plants within horticulture and is partially decayed organic matter that is found in peat bogs. These bogs are home to flora, fauna and nearly extinct wildlife and hold more carbon than all the forests of Britain, France and Germany combined. Every time these wonderful bogs are extracted for the use of a bag of peat compost, all that carbon is released into the atmosphere and negatively impacts climate change.
That's why I grow peat free houseplants to reduce the businesses carbon footprint and to do better for the planet with each plant grown.
When did you decide to start your own glasshouse and why did you decide to begin your business from it?
I decided to plan my business when I lived in Australia. I realised how important the environment and plants were to me and so many others and I realised I was addicted to growing them. When I returned to the UK it was then that I decided to grow with the environment and have been doing that since 2018. The nursery itself expanded in 2019 and is now expanding again in 2023. I wanted the business to organically grow, just like the plants in it.
Your personal favourite plants to grow and why?
I love growing Oxalis, every single variety but my absolute favourite to grow at the moment is the Streltiza, bird of paradise. A South African plant that can be kept outdoors in the warmer months and given the opportunity, it will grow to a large plant that will become a statement piece in no time, given the right care. There are a few different varieties but I grow an orange flowering and white flowering Strelitzia.
My best seller is without a doubt the easy-care plants. The original cheese plant, Monstera deliciosa is always wanted by the wonderful people that shop with Harriet’s Plants, especially as gifts!
For people who don’t necessarily have green thumbs, what is the best ‘starter’ plant?
Succulents are really great and are especially great if you just want to leave a plant alone. Lots of them flower and I currently have little succulents available which make a great starter plant of three mini, easy care plants.
Chlorophytums, the spider plant, are also amazing and very forgiving of people that think they don't have green fingers. My social media @harriets.plants is also full of tips to turn people into plant fairies in no time.
You have a journal called ‘Grown not flown’ on your website. How can our audience be sure they are buying house plants that haven’t been imported from far?
Doing research into the grower of the plants is so important.
Look for British grown tags on the plants when you are at garden centres and nurseries and shop directly with growers where possible.
Talk to us about propagating, we are fascinated!
It's my biggest joy. The idea of making plants, from another plant is such a joyous task in the nursery. Propagating can be done using stems and leaves from plants and using the right techniques you can grow more and more.
Any tips on how to propagate?
Watch lots of videos and read lots of books! Propagation is trial and error and it's learning techniques that work well and always use peat free compost. Look into stem cuttings first as they are easier to combat and rooting hormone will help your roots grow healthily.
Do you have any unexpected natural remedies / unexpected top tips for taking care of certain plants?
Let's go with pest control as a general rule for all houseplants.
Instead of using chemicals on your plants and in your home, here's a chemical free recipe for pest control.
In a 1L spray bottle, mix together 1L of water with 1 tablespoon of Organic castile soap (Dr Bronners is great) and 10 drops of tea tree oil. Spray regularly to keep pests from taking over, rather than doing it only when you can see the pests!
Wipe leaves regularly to keep plants dust free so they can photosynthesise as best as possible.
On your website you’ve mentioned some plants help with sleep problems and are known to clear pollutants from the air, are there any in particular?
Chlorophytum // spider plants
Lavandula as they are a great aromatherapy plant
They are my top 3 plants for bedrooms!!!
Do your dog's get involved/help out with your glasshouse?
Blue is definitely in the greenhouse as much as I am. By working together all day, we have a really special bond and of course we always make time for playtime throughout the day.
Your favourite motto to live by?
'Just keep growing' - it truly is my motto for life. I'm a huge believer in personal growth and whatever that means for the individual!
Will we find you at any markets / festivals / plant shows this year?
I'll be at local markets down in Cornwall all being well this year. I've had to pull out of an RHS show due to the nursery moving from Staffordshire to Cornwall, but Cornwall really does have this wonderful community that I cannot wait to be a part of and get peat free plants to.
If you’re interested in reading more on living peat free you can find an in depth blog by Harriet here.
Harriet wears the Roberta dress in Indigo Plaid.