Can you tell us about the origins of Hopeless Botanics?
I am gardening obsessed, and I first got into house plants because the gardening winded down in autumn and I wanted to bring some green into my gaff and feed my habit. I love the accessibility of house plants, you don’t need a garden, or lots of money, and there’s a lot of cool plant communities, inspiration and banter on instagram and the internet to help you along. I couldn’t find the plants that I wanted, so I started to think maybe there was a niche there.
I have been at home minding my kids for the last three-and-a-half years. I used to work in the overseas aid sector spending a lot of time in East Africa. Last year I retrained and got a diploma in Human Resources. I was applying for HR jobs but all day every day all I could think about was plants and gardening and I just thought, what am I doing, I’m not ready to go back into an office. As lame as it sounds, gardening and plants is where my heart is at.
I thought I was going to be hawking plants on Fumbally Lane with tumbleweed rolling by, but the response has been fantastic. My sister-in-law is helping me out now, and we are trying to build a business that we are really proud of, that showcases plants we love, makes them accessible, and we want to have a bit of craic with it as well.
How did the connection with Fumbally Stables come about?
I was developing the business to be an online business, but I couldn’t picture launching without having some face to face with people. I needed to test the idea and have the chats and see what people are into. Plants are such an experiential and personal thing.
I was having coffee outside the Fumbally with a friend who knows one of the owners, Aisling and I just thought ‘she seems sound’ so I approached her a few days later with my idea. The Fumbally have a genuine love for entrepreneurship and supporting small Irish businesses. I pitched it to Aisling and how I wanted to make beautiful plants more accessible, and do it as sustainably as possible, and lucky for me, they were into it. Commercial rents in Dublin are wildly out of reach for so many startups, so the Fumbally taking a punt on me has been game-changing. I essentially sell plants from a step in a lane way, which sounds ridiculous, but I love it.
Clearly there is a boom for house plants during lockdown, what are the sort of queries you are fielding?
We get a lot of queries, and they definitely vary. There are serious plant collectors out there that have been ordering plants they want from Europe, with the plants sometimes arriving all battered. They’re delighted that they can now get them from us instead. We also have a lot of queries from people working from home all day and they want large plants, or something for their desk. We’re all stuck indoors a lot, and large plants give a great bit of life and natural colour to a room.
Where does one start as a house plant collector? What considerations should you factor in?
Try to choose plants that suit your lifestyle as well as your gaff. If you travel a lot for work or go on holidays (we can dream!), you might want to consider sticking with plants that are drought tolerant and can go 3-4 weeks without a drink. ZZ plants are a great drought tolerant plant, as are Sansevierias and Aspidistras. If you have a dog, cat (or human) that likes to munch your plants, stick to pet friendly plants that are wholly non-toxic, like Aspidistras, palms, ferns or Calatheas. Also, choose one that you’re really drawn to, that you will love looking at every day.
Start with one and build on your collection. I find large plants as easy to care for as small ones, they just need more watering. Try to remember that plants are beautiful and real living things and it’s normal for every single piece of foliage to not look 100% picture perfect sometimes. So try not to stress about them, because you want them to enhance your life – not cause anxiety. If you let them, they can help with mindfulness as you step away from your desk to care for them, they bring satisfaction and joy seeing them shoot out new growth and they can add depth, and a natural cosiness to your space.
What plants are perceived as introductory and which are boundary pushing? Is the level of care required the main distinguisher?
A lot of indoor plants are easy going, but what makes some more difficult than others is that they need consistency with their care in order to thrive. For example, Calatheas are so showy and beautiful, but they are originally from the jungle floors across South America, so they adore humidity. They definitely need watering about twice a week, and will not survive a drought. They are also diva-ish in that tap water is fine, but rain water or mineral water will keep them happiest.
A great introductory medium-large plant is a Monstera deliciosa (Swiss Cheese plant). They’re quick growing, easy care and the foliage is lush and beautiful. Some of my other easy care favourites are Sansevieria moonshine, Pineapple bromeliad, trailing Marble queen pothos, and I really love Aspidistras.
You’ve joined the ranks of the ‘plantstagrammers’ here. Do you have a strategy for using it?
I am in the absolute mania of starting a new business right now, and I feel like I haven’t even tipped on the potential of using Instagram to its fullest. I would love to spend all day at it if I could. Instagram is my shopfront at the moment – we are taking orders through it while our site is being developed. It’s been critical to developing the business. I’m so excited to develop lots of cool content for Instagram that will help people to better understand and care for their plants. It’s taking some getting used to putting my face out there the odd time, I’ve never been one to share much on social media. But because I’m talking about a topic I love so much, it feels more natural than I expected to be honest.
What accounts do you like to follow?