HR Director, Tracey Bowler, turns her hand to running the houseplant department at our Staplehurst centre. Take a sneak peek behind the scenes with her!
The pandemic has changed so many things for us all. Little did I know this time last year that I would end 2020 running the houseplant department at our Staplehurst site, alongside my role as HR Director. HR can be rewarding and challenging in equal measure never more so than in the last 12 months. So whatever has been going on during the week, at 2pm on a Friday afternoon I’ve logged onto our Dutch houseplant supplier’s website and lost myself in selecting plants to be delivered the next week. Why 2pm? This is the time that the “Limited Specials” are available from the many growers on the site. Competition is fierce for anything a little bit unusual and if you get interrupted you may well find that the special plant you had put in your trolley is no longer available when you get to the checkout!
What to order?
Many years ago, not long after I joined Millbrook, I worked in houseplants. Back then it was all about flowering houseplants – begonias, African violets and miniature roses. How things have changed! Now it is all about the foliage, striking leaf colours and unusual shapes, structure and hanging plants. Cacti and succulents are so popular and children of all ages love the range of carnivorous plants we stock! Every plant has details of the pot’s size, height of the plant and a small picture and sometimes there are in excess of 50 pages to scroll through, all neatly listed in alphabetical order. It’s a plant lover’s idea of heaven.
Having been ordered on a Friday our plants are dispatched on either a Tuesday or Wednesday and usually reach us within 24 hours. We aim to have fresh stock for every weekend so that there is always something new to tempt you with. Deliveries arrive on large Danish Trolleys, stacked on shelves and safely wrapped for the journey. As someone who loves plants I cannot describe the excitement in unwrapping these trolleys to see the plants you have chosen “in real life.” The plants have to be checked and booked in before they are ready to be sold, it seems you, our customers can’t always wait for this to happen, there is a lot of activity around the trolleys when they arrive!
We invested in new houseplant tables at the beginning of the year when we relocated houseplants to their home adjacent to the tills on the tiled floor where there is no risk of me damaging the newly laid carpet when watering! These simple wooden and metal tables really allow the plants to shine and have space below for a great range of pot covers. It is so rewarding to stand back and watch our customers wandering around the area and selecting plants for their own home. It is great to be able to talk to people who are passionate about plants and to help people chose the perfect plant for them, I feel so lucky to be able to combine this with my HR role.
One of the most common questions I am asked is “how often should I water my plants?” It is really difficult to give a simple answer to this as every home is different and watering will depend not only on the individual plant but the heat, humidity and light conditions in the room it is in. Generally most houseplants are killed through over watering and it is easier to add more water than to take it away so we tend to advise you to be cautious with your watering. A great way to see if your plant needs a drink is to feel the weight of the pot, heavy pots no water, light pot in need of a drink. For those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty, stick your finger in the pot if the compost feels moist below the surface then the plant isn’t thirsty.
As a keen gardener and someone who loves to be outdoors, I have to be honest, up until recently I didn’t own a houseplant! The last seven months have changed that and I’m now the proud owner of a small collection. I’ve had some failures along the way, but having spent so much more time at home over the last year I have realised that houseplants really do help our mental wellbeing, providing I don’t kill them!
It would be great to see you, please say hello next time you visit.