This week in Bristol and Me, we speak to Jamie Innes, owner of Old Market Plants
Houseplants are increasingly popular. They’re how a lot of young people are getting into gardening, giving them the opportunity to nurture something green for, perhaps, the first time. My aim is to help turn a trend into a lifelong hobby.
I was always interested in nature, not least from growing up near Bristol Zoo, but didn’t know the first thing about horticulture when I started at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh – I thought a lot of environmental problems had solutions in nature, and wanted to learn more. I got a broad education, moving from there to Cambridge University Botanic Garden and then to Kew Gardens – I don’t think there’s a more diverse collection of plants on the planet. There were loads of experts to have interesting conversations with, but I was ready to move away from a big institution.
After moving to Bristol I did garden design and maintenance, then set up shop with the plants I grew in botanic gardens. Ruth Allen, my girlfriend, carries out the majority of the shop’s day-to-day running. Plant production is done in an environmentally friendly way, but there is a carbon impact transporting them; they can’t be disposable products, so we provide people with tips and courses for looking after them. One of the key things is right plant, right place. If you have a room that’s cold and dark, or an outdoor balcony, there’s still going to be a plant to suit it – limited space is no barrier. Bristol also has lots of amazing organisations, community gardens and allotments – the more people you can interact with, the quicker the learning.
We’ve got regular plants alongside more bizarre ones, such as Dioscorea elephantipes, which has a growth that stores water. People ask: “What even is that, it looks like a wooden nub stuck in a bit of soil?” We stock standard pots, but also work with local potters, who come up with some brilliant designs. It’s a really nice collaborative process, feeding back to them what people like, giving them a platform to experiment.