Introducing Class 2: Bloombox Club
Words by Kelsey Lee Jones
Photos by Let it Grow
Psychologist-cum-plantaholic Doctor Katie Cooper launched Bloombox Club out of the desire to promote gardening and plant care as effective hobbies for wellbeing, and as forms of active meditation. Katie knows that plants have the power to make us happy. So, Bloombox invites you to start collecting some of the best and most interesting plants – both indoor and outdoor – while they provide all the plant care information and inspiration so that you can learn as you go. So let’s get to it, just “breathe, de-stress and grow…”
So, how's the horticulture scene in the UK? Do you notice any green initiatives?
Well, we live in London and we don’t really notice significant projects or initiatives. But we do notice that plants are becoming trendier, there are lots of new florists/plant shops popping up around the Hackney/Stoke Newington area (Grace & Thorn, Conservatory Archives, Botany Shop etc.) but nothing which allows people to fully engage with the well-being aspect of plants.
In terms of the link between plants and wellbeing, there are a few small-scale projects from mental health charities and the NHS that recognise the correlation (such as Instinctively Wild’s partnership with the NHS for an Ecotherapy for Dementia project). A few small social enterprises such as The Centre for Ecotherapy in Brighton and Sage Greenfingers in Sheffield, have Wellbeing Gardens staffed by volunteers and mental health practitioner.
Whilst we’ve been attending the Incubation Programme in the Netherlands, we’ve noticed how plants are seamlessly woven into every space – even the most average café will have a plant or two. The UK is far behind this – there is a distinct lack of greenery in public spaces, especially indoors. We’ve got a long way to go!
When did you first feel your connection with plants?
My background is in psychology, where I often used plants as a tool to help ill clients. By teaching them the skill of nurturing plants, it helped them learn to nurture themselves. I’m not a natural gardener, but the full effect that plants and flowers could have on people was an eye-opener for me, and it made me rediscover plants and their importance.
Do you have examples of proven ways that gardening and houseplants can improve mental and physical wellbeing?
It all started with NASA’s research in the late 80’s that found houseplants can filter out some toxins in space facilities. Research since has shown that they have the same effect on the ground and can clean the air in our homes – all sorts of chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene, which can be found in common items such as furniture and wallpapers, can be neutralised by some plants. There is also emerging research about plants boosting workplace productivity, as well as numerous studies on the colour green itself as a method for relaxation. We now know that even seeing the colour green out of the corner of your eye can help people de-stress!
As for outdoors, digging in the dirt helps reduce cortisol (a stress hormone) and can also build your immune system due to the microbes and bacteria. It also keeps people active, thus promoting heart-health and preventing other lifestyle-related diseases.
We’re also promoting the idea of Mindful Gardening. Plant care allows you to be in the present. In order to be present, you need to feel connected to the ground that you’re standing on and your senses need to be active. Even feeling or smelling a green plant can connect us to the present moment. Nature has the ability to ground us.
“Even feeling or smelling a green plant can connect us to the present moment. Nature has the ability to ground us”.
You handpick lots of interesting plants (the Crispy Wave Fern or the Pitcher Plant for example). How do you make your selections?
We pick what we like the look of, with a little bit of help from plant suppliers. We also like to try things out and work out what our customers like—we tried some hanging plants recently, which sold out very quickly. Air purifying plants, such as Calatheas and the Crispy Wave Fern has also been hugely popular. And both Ferns and Calatheas come is a vast range of leaf shapes and colours, so plenty of choices – I have quite a selection myself!
What do customers get with your subscription service?
In our indoor subscription boxes, customers get a surprise plant in a ceramic pot, delivered every 3 months. We always curate a collectable care card with all the information to care for the plant. We also write a blog about the plant and add the care info to our Plant Hub, so there’s always enough information to keep people engaged with what they’re doing and to keep nurturing. People love the surprise aspect – we get lots of lovely Instagram tags on delivery day!
The outdoor boxes contain 5 plants and everything you need to get gardening. We also deliver them every 3 months, with the idea that the plants you receive are seasonal. By the end of one year, the customer should have a range of plants, where something is always in season.
The subscription model has worked really well for us – customers understand the model and it’s easily applied to plants. Our subscriptions mean they’re not going to be overloaded with plants, but get a gradual collection with room to learn about the horticultural world along the way. We want to engage people beyond the “I’ve got a nice plant in the corner of the room”, to: “this is what it means to have a plant at home”.
You also run a blog to explore different angles on plants for wellbeing. Could you tell us about contributors?
We’re trying to have a mix of wellbeing information, planting and gardening how-to’s, plus plant-specific care info. Michael Perry a.k.a.Mr Plant Geek contributes to the blog with Plant of the Month pieces, and we’ve recently teamed up with Annabelle Hird, a Gestalt therapist, who writes mainly about plants and wellbeing – great articles about how plants can benefit you in ways you may not have thought about.
How’s the Incubation Programme going for Bloombox Club?
The programme has been really positive. We’ve met some great people – it’s so nice to be surrounded by other people in the industry. The connections we’re making with high-level individuals are invaluable, we hope they can help us move along in the direction we want to. Our aim is to build on these new connections and knowledge, to scale the company successfully. We want to bottle some of this Dutch enthusiasm and passion for horticulture and take it home to the UK!
Each week we’ll be introducing someone new from our Incubation Programme. Make sure to check back and follow the journey.