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Online potted plants business thrives on shift down to Raglan

The philodendrons, fiddle-leaf fig and fruit salad plants that were all the rage decades ago are back in fashion these days – Jasmine Edgar’s  small potted plant business, run from her home in Raglan West, is living proof of that.

“There’s such a demand,”  she told the Chronicle of her collection of household plants which started out as a hobby but developed 18 months ago into an online business.

Jasmine’s busy now shipping her leafy specimens to homes, offices, cafes and shops around the country.  “I have heaps of South Island customers and a lot from the likes of Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty,” she says of her sprouting workload.

Packaging takes a while, she admits. After potting and fertilising the plants chosen by customers from her impressive online site Sill Life, this enterprising 39-year-old mother of two packs them up carefully so that no soil falls out and the leaves are not damaged.

“It’s quite a feat sending a two-metre palm to Queenstown,” Jasmine laughs.

But she’s loving what she’s doing after years of nurturing “too many” plants – her collection threatening to take over the family home back in Grey Lynn.

That was when Jasmine, a costume designer, and longtime partner Ian Ferguson, a graphic designer, put their creative heads together and came up with Sill Life – an online startup combining Jasmine’s passion for plants with Ian’s flair for photography and design.

Some good press back then in a couple of contemporary Auckland magazines, and Jasmine was on her way to business success.

“There’s a long line of horticulturalists and botanists in my family,” she explains of her abiding passion for plants.

It’s their expertise Jasmine’s called on when sourcing varieties from specialist nurseries to get her business off the ground. “The big garden centres usually have a monopoly on purchasing plants,” she says, “but now that I’m buying consistently, I’ve found all the nurseries are really supportive.”

Jasmine also propagates some of the smaller plant varieties herself, and since moving down to Raglan from  Auckland six months ago she “can’t wait” for the studio and glasshouse being built in her large backyard to be finished. “I’ll make it my little haven,” she enthuses.

The garden shed being converted already houses a potter’s wheel because Jasmine also makes her own range of hand-thrown pots with recycled clay and organic glazes. “I sell my pots and potted plants as a package,” she explains.

Jasmine says she’s dreamt “forever” of finding for her plants and her family a big sunny section like the one she now has  in Uenuku Avenue. Its view of the harbour and out to the bar is a bonus.   

“We just wonder why we didn’t do it sooner,” she says of the shift that’s taken them out of the rat-race. “Everything’s just fallen into place.”

She spends her days now happily potting plants and throwing the odd pot – returning once every six weeks or so to Auckland for jobs that come up in the fashion industry – while Ian too works from home as a designer for his own company Friends of Design and also gets to surf more regularly.

Their boys Dustin, 8, and Ace, 6, bus to Te Uku School but are spending much of their spare time at the Te Kopua skatepark.

Jasmine’s hopeful the trend back to household plants will continue to grow, so convinced is she that bringing the outdoors in has healthy spin-offs.

“There have been so many studies done on the benefits of plant-related air purification,” she says. “And there is a feeling of wellbeing that plants add to your living environment.”

Edith Symes

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