East is Best: The Botanical Boys

News at EastHaus | 13/09/2017

The Botanical Boys: City workers by day, green fingered genies by night. 

Ben and Daz tell us all about how their passion for plants has turned into so much more than just a hobby.

So gentlemen, tell us a bit about yourselves, what do you do and how did you come to live in East London?

We both work in the City doing IT and project management, and in our spare time away from the office, life is spent doing gardening and running plant workshops by creating miniature eco systems, or for those in the know "living terrariums".

We moved to Dalston, E8 in 2002 from Camden Town, where we met the previous year and chose the area as you could get 30% more space for your money, than walking two blocks up the road into De Beauvoir Town as it has a N1 post code. The area was quite a bit more edgy than it is today, but there were rumours that they planned to build a new overground line so we knew things would change being located so close to the city.  We still remember taxi drivers not wanting to take us any further than Angel after a night out in the West End. Wow have times changed since then!   

How did the idea for the Botanical Boys come about?

We own a well known garden that we open as part of the NGS (National Garden Scheme) for charity twice a year.

Airbnb contacted us and invited us to take part in their new venture "experiences" and asked if we could put together a botanical themed trip idea.  This gave birth to running botanical tours and doing plant workshops and so the Botanical Boys was born. 

Your Botanical trip takes people to some really interesting places, are they surprised that these unique green spaces exist in London?

Yes, London is one of the greenest cities in Europe and we are quite fortunate with the amount of parks we have in London. The more surprising thing for our guests though is being able to visit some of the spaces perhaps less frequently seen by visitors, such as the wholesale flower market, the roof gardens in the banking district and our personal garden to name a few. It's a two day trip taking guests across the wholesale and the retail spectrum with some pretty amazing stops in between.  

We recall a guest actually being so inspired that she arranged all her flowers from the wholesalers for her wedding day.

Tell us a bit more about what your workshops involve

We teach guests all about living plant terrariums from the basic elements of layering techniques to the soil science and about the plants for both open and closed environments.

By the nature of it being available through Airbnb, we thought that our largest portion of customers would be travellers from abroad.  However, the majority of our guests are actually London based and quite often we find that they purchase the workshops as birthday gifts, anniversaries or greening up their new home they've just moved into. 

Where is your favourite green space in East London?

Dalston Eastern Curve. It was once part of an old railway line which later retired into a huge dumping ground full of rubbish, but has since been made into the most magical botanical space for the community. 

What top tips would you give to anyone wanting to get into gardening?

Just get stuck in, read a few labels, make some mistakes you'll learn very quickly what works and what does not.  Don't be afraid of trying, we all have green fingers; it's just a matter of finding them over time.  Gardening gives you a feeling of creative fun, energy and peace all in one. 

You currently live in a very cool warehouse conversion. What would your dream home look like or are you already in it?

We have found a dream home in our current stage of life as we wanted this flat for so long, it's another story how we got here, but we are so happy for pursuing and being patient.  The process of buying it took 7 years and Ben even had to fly over to Germany to get the deal done! It provides a space for our botanical workshops too.

You have created a beautiful garden on your terrace. What plants would you suggest are best for helping turn an urban balcony into a green oasis? 

Oh so many cool plants, we went out and experimented a lot.  So far, two seasons in, we found the Yucca, Bamboo, Echeverias, Euphorbias, Pine trees, Sedum, Hydrangea and even growing tomatoes have all done so well. We also have a number of other plants including; Agapanthus, Gunnera, Salvia "Hot lips" and have grown plenty of Hostas (watch the snails) and Dahlias. The terrace is south facing so we get plenty of sunlight.

For those a little less green fingered or with no outside space, what are the best low maintenance, indoor plants to brighten up a home?

Succulents & Cacti, Peperomia's (Chinese Money Plant), String of hearts (ceropegia), Fishbone cactus, Peace Lilli (Stathiphyllum) or Sansevieria (Mother-in laws tongue) are all easy to care for.

We love plants in the office especially as they have many health benefits, what makes a good office plant?

Sansevieria's, succulents, Stathiphyllum, Monstera Deliciosa (Cheese plant), Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia), Crassula Ovata and Zamioculcas are a few of our favourites. 

And finally, living in Dalston and having your garden in London Fields, you must know the area pretty well, describe the perfect weekend in East London, where would you visit, what would you do?

We are lucky to be really good friends with our neighbours so we would sometimes meet for a drink at Brewers Bar on Shacklewell Lane. Cal (owner) restored this former butchers shop beautifully and there is still a lot of original wood work and marble tables, it even has it’s original meat rails hanging from the ceiling. We would then go for Dinner at one of our favourite Turkish restaurants in the area.

On Saturday's we love going to Broadway Market, awesome street food, coffee and a great social buzz. After we have gained enough energy we would usually take a walk around the area and just explore. Sometimes it would be walking the canal, other times we may just explore the streets around Hackney looking for interesting things, like visiting art galleries, new shops, and the community garden and so on. The area is changing quite fast so it's always surprising how many new things can be found. We would then usually cook dinner for friends or get together at a local restaurant. Our favourites are Lardo Bebe, Lucky Chip, House of Momo, Jones and Sons, Rudies, Cirrik and Mangal.

Sunday we go to Columbia Road Flower market with a stop at Hackney City Farm for an awesome breakfast followed by a stroll to our local pub, The Spurstowe Arms for a pint or two ;-)

To find out more about the Botancial Boys trip and their workshops, check out their video below or click here to visit their website. You may also spot a Botancial Boys creation in a home near you as they kindly contribute to our East End hampers.

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