Potted Thoughts: Give a gift that keeps on living!
Flowers wilt and chocolates add inches to our hips, but potted plants are forever - well, almost. That's the underlying philosophy of Sharon Starr's venture Potted Thoughts. Through Potted Thoughts, the Adelaidean is encouraging people to ditch gifting chocolates and flowers, and instead embrace an alternative gifting option - long-lasting, beautiful looking potted plants. The 53-year-old also provides in-depth consultations on plants that will be an ideal fit in your homes and offices.
In a conversation with TAL, Sharon speaks about the inspiration behind Potted Thoughts, the challenges she faced, and her future plans.
Before we talk about your fantastic project, please tell us something about yourself, and the numerous other initiatives you are part of.
I was born and raised in Adelaide, growing up at Underdale. I went to school in the city and was involved in sports like tennis, netball and swimming and being a girl guide.
My hobbies now include wining and dining with friends, and gardening – when I get the time! I have been involved with Grange Surf Life Saving Club since my daughter was five (she is 24 now). I’ve been on numerous committees since then, and am currently the Senior Registrar. I also help out with functions and sit on the Management Committee.
I used to train and received my bronze medallion five years ago which enables me to be a Life Saver and patrol the beaches – something I haven’t done much but will do once I retire from the Management Committee.
I am 53 and have lived in Cheltenham for 30 years with my husband, Andy. I have three children, Emily (24), Lachy (21), and Mitch (18).
What is Potted Thoughts all about?
I started Potted Thoughts in 2012 as an alternative gifting option to sending flowers.
We select long living plants and match them with designer pots, and deliver throughout South Australia as well as interstate. Potted Thoughts also offers plant styling for your home and office, where we pay a visit at no charge and look at your location. We then discuss the clients’ wish list with them and put together a list of suggested plants and pots to suit the environment.
An alternative gift option to sending flowers sounds interesting! What prompted you to start Potted Thoughts?
I had been saying to my husband – long before he became my spouse - that I’d rather receive a potted plant on special occasions than a bunch of flowers. Since then he has always brought me plants for my birthdays, anniversaries, and other events. And, that stayed in my mind.
When my youngest started school, I found myself having some extra time, and took the opportunity to study Horticulture. After earning my qualifications, I started working part-time at Heyne’s Garden Centre. But eventually, weekend work became too exhausting for me with three young children, loads of sporting commitments and a husband that travelled frequently. So I had to quit.
That’s when I started brainstorming about the various options I could pursue that would give me the flexibility to be there for my kids when they needed me. One day, sitting around with family and friends I introduced the idea of selling potted plants as gifts for special occasions. They were all extremely encouraging of my plan, and, a few wines later, the name Potted Thoughts was born!
So, did this interest in plants develop later in life, or were you always a plant lover?
No, I haven’t always been a plant lover. My love for them developed after I bought my own house that had a large garden attached to it. The garden needed constant attending to, and that's when I started connecting with plants.
Then I started looking at indoor plants, and now every room in my home is filled with them.
Please tell us something about your team at Potted Thoughts? How many members are there?
I am the only person that works for Potted Thoughts. My family helps me with deliveries, and heavy lifting, etc.
How do you go about choosing the plants used as gifts or showpieces, and what factors play a role in that?
Most of the time I choose long living plants that are low maintenance and visit the nursey to hand select all of them.
I discuss with my customers the environment they are going to put the plant in, and the time they have set aside for care and depending on these discussions I recommend the plants.
Plants I have in stock regularly are Rhipsalis, Pothos, Philodendron, Succulents, Strelitzia, Monstera, Peperomia and Fiddle Leaf Figs.
What’s the thought process behind designing the pots?
Mainly it’s looking at the shape, colour and texture of the pot and selecting the right plant for that pot. I also determine once the plant has grown what it will look like in the pot.
What makes Potted Thoughts unique and different from other similar ventures?
The fact that I’ve studied Horticulture, read books and attend Seminars to keep updating my knowledge and skills helps me create sustainable and interesting potted plants. I also test the plants - that are on sale - first in my own home, so I can study how it thrives in various conditions before I sell them to the customers.
If it is a tricky one, I tend not to sell it. I also ensure that the plants I sell have drainage holes.
What kind of challenges do you face in operating Potted Thoughts?
One of the most significant challenges is getting the stock in when I need it and when a favourite pot is no longer available.
Working on my own is also quite a challenge with meeting deadlines and finding time to work on the bigger picture.
Being creative is sometimes an issue – luckily I have a sister who is a Graphic Designer, and I bounce many ideas off of her.
How did you create awareness about Potted Thoughts and get people excited about an alternative gifting option?
Initially, I started off by selling the plants through my website and getting the word out through family and friends. I then started doing markets around Adelaide to get the word out.
The reception has been fantastic; our customers push us to keep creating gorgeous pot and plant combinations.
How many plants do you currently have and how many do you manage to sell on a daily/weekly basis?
According to a rough estimate, it’s easily more than 150. We usually update our plant stock twice a week – an indication of the great sales we have.
What is the kind of care you would advise someone opting to buy or gift a potted plant?
Most importantly, think of the environment in which it will be placed and try to answer these basic questions - is there direct sunlight, filtered or very low light, does the recipient have time to tend a plant if it has a high water requirement? Then discuss with us, and we can suggest the right plant for you.