“we thought we should do something positive in what was feeling like a very challenging and alarming time.”
And blast off. It’s been a brilliant journey from launching in April 2020 two weeks after Muddy Trowel was conceived. Since then we have learned so much both during lockdown and as restrictions have started to ease. In this article we want to share more about the ‘why’ of Muddy Trowel, what we learned and where we intend to take our customers next with the launch of Muddy Trowel v2.0.
Are gardens getting smaller? Are many plant lovers time poor? Is there a tyranny of choice when looking online for outdoor plants? Is there a better, easier, faster way to experience the joy of gardening?
For Muddy Trowel, the answer is yes to all of these. Was this the reason for our launch in April? No, not quite. Covid-19 was, and more precisely, the lockdown and closure of garden centres which lead to the Horticultural Trade Association forecasting a catastrophic effect on their trade members, of which garden centres and plant nurseries make up a large part.
So, we thought we should do something positive in what was feeling like a very challenging and alarming time. A team was gathered and, fuelled by coffee and a large dose of optimism, an online plant shop selling different colour combinations for either pots or borders was launched two weeks later. We spoke to over 300 nurseries, many of them are family run and were feeling under immense pressure.
No one knew what the future looked like and the closure of garden centres meant some nurseries had a plant oversupply. This was at risk of being wasted if they couldn’t somehow reach customers directly. Other nurseries were struggling to meet existing customer demand due to reduced staffing levels. We picked nurseries that were happy to take on the challenge of supplying us so we could deliver direct to customers. These nurseries also had to be patient with us, as a new start-up, that knew lots about technology and logistics, but less about the horticultural industry.
Key light bulb moments for us have been numerous. Here’s our top three.
The expected plant oversupply was short-lived due to people being at home more or working remotely and wanting to make their immediate outdoor space beautiful. When garden centres reopened, they were ravaged, entire shop areas emptied in the course of a day. It was extraordinary to see. It proved to us just how much plants can bring us joy in the hardest of times.
We heard how our customers loved our pre-designed plant combinations and this rang true in our focus groups. With this, we learned that gardening is often perceived to be time-consuming and intimidating in terms of the know-how needed. We needed to find a way to combine beautiful pre-designed collections, delivered with everything needed to plant and nurture them in an accessible way.
Plants evoke memories, feelings, remind us of loved ones and are still one of the most popular gift choices in the UK. How could we harness the potential to bring joy to the gift recipient long after they have been delivered as well as providing a simple, joyful and fun gift experience? The answer was becoming clearer.
To the moon and beyond. At Muddy Trowel, we want customers to have grand aspirations even if they have small spaces. We value simplicity, sustainability and joy and our aim is to bring this to our customers.
We prioritise perennial plants in our collections so customers can enjoy and learn how to create more plants from their collection.
We will continue to design unusual and unashamedly joyful outdoor plant collections, supplied to customers with their container of choice and all the items needed to create the finished product.
We will know we have reached our destination when our customers share their experience of our collections, share the joy through gift giving, encourage neighbours to embrace instant impact container gardening and green the grey in and around London.