We have two talented ladies from Canberra joining forces creating beautiful succulent arrangements and selling them in their shop. Beth and Cel are the creators of The Dainty Garden. What started out as just a hobby, soon turned into a successful online business - driven by a friendship and a passion for succulents. Here is what Cel had to share with me:
How do you two know each other?
Beth and I became friends not so long ago. We have known each other for a bit over 3 years now but we (my husband and I) have known her husband since 2011, just shortly after we set foot in the land down under. So I'd say her husband brought us together.
A lot of people would not mix friendship with business, so how did you and Beth start The Dainty Garden and maintain a harmonious relationship?
When we first started buying plants together, we got frustrated with how expensive some succulent arrangements were (that was a couple of years ago), not to mention some did not even pass our high standard :) and so we thought, 'We could do way better than that!'. That started it all. It was really just sort of an experiment at first, something we thought we'd try on our free time - for a change.
Beth actually thought of the name 'The Dainty Garden' - fit for those small succulent arrangements we started selling - so cute and dainty.
Buying and arranging succulents became one of our 'bonding moments' together. And to make sure we do not fight over money, we would split everything in half...it's a 50-50 partnership. When we opened our etsy shop, it was initially just me selling kokedamas since Beth and I had been really busy and could not find time together. Recently, Beth decided she would make and sell succulent lanterns and bird cages, so it's both of us again but with our own products, own money :)
Also, we actually do not think of it as a business (it actually isn't, really!) but just a hobby - something we both enjoy doing, no pressure! Its' that simple! It's a friendship built on trust and respect.
After years of gardening experience, what are the best succulents to grow in your gardens or in Canberra climates?
Beth and I have only been active collectors since mid 2016 so we are still on the 'experimenting' stage and Canberra climate can be tricky. Here, one of our biggest problems is the frosty winter evenings when temps go down to -10C and a low daily average of 2C to -3C.
So far, my all-time frosts-hardy favourites are imbricatas, red jelly beans, violet queen, black prince, sempervivum tectorum and mexican snowball.
Most of my succulents survived last winter's freezing nights with the help of layers of frost cloth from Bunnings, afternoon sun and less watering.
What are your most prized succulents/cacti?
I would like to say I am not a big spender but not too stingy either. So far, my most priced ones are: lauii (back in the days when you could not find a $10 lauii at Bunnings), red champagne, pink champagne, romeo and ebony. I wanted an agave white rhino, e. compton carousel, variegated black prince, silver prince, rainbow west and a lot more but I think I will have to wait until they are a lot cheaper, whenever that may be. Nowadays, my rule of thumb is...'if a succulent costs more than my 2-hour work pay, don't buy it!' (btw, it used to be one-hour pay limit last year) :)
How did you start doing kokedamas?
It all started out of curiosity. I used to be a very crafty/arty person but as I grow older (and when bringing up 4 kids became more challenging), I sort of never had the time. Then I saw the kokedamas by @kokedama.by.jac and @homespunsucculents. I immediately fell in love with them and I was challenged. I told myself, 'It couldn't be that hard!'. And so I thought!
My first ones were 'acceptable' but my OCD kicked in so I wanted to make it more beautiful, if not perfect. Then I tried again. I think my 2nd try came close to being 'good' and I was pleased. That's when I thought maybe I could sell them.
How long did it take to get good at it ? And how long does it take to complete 1 kokedama?
At first it took me, I think, over an hour to make one because I was too cautious and didn't quite know how to keep the soil and moss together but once I got a hang of it, it was a lot easier and more fun. Now, I can make a kokedama in 30 minutes (plus prep time) while in front of the TV.
How do you keep up and organise your growing collection, as well as doing arrangements, kokedamas, wreaths and still be active on social media?
I am addicted to succulents - just like most, if not all, of us. And if it's an addiction, you'll find your way - any other way! No one can stop you, right?
Gardening is my stress therapy. I do them after work or on the weekends when most of my mummy duties are done. I think it helps a lot that I work on regular business hours so I can plan my activities accordingly - what days I would make kokes, clean the house, do the laundry, go out with family or friends, etc.
I am no longer on facebook but I am very active on Instragram (both on my personal and on our succulent accounts). The IG community makes one feel welcomed, appreciated and loved so how can you not get hooked? Meeting a lot of lovely people is the biggest win of being on IG. It's an awesome world of awesome people....and look, I found you here :)
Is buying a wreath more economical than cuttings pack?
Well, I think it depends on what you put in your cuttings pack or on the wreath and what you really want to get. If one is after growing the collection and finds pleasure in seeing so many pots in her/his garden, then the succulent cuttings pack would be the better choice.
Our succulent wreaths contain 12-15 varieties of succulents ranging from echeveria, sedum, crassula and/or sepervivums. There could even be more than 1 cutting per variety and they are normally of varying sizes. We put at least 2-4 x 7-8cm succies (with roots) in one wreath. They serve as the 'highlights' of the wreath (e.g. pvn, lilacina, blue bird, mexican snowball, violet queen, agavoides, hercules, orion,etc.) So, you calculate the value of the succulents used, plus the wreath itself and other materials used (wires, moss).
I think it is the overall look and presentation of the wreath plus the effort you put in making it that make up the overall price of the wreath.
If I were to get all the succulents from my garden, then the price could be a bit lower. Unfortunately, this is not the case - at least not yet. However, we try our best to give you the best prices compared to online shops that are currently available. As I mentioned, this is a hobby, not a real business so we can offer better-than-market prices.
Thank you Cel for your time and inspiring stories. I wish you and Beth all the best. The Dainty Garden is going to have a giveaway soon. Follow them on Instagram @thedaintygarden for more details and don't forget to check out their etsy shop.