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Mr Plant Geek

Michael Perry (aka Mr Plant Geek) takes a seat with us to talk about plants, podcasts and what goes into his fire cider…

Your ranges like Rude Botany and WTF Gardening make gardening and horticulture appeal to a younger audience, would you say that you’ve seen an increase of younger people getting their hands dirty? If so, why do you think that is?

I have always wanted to appeal to wider demographics than just fans of gardening. Hence my fascination with various left-field projects. Rude Botany was great to get people laughing about plants, and it's certainly a talking point.

WTF gardening similarly, is appealing to beginners, as it breaks down all the gardening terminology into something that is more simple and therefore is less snobby...

The recent changes to our lives have actually been such a benefit for plants and gardening. More people than ever are interacting with plants, it's something I could only dream of when I was a child. And it feels so good!

What inspired you to come up with the concept of ‘Mr Plant Geek’?

I guess, after a few years of testing social media, I needed to put a brand behind it all. I had been Plant Hunter on Facebook, and something else on another platform, and something else. I realised it would be clearer for the brand if everything was the same, and this tied up with the new website too. It really sums me up, and the interesting thing is I would've been embarrassed to call myself a geek when I was young, but today I'm out and proud.

What is your favourite natural elixir recipe and how did you go about creating it?

That's a really good question. I really love making fire cider. It's basically cider vinegar infused with a range of different herbs and spices, such as horseradish, garlic, chopped onion, ginger, turmeric, chillies and more. You can drink it neat, or you can drink it mixed in with apple juice, and it is delicious. And of course really good for you!

"I have always wanted to appeal to wider demographics than just fans of gardening."

An image of a topiary garden

It’s fair to say that we’ve all struggled to adjust to the ‘new normal’ that descended upon us all during the pandemic, would you say gardening is a good way to stay mindful and soothe anxiety? 

Yes, to be honest, it brought so many improvements for me. More people being interested for a start, but the addition of online seminars, and different ways that people were interacting, has really been fantastic. I've been doing seminars for banks and insurance companies, for example, something that wouldn't have happened before. People are realising that plants can soothe anxiety, give us a focus, and soften the decor in our homes.

Your QVC Michael Perry Garden Show is so popular with viewers! Do you have any new plant and gardening equipment favourites to share with us today?

I am really proud of what we've created over the last two years, as we now include lots of demonstrations, and easy to understand information. It makes me really proud to be a part of it. There are new products coming along all the time, and most of them will solve a gardening problem, which I find fantastic. I'm a particular fan of root booster, fertiliser for the roots, and my new egg chair, both from QVC.

You host the Plant-based Podcast with Ellen Mary, how do you decide what you both are going to cover each episode? Do the listeners send in requests?

Another great question.

We put things together quite organically really, Ellen and I seem to be tuned in the same way. It's really fun to work on, and we are always trying to think outside the box.

We plan in advance, but we are also reactive, I think that's the magic of it all. Listeners do suggest places and people that we can talk to, and we very often do.

Do you have a plant that holds a particular amount of nostalgia and positive memories for you? What plant is it?

I used to struggle answering this question, it's like asking somebody their favourite plant. But one of my earliest memories, would be painting an Iris on a stone for my grandma. So, that's my answer!

What does a typical day in your life look like?

Every day is different, and that is why I love it. When I moved to freelance, I always wanted a mixed portfolio of work, and that's exactly what I have. Sometimes I wake up in the morning, and I really can't remember where I am for the first few seconds. I also need to look in my diary to see what I'm up to that day. I could be in a TV studio, or I could be on a location, or I could be at my desk, or sitting in my favourite egg chair!

"Every day is different, and that is why I love it."

You are a really active presence on social media, is it difficult to do the natural world justice in the digital world?

I think it enhances it. Flowers are attractive, and so visual, so I'm not surprised they became popular on Instagram, and other platforms. I seem active on social media, but it really doesn't take up too much time, it's really become a habit. It's also my shop window, so I have to show everything i'm up to, because that's how I will be booked for work and opportunities.

Tell us more about your Digital Planetarium project in the Netherlands! What kind of work does this involve for you?

This was a cool event, online for obvious reasons. We had some great seminars, and I also put some content together to talk about the plants and the products. We also got people involved from all around the world, as they told us about the trends where they live.

What plants would you recommend for underplanting beneath one of our swing seats?

I think thyme would be perfect, because when you step off it, you will then get a brush of fragrance.

Do you remember the first plant you ever planted? What was the last plant that you planted?

It was actually a houseplant, and I had rooted it as a cutting at school, in the classroom. But when I went to plant it, I stood on it. I cried for a week! The last plant I planted would have been a herb during an online seminar today!

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