Venture south of the river in London and there's a more-than burgeoning design scene. East Dulwich is a map of independent workshops and storefronts, while the railway arches of Deptford Market Yard provide a home for fresh-faced creative businesses. It's in these two bustling communities, filled with design-savvy students and escaping commuters, that city garden centre and houseplant emporium Forest London has set up shop.
If the owners know two things, its south east London and foliage. Mother-daughter duo Fran and Alice Bailey have lived in East Dulwich, with its famed network of green spaces and parks, for the best part of three decades, and have been ‘selling flowers forever', says Fran. They established her first retail outlet – The Fresh Flower Company – first, before setting up Forest London Dulwich in 2013, after noticing that ‘houseplants were becoming popular again’. The Deptford Market Yard outpost followed last year.
Fran attributes the upswing in houseplant-loving to London's city centre garden deficit, and a new generation of interested consumers. ‘Students and young people are looking for an alternative way of getting a green fix,’ she explains. ‘They are also increasingly aware of the health benefits associated with having living plants in their homes. They are buying plants not only for their aesthetic benefits but as air purifiers too.’
The shops themselves are well-designed adverts for what plant life can do for our interiors. The Market Yard store, reaching high into the railway arches, is a greenhouse-like cavern of dripping green. Heavy concrete pots bubble over with ferns and jungle climbers; while cacti shards seem to sprout from the walls. The air is avocado-sweet and smells verdant and healthy.
It's a pleasant spot for a peaceful afternoon of terrarium making – or calligraphy, if that's your thing. Forest London offers a range of workshops (including candle making and flower arranging) – an area it's currently expanding in; as well as its growing its stock of pots, skincare and homeware, from brands like House Doctor, Aesop and Nkuku. As we've seen with many young, London studios – take Bonds of Hackney for example – Forest London is becoming a fully-realised ‘lifestyle' offering; a bespoke, bijou department store filled with carefully chosen items.
But Forest London will stay firmly rooted in plants, as that's what the Bailey's best know and love. They carefully handpick each exotic offering themselves, and are extremely keen to impart their green-fingered wisdom on novice plant owners. What's more, Fran has forestry in her blood (her father was a grower in Holland) and she plans to continue the legacy he started. Long live this horticultural haven.
For more information, visit the Forest London website
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Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees Wallpaper.com and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.
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