Small Business Spotlight: The Potting Shed | September 2023Wednesday, September 13th, 2023
This month’s small business spotlight shines on The Potting Shed, a garden shop in Dorchester. After asking many local shoppers and business owners for recommendations of shops to visit in Dorchester, The Potting Shed was a name that consistently came up. So, Emily and Joe headed to the traditional garden shop to find out what all the fuss was about.
Upon entering and chatting to owner Shaun we quickly realised why The Potting Shed is held in such high esteem by the locals. Just a glance around the well-kept shop tells of Shaun’s love and respect for the industry, and a conversation affirms his passion for plants as he speaks passionately about his journey, work and commitment to providing fantastic value for the local community.
The Potting Shed represents everything special about independent businesses and their important place in Dorchester town. Shaun is well known for his seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge of plants and together with his wife, the pair offer excellent customer service. Sean chatted to us about his experience and the benefits of managing a small shop. Rather than stocking 10 versions of the same product like you might find at a high street chain, The Potting Shed supplies the brands that they know are the best, which creates a strong product offering that customers can trust!
We were lucky enough to grab Shaun for a quick chat in between serving customers!
Garden shop in Dorchester
For anyone who hasn’t visited, what does The Potting Shed sell?
Everything to do with gardening, wild bird care, wildlife care and of course plants – and everything you need to look after those plants! That’s our unique bit. That’s what we do!
So, looking around the shop this definitely feels and looks like a labour of love. Take me back: where did your love and passion for plants come from?
When I was 14 I started my own gardening round. I lived in Torquay at the time and I was so busy. I worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day at 50 pence an hour. That’s what you do when you’re 14, need a job and want some records! (jokes) That’s the black thing we used to buy! So when I was 14 I had my own gardening round but when I was 16 I had to get a proper job so I went to work in a garden centre when I lived in Torquay. I did 2 garden centres in Devon over 25 years and then I went to run a garden centre on the west coast of Ireland. Then back to working in a garden centre in the UK, and then 18 years ago we set up our own traditional garden shop on the (Dorchester) high street!
Our idea was the bring the components of a garden centre to the high street for those who couldn’t get to a garden centre. We wanted to offer them the same experience in town, but on a smaller scale.
Amazing. I was going to ask how you came to open up in 2006 but you’ve summed it up there! Fast forward to today: how’s it going? Still loving the work?
Oh yeah. At the end of the day you’re in a job and you choose that job. I tried to leave it once to do engineering but that was many years ago.
How did that go?
It only lasted 3 months (laughs)! And then I was back to working in garden centres again. It didn’t last long at all. I’ve been doing it all my life and that’s the problem when you spend so long doing a job – to then change into doing something different!
You say it’s the problem but I guess it’s also the solution!
Exactly! Because of what we’ve been doing, people know what we do and I’m pleased to say that they come back for the knowledge and experience that we’ve got and we love to pass on.
Exactly. You’ll be happy to know that everyone I’ve spoken to about you before visiting today has all said you’ve very knowledgable. So, if you’re happy I’ll ask you a few quick fire questions!
Go for it!
1. How do you know if you’ve overwatered your plant?
So, the most important thing is that you don’t give it too much water at any one time. We water our plants regularly – normally 3 times a week, but each plant only gets a small amount at a time. Our idea is to keep the compost moist but never wet. So, I have a little theory that water should never run out the bottom of the pot. So when I water a plant I give it just enough water to keep that compost moist. I always use my own guide to watering. For this size (picks up small plant) I would give it 2 to 3 eggcups of water spread out over a week, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Because what I’m trying to do is keep that compost moist. I don’t want it to be wet because the plant isn’t going to be healthy or happy in very wet compost. I just want it to be damp – and by giving it an eggcup 3 times a week you’re giving it just the right amount of water. That varies depending on the size of the plant and pot, but it’s a rule of thumb and wouldn’t be a bad guide!
2. What houseplants are hard to kill and easy to look after?
So plants that are easy to look after are just about everything that we sell! One of our important things when we started doing houseplants a few years ago was to make sure that when people took them home that they weren’t going to be a challenge to look after. Most of what we do tolerates a small amount of neglect. So, if you forget to water them once or twice they’ll still be okay! Some plants will show up with signs of lack of water. Things like Calliopes will get brown edges to the leaves and they get dry. But generally they’ll recover. You can snip the affected leaves off and the plants will go away and recover quite happily when they’ve been re-watered. Plants that have been left for a longer period of time without water will struggle. But, most of what we sell are plants that are going to be relatively easy to look after!
3. How often and at what time should you water your plant?
I always water mine in the evening. Here in the shop we’re not here in the evenings so we water them in the morning when plants can absorb the moisture happily. The other thing that’s really quite important is to not have them in full sun. Very few houseplants enjoy being baked by the sun! So, good light but not direct sunlight is always good. You can then water them and we can water them in here because it’s not in direct sunlight, so we could happily do it almost at any time of the day. In the winter months we’d never water them in the evening because plants don’t want to be sat in wet compost overnight when it’s colder. But none of the plants here are heated. We don’t heat the shop at all. So in the middle of winter when the shop gets down to about 10 degrees all our plants are quite hardy, they’re quite happy in that environment.
4. What might be the cause of your plants leaves turning yellow and drooping?
That could be one of two things! One – it could be too much water and they’ve been overwatered, but the yellowing could also be caused by a lack of food. Regular feeding is really important. Though the growing season is a rule of thumb, I use the clocks changing. In the spring to the autumn it’s once every 2 weeks and from the autumn to the spring it’s once a month. If you follow that rule of thumb then your plants will generally be quite good. Baby Bio is still the best plant food. You can’t beat it. Been around for 70 years I think and it’s still one of the best plant foods you can buy.
5. If you had to fill your garden with just one plant and it was there until the end of your days, what plant would you choose?
It would always be Hardy Fuchsias because they give huge amounts of colour for a very long period of time. Being a hardy they don’t mind the cold and generally speaking they just bounce back every spring and every summer. They’re a riot of colour! Hardy Fuchsias are one of my favourites. It’s a huge range of a family of plants and you can get the flowers in all shapes and colours… and the foliage as well – you get lots of different colours of foliage!
6. Great answer! So, moving away from plants for a moment. Do you have any tips of encouraging wild birds into your garden?
A variety of bird food. That’s always got to be the answer! We mix our own bird mixes, so these aren’t ones that you can buy anywhere. You can only buy it from ourselves because we mix it ourselves! We invented these mixtures about 15 years ago when we were looking for a good quality bird food that would be high energy and keep birds coming back. And now we’ve got those mixtures that are unique to us, but also a variety of food! Things like mealworms, suet, along with traditional seeds and peanuts will always attract a variety of those into the garden. They’re high in calories – peanuts is around 5,000 calories per kilo! You’ve got to remember that wild birds need to eat between 3 and 4 times their body weight every 24 hours to survive. For instance, that would be about 30 stone for you (laughs)! You’ve got to imagine that birds are flapping their wings at a huge rate of knots so they’re burning huge amounts of energy and they need that energy replacing just to survive. We reckon about 3 to 4 times their bodyweight every 24 hours to survive. In winter time of course it’s even greater because the temperature is lower and they bodies are using more energy and more fuel to continue to fly around. The energy used just to eat food is quite high, too!
Thanks for your fantastic answers. Before we go, can you tell people where to find you?
27a South Street! Look out for the plants on the outside of the shop and you’ll find us on the inside of the shop! We don’t advertise at all. The quality of our plants and the colour is our advert!
View this post on Instagram
Why you should visit The Potting Shed
Shaun’s industry knowledge means that he can quickly recommend the best product and advice for anything you need. Best of all: The Potting Shed offers fantastic value with price. You just simply can’t get this service and value at national chain businesses! As Shaun conveys, “because of what we’ve been doing, people know what we do and I’m pleased to say that they come back for the knowledge and experience that we’ve got”. The traditional brand loyalty that The Potting Shed have earned is a true bright spark in a commercial world where big businesses continue to dominate markets and brand loyalty slowly becomes a thing of the past.
Come here for fantastic service, great value and quality products you can rely on.
SHOP | You can find The Potting Shed at 27a South Street, Dorchester!
VISIT | The Potting Shed is open from 9am – 5pm Monday to Saturday, and is closed on Sundays.
WEBSITE | Visit The Potting Shed Website to buy online and find out more information.
SOCIALS | Follow The Potting Shed on Facebook.
Discover more places to go Shopping in Dorchester!