For many, watering plants is the last thing on your mind and the first thing you forget to do - just blame the modern malaise of hectic lifestyles. But for Gynelle Leon, it’s something she does religiously every Friday, not only as a time to care for her prized and personal potted possessions, but as an act of self-care for herself.
“When I’m looking after my plants and if I’m repotting, for example, I can’t be doing something else, I can’t be checking my phone,” she says. Tending to her plants allows some much-needed breathing space from her busy life as business owner of Prick, London’s first cactus shop. “It’s a sense of meditation. I don’t notice time going past.”
Instead of fretting about the shop, she has to really focus on the needs of her plants – if one of them is flowering, it might need more water, another might be craving more sunshine. “To cut off from everything else and focus on something that’s green and from the Earth is quite grounding really,” she adds. “It’s a great feeling to know you’ve got nature in your home and you’re able to keep it alive and thriving.”
Leon’s love of plants began six years ago, when she moved into her first home in east London. With no garden or balcony, she started collecting potted plants.
“I love big plants that take up space. Sculptural plants and flowers, peonies and hydrangeas that bloom,” she says. “There’s also something special about the euphorbia trigona, it looks like a cacti but it’s not. They like being tall and they grow really fast that’s usually a nice thing. It’s almost the pleasure of buying a plant that grows fast is that it gives you a sense of achievement.”
Just over two years ago, she quit her stressful job as a fraud and compliance analyst to pursue her passion for plants. She opened Prick in trendy Kingsland Road, in Dalston, east London, and her life changed for the better.
“I’m enjoying what I’m doing everyday,” she says.“People come in to my work and they say ‘oh my god this looks like the best work place environment’, with all this great air and plants.”
“I think that a relationships with plants and even the act of watering plants, especially if you’re by yourself, can make you feel wanted. They do feel like a little baby or a pet, and you do build a relationships with plants as they do take time [to grow],” she says.
“I think it’s so rewarding to look at something [that] you’ve cared for, to flourish. I think it’s nice to look back in the year and see so much growth from your plants and see time passing in a positive light. There’s something beautiful in that.”
Feeling rushed or not present in real life can become a regular feeling if you’re not in tune with yourself. Leon recognises that your plants can reflect your real life and for her personally, it is a mirror in how she is internally feeling and coping with the everyday pressures of life.
“If you are having a bit of a hectic time in life your plants probably don’t look great. It’s like a reminder - if you’re thinking ‘I haven’t had time to water you’ then actually maybe you need to slow down.”