Green Gardener’s Guild Chat With: Charlotte Keates

It’s time for another edition of our fortnightly catch-up with one of our wonderful Green Gardeners. This week, we were absolutely delighted to be able to talk to Charlotte Keates, the owner of Instagram account @smalltropicalgarden_uk. As you can tell by her account’s title, she has been growing a beautiful garden filled with tropical plants – something you don’t often see in gardens around the UK!

At Coco & Coir, we love to spread the message that coir is not just for allotment owners or for growing your own. Coir is a versatile growing media that can be used for a variety of plants. Thinking tropical, we’ve even had our coir used for growing pineapples! Once you know what your plants need in terms of care, you can easily replace peat composts with coir. In Charlotte’s garden, she has already made some remarkable strides and efforts to make her garden beautiful, and is working hard to continue this. So – enough from us!

Let’s allow Charlotte to introduce herself and her garden to you all. Taking it from the top, Charlotte says: “I’m Charlotte, I’m 23 years old and started gardening last year. I never expected to get into it as much as I have, but now I’m pretty hooked! I suffer with ill health, and my garden has become my safe space. It gives me an escape from the daily pain and mither of being ill. My garden is about 70 square meters, so isn’t huge, but I’m trying to use every available space!” In terms of the space itself, it is relatively new, as she “moved in Oct 2020, so it is currently an on going tropical garden project.”

It can take years for some gardens to begin to take shape, especially those that are looking to have a more natural-looking finish or sowing slower-growing plants. The time and effort spent each season, however, is worth it. Take care to apply seasonal care tips such as summer pruning and autumn mulching to keep your garden looking its finest.

Gardens are not just for the scenic appreciation – studies have shown that gardening is a great way to improve your mental health, and in some cases physical. Charlotte said on the subject, “I use my garden to relax and unwind when feeling poorly. I had to leave my job because of my health, so my garden is very much my life. I like to sit in the garden with a good book, and just take in the sounds of my pond and the birds.” For us at Coco&Coir, it’s lovely to hear that a garden can provide a safe and healing haven for Charlotte. It makes all of the hard work and effort maintaining such a space worth it – and we hope that others can feel just as inspired as we are in hearing this too!

So, what sort of gardener is Charlotte? “I’d describe myself as a daily gardener, but this is very much down to how I feel when I wake up. If I’m having a good day, I’ll be in the garden all day, if I’m having a bad day, I’ll just have my morning cup of tea in the garden. I’d describe myself as a novice gardener, but I spend hours researching and reading about plants and gardening. I usually garden on my own or with my boyfriend when he isn’t at work. Though I’m never properly alone as my 2 dogs are always with me!”

Speaking of the dogs – here is one of them! Don’t they look adorable among Charlotte’s beautiful garden plants?

As a note – did you know that coconut coir is safe for dogs and cats? We have questions sent to us about the name of our product and the association with ‘cocoa’ – but we are happy to say that as our coir is made from natural coconuts, no cocoa at all, and your pets are perfectly safe. Coco Grow is even used for pet substrate too for reptiles such as tortoises!

We wanted to ask Charlotte what she likes most about gardening, to which she replied: “I love the feeling of seeing a plant you have nurtured thrive and grow! I find it very therapeutic to see my gardens daily progress.” In terms of the challenges faced despite this love for gardening however, she said: “My biggest challenge has to be my illness. Sometimes there is things I really want to do in the garden, but just physically can’t do it. My illness can be quite debilitating sometimes, so I have to do things in my own time and not push myself.”

Everyone has improvements they’d like to make in their garden, so we asked Charlotte just how she would rate her garden and her plans for the future. “At the moment I’d say I’d score my garden an 8, there is a few things that I will change next year, for example where I have planted a few plants, and I want to use less pots to give me more room in the seating area.”

Sustainability is something that we are passionate about, and we wanted to know what Charlotte has been doing in terms of being more sustainable and inspiring others to follow suit. Charlotte said (and helpfully supplied a wonderful tip!) “I try to be a sustainable gardener, when I first started I probably wasn’t as I didn’t know much about it, but as I’ve learnt about new ways to garden I try and incorporate more eco friendly methods. For example, instead of using slug killer, I trim dead leaves of my spikey plants and put them round the base of my plants, this is a much more natural deterrent.”

Usually at the end of our discussions we love to ask our gardeners what exotic plant they would grow if they could – but Charlotte is ahead of us! So instead, she helpfully responded: “Well most of my garden is dedicated to exotic plants, I have a lot that I have to protect in winter. I think if I could choose a plant that could stay out all year, it would be orchids. I love hanging them about the garden in summer, they bring such a tropical vibe!” Orchids are not only a beautiful flower with a true summer vibe, they are also one of the UK’s most gifted flowers for special occasions. They can often be considered tricky to take care of, but with the right knowledge about their care, you can have orchid plants that flourish. Coco & Coir are due to release an Orchid Compost in the coming year specially made for orchids – so keep an eye out for future details on this addition. We know Charlotte will be interested, too!

Thank you once again to Charlotte for taking the time to sit down and talk with us here at the Green Gardener’s Guild. It is wonderful to hear a unique story every time we chat with you all, and get some helpful hints and tricks shared along the way too. If you would like to get involved and have your story shared to our community – AND get £10-worth of credits here on our website to spend – get in touch via our contact form. For every story we publish, we’ll send credits your way. Easy-peasy!

Follow Charlotte on Instagram at @smalltropicalgarden_uk and catch up with all things Coco&Coir at @cocoandcoir.

We’ll see you in the next edition!