Cactus creatives: the Hampstead duo showing us how to spread the succulent love
PUBLISHED: 09:30 18 November 2016 | UPDATED: 12:36 18 November 2016
For a new generation of urban gardeners, plants have become a social affair. Meet the Hampstead-based founders of RoCo and authors of a new house plant guide to find out more.
Caro Langton and Rose Ray met on a fashion design BA in Nottingham but it was houseplants rather than fashion that brought them together professionally. After graduating both went on to careers in design, Langton as a freelance textile designer and Ray working in costume and set design.
It was during this time that Langton moved in with her grandmother in her beautiful house at the edge of Hampstead Heath filled with succulents.
Ray, meanwhile, took a trip to California and returned to London inspired by the insouciant way they decorated with air plants.
Joining Langton in the house by the Heath, Ray began to experiment with plant displays inspired by her travels, casting concrete pots and creating geometric mobiles called ‘himmeli’ to display air plants in. In turn, Langton began helping Ray to sell her wares on a stall in Borough Market in Hackney.
When Langton’s grandmother died she became sole custodian of the house and its plants and she decided to quit her freelance career to help Ray with her stall.
“We knew that we liked the same things and had the same taste. We’d always wanted to work together and we realised that this was the opportunity.”
Ro Co was born, a brand that now takes in everything from handmade plant holders to workshops, weddings, a recently opened shop in Tufnell Park and now a book, House of Plants.
“Broadway Market was a really good place to start because you’re always talking to your customer,” says Langton. “You’re always getting feedback and you can see what things are selling well. We met our first stockist and got our first commission through people just wandering past.”
Not that starting their own business hasn’t been without its thorny patches. Langton admits that while the creative side comes naturally, it’s taken time to get to grips with the financial side.
Then there’s the occupational hazards of working with plants whose defining characteristic are their spikes and spines. There was an early incident with a dropped tray of cacti that resulted on Langton getting cactus spines lodged in her nose, and she’s learnt the hard way to be meticulous about wearing gloves when handling the spikier specimens.
Their hands-on, self-taught experience proved central when it came to the book. When a publisher approached them last year about writing a how-to guide to styling plants, they realised from talking to their customers that what London’s new cadre of urban gardeners needed was a care guide for their charges.
Although cacti and their ilk have a reputation for being the hardiest of plants, they still require care and attention in order to flourish.
“Watering is always the thing that people are worried about,” says Langton. “But most cacti and succulents need the same kind of care, they need the same amount of water and light so once you’re confident with that it becomes quite easy and you can get quite a wide array of plants.”
The duo have found that their customers don’t want a solitary succulent, instead people want their homes to be filled to the brim with verdant forms.
“It’s that idea of living in an urban environment but having a secret sanctuary inside,” she explains.
The book is about equipping everyone with the knowledge and skills to create their very own House of Plants, but Langton returns constantly to the first house that inspired the project for inspiration.
“We’re really lucky to be here, she says. “It’s really inspiring and it’s very peaceful. The Heath is probably my favourite spot in London.
We’re so privileged to have the house. We couldn’t have started the business if we hadn’t been allowed to stay here. It’s given us a chance to develop it quite quickly and be able to do it full time. Having enough space to experiment and see what works has been brilliant.”
Langton cites Instagram and Pinterest as two of her main sources for inspiration and she loves to follow their customers to see how they style their plants at home.
The House of Plants ethos really taps in to the zeitgeist of a new generation of London gardeners who want to curate an aesthetically pleasing online presence, but also want to share and connect in real life.
“People feel a real bond with their indoor plants,” says Caro. “They really want to nurture them and propagate them and re-pot them and share them with people rather than have a potted plant that’s going to collect dust and look a bit grim.
“One of the chapters in the book is about sharing plants and we really feel quite passionate about propagation,” she says. “It’s such a nice thing to do. You can give them as gifts to people or just keep them to build up your own stock rather than going out and spending loads of money on plants – they’re expensive!”
Langton hopes that come spring they will be able to launch a series of propagation workshops to teach people how they can build up their own stock.
“It feels wholesome and calming,” says Langton. “It’s an antidote to living in such a fast paced environment, valuing slow, considered time with people you care about.”
HOUSE OF PLANTS by Caro Langton and Rose Ray, photography by Erika Raxworthy, £20, is published by Frances Lincoln,
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