Please tell us a little about Pop Up Gardens and the people behind the brand;
Pop-Up Gardens in a Sydney-based plant hire and green styling company. We specialise in “greening” weddings and events, using a wide variety of pot plants, green walls, hanging and trailing greenery, table foliage and centerpieces. We also build bespoke garden furniture from recycled materials. The idea for the business came about in 2015. My husband, Iain Porterfield, who is a horticultural nut and landscaper, had been thinking about a plant hire business for a long time, and while he was up a 3m ladder one day pruning someone’s hedge, the name suddenly came to him. The concept grew from there. Iain and I decided to approach our long-time friends Paul and Sarah McNeilly, who have run a successful landscaping business for 25 years, and ask them to go into a partnership. And so, Pop-Up Gardens was born in early 2016!
What is the philosophy that motivates your work? What is the why behind your work?
Thankfully, there is a big trend happening in the social media world for greenery, jungalows, urban jungles, plant blogging, and all things green, so we’re very happy! We also want to spread the message about sustainability in event styling – choosing re-usable rather than single-use products for decoration.
What are some of the surprising things you have discovered about the wedding industry?
I’ve read that in Australia, couple spend on average $36,000+ on their wedding (ASIC MoneySmart), or amazingly $65,000+ average according to a survey in Bride to Be magazine (2016). I also remember reading that the average wedding produces between 150-300kgs of waste. Between the food waste, and all the flowers, confetti, and single-use decorations, it adds up to a lot! I think many couples don’t think about it – it doesn’t even necessarily cross people’s minds. I know that when I got married many years ago, I was too busy thinking about finding the right dress and shoes, and didn’t consider what would happen to all the food and flower leftovers. Now that I’m older and wiser, I really wish that I had. Our wedding was pretty minimal, with a 2 course buffet, a small wedding cake, a few simple bouquets and buttonholes, and some calla lily stems on the tables – but it still makes me cringe now to think how much waste that would all have added up to! Some of the lavish weddings we attend these days have dessert and lolly buffets, cheese platters, extensive 3 course menus plus evening snacks, wedding cake, and thousands of dollars of floral and foliage decorations. Don’t get me wrong, they’re stunning weddings, but I just can’t help but think what happens to all of it afterwards…?!
I think for me it’s about spreading awareness – asking people to think about it. Ask your venue what happens to the leftovers – can they donate it to OzHarvest? Can you arrange for the bouquets to be donated to a local aged care facility or hospital? Think about not only ways to reduce what you use, but also ways to can re-use and re-purpose.
One of our main concerns is how much wastage is happening out there. We hear stories about people buying cheap plants from a local hardware store or nursery, using them once for an event, and then throwing them away because they have no interest in looking after them! Or buying thousands of dollars of cut flowers, and them tossing everything the day after their wedding. This kind of wastage makes me sad. We want to offer a different solution…Have your pretty decorations by all means, but think about choosing something more sustainable and eco-friendly.
All our pot plants are sourced from local growers and nurseries, and we make sure they all originate from within Australia. We construct our green walls and furniture from reclaimed timber and recycled wooden pallets. We propagate our own plants where we can, to reduce our environmental impact, and we also recycle and re-use as many of our materials as we can. We choose eco-friendly soil mixes, pesticides, mulches and other materials as much as we possibly can.
Green styling can serve a wide variety of purposes for a wedding too. We can use plants to line and define the ceremony entrance and aisle. We can create a living wall green backdrop for your vows (white wedding dresses look awesome against a green background!). We can use plants and green walls to decorate the reception space, as well as screening any unwanted walls or areas. It’s also a great way to partition areas and create different spaces within your reception – for example creating a quiet chill-out zone with comfy lounges surrounded by greenery, or a fun games area with lawn games, surrounded by a picket fence and tropical lushness. We’ve even had guests who wanted an “interactive” green wall, with small potted herbs and flowers, that the guests could take home as wedding favours.
What inspires your creations?
A love of all things green! And a wish to bring the outdoors inside for people. Everyone should be able to enjoy the delights of Mother Nature. We love working with couples who loves plants as much as we do, and have specific ideas about what they’d like to create for their weddings. But equally, it’s exciting when someone isn’t really a big plant lover, and gives us free reign to create something cool for them, and by the end of the wedding they’re converted! My favourite thing about this job is the amount of fun and creativity that’s involved, and the fact that we get to create something which puts a smile on someone’s face. When someone walks in a goes “wow”, that’s what we want.
I think the wedding industry will always continue to thrive. Through ups and downs in the economy, people will continue to want to celebrate their special day with as much glory and style as they can afford. However, I also think there is fast-growing trend of sustainable weddings. There are increasing numbers of couples who are making more conscious decisions about not just their weddings, but their lives in general – people are more socially conscious, more ethically conscious, and more environmentally conscious. I think this is absolutely fantastic, and I’m excited to see where all of this leads. For me, it’s an ongoing journey of learning and discovery.
What are your dreams for Pop Up Gardens?
In the long run, I would like Pop-Up Gardens to be a fully sustainable and self-sustaining business, with zero wastage. We’re not there yet! And I would like to keep working to spread the message of eco-conscious event styling, and the sheer beauty and excitement of nature’s offerings!
I also think living purposefully is about having a goal that is bigger than yourself – living in this world and enjoying it, without destroying it, and aiming to give back in whatever ways we can. Choose a charity or cause that you’re passionate about, and devote some time to it. It’s great for your frame of mind to give back – it always makes me feel energised.