The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed the appearance of a bright yellow box at the top and bottom of my homepage. It invites you to ‘Shop at Dan Cooper Garden’. It’s not subtle, but I like to think it’s tasteful. This obtrusive oblong is all the ‘hard sell’ you’re going to get from me here at The Frustrated Gardener: I elected long ago to keep my blog as a strictly non-commercial entity for the enjoyment of my followers. However, the launch of Dan Cooper Garden will be a momentous occasion for me and I want to take this opportunity to explain what I am up to and why.
I have gardened for as long as I could walk, maybe for longer. When the time I could devote to my hobby has been squeezed, my passion for plants has never waned. Plants still excite me, nature leaves me awestruck and flowers are my first and undying love. So, when the opportunity to change direction came along this time last year, I seized the opportunity. It was time to stop procrastinating, be my own boss and follow my heart. I took a critical look at myself and concluded that I was good at three things – gardening, retailing and being in front of an audience. How could I bring these three skills together in a way that might serve some useful purpose in this troubled world and keep the wolf from the door?
I’ve long felt that garden retail online is lacking. That came into sharp focus during the pandemic when we all struggled to get the goods we needed for our gardens. After all, most of us had never had reason to buy seeds, tree stakes or compost via the Internet before. We went looking, but unless we were ‘in the know’ it was hard to find good sources. The surge of customers visiting garden websites highlighted the inadequacies of packaging for live plants and the lack of carriers who understood how to transport them. I experienced some epic failures, but they helped me to understand the challenges retailers must have faced as the market for garden products grew exponentially.
I am no Horticultural Messiah, but I am still surprised that more established retailers haven’t picked up on the potential for selling good-quality garden products online. Some replicate their massive catalogues online without any of the help and advice you might get in a good garden centre, others shy away altogether. A few niche players are changing the game, many offering access to fashionable houseplants with a clear focus on the younger consumer. I applaud that. A couple of websites stand out, and you’ll know who they belong to, but is there really enough choice online for a community of UK garden lovers that must run into the millions?
In short, I have concluded that there’s a gap in the market. Whether or not I have the wherewithal to fill it, time will tell, but I want to give it a try. My premise is that product, knowledge and inspiration are too separate on the Internet. I want to create a destination where consumers can find all three resources in one place, beautifully and joyfully presented. Not such a big ask, is it? Actually, it is; that’s why most online retailers stick mainly to selling. Content is good for business, but it takes time, experience, money and flair to create. With Dan Cooper Garden I want to offer a different and gently disruptive approach to garden retailing that will grow and evolve over time – not a replication of the garden centre experience, but something more suited to the online world and, dare I say, the Metaverse? I want Dan Cooper Garden to be a modern, positive, vibrant, friendly business that provides a necessary counterpoint to the darker aspects of our lives. More than ever, gardens are a place of fascination, refuge, reflection and decompression. They can help us stay balanced, connected or, indeed, disconnected when we wish to be.
Dan Cooper Garden is a start-up business funded by my own modest savings and some generous family investment. Although it won’t be rooted in a high street, it is being run as a small enterprise rooted firmly in Broadstairs. It will not be all things to all people, or everything I want it to be from the outset. I imagine it could take several years to come of age, if it even succeeds. However, I have put my heart and soul into making it ready for launch next month, supported by a brilliant designer, web developer, photographers and, of course, my friends and family. I hope very much hope that you will enjoy the choice of products, many of which are ones I use regularly in my own garden. I have gone for quality over quantity and for longevity over the quick fix. If I’ve not been able to secure the product I wanted, I have left a gap for them in future. And, in almost all cases, I have sourced from the UK, Europe or Japan. Initially, visitors will be able to select from a carefully curated collection of tools, garden accessories, pots, seeds and gifts. Bulbs and plants will follow at a later date. The advice will come from my head and the inspiration from my heart. It’s my dearest wish that Dan Cooper Garden will eventually create worthwhile and exciting jobs for others – for the time being, what you’ll get is 100% The Frustrated Gardener, and 100% Dan Cooper.
You can find the Dan Cooper Garden launch page using the yellow ‘Shop at Dan Cooper Garden’ box or by clicking here.
With a fair wind, the website will launch in early April. Until then, if you click on that obtrusive yellow oblong you’ll be given the option to sign up for a monthly newsletter and the chance to win a very splendid hamper filled with goodies for you and your garden. I’m genuinely sorry that the free draw is restricted to mainland UK residents as I’d love for everyone to join in with the fun. I’ve learned quickly that getting a business off the ground requires compromises and this is one of them. Even if you can’t win or shop with me in short term, perhaps you know someone who would like to? Spreading the word far and wide will be greatly appreciated. Meanwhile, I’d love for you to sign up and be part of a community of people who love their gardens. I’ve chosen the strapline ‘Where Gardens Grow’ to reflect that it’s somewhere that garden lovers may come to help themselves and their gardens grow physically and spiritually. To quote Christopher Lloyd, which very often do, ‘In gardening you can never say, “By now I know all I need to.”’. It’s a journey that never ends. TFG.
Read more about me and my love of gardens and gardening here.