How a boutique nursery began sending plants by mail

Living Edge Garden and Nursery in Peats Ridge, NSW relied on open gardens, plant shows and in-person visitors to sell their exotic tropical plants. Yet 2020 changed that. Here’s how business owners, Blake Jolley and David Fripp, survived and thrived through the pandemic and beyond. 

Key points

  • Pivoting in the nursery business was key to surviving the pandemic.
  • Sending tropical plants by mail is not as hard as you’d think.
  • Australia Post offers reliable and economical packaging and mailing options.

From boutique nursery to posting plants across Australia 

Living Edge Garden and Nursery has attracted its fair share of publicity over the years, and justifiably so. Set on the edge of a national park, with a sheer drop at the back into a deep valley, the garden is a combination of David Fripp’s passion for unusual and exotic plants and Blake Jolley’s skills in creating striking backdrops for those plants. 

Together, David and Blake have created a lush wonderland that has been featured on ‘Better Homes and Gardens’, ‘Gardening Australia’, and in Wonderground and The Sydney Morning Herald, to name just a few.

Over time, the rave reviews and distinctive beauty of the garden itself have made Living Edge a favoured destination for plant lovers and collectors, even if it’s just to spend a few hours wandering the tropical paradise, taking in the myriad sights and sounds.

Beating the pandemic: the shift to online sales and mail order plants

Then, in 2020, came the lockdowns and a sudden end to the open gardens and plant shows, the interstate visitors and, as a result, the in-person sales. At the same time, though, plant sales around Australia began to boom, as people found themselves spending more time at home, developing new interests and increasingly shopping online. 

“Weirdly enough, COVID-19 was a great thing for us and many other nurseries,” says Blake. “A heightened interest in plants over 2020 boosted the business and our profile immensely.” 

“We soon realised that we had to adapt to tap into the growing demand. As well as taking orders over the phone, I started holding plant sales on Instagram, and this itself led to reaching an audience we’d never had before.”

It also meant Blake found himself needing to send delicate tropical plants in the mail – something he had never previously considered. So how did he go about learning the craft?

“I was in contact with a few online sellers, so I mainly got information from them. I also saw what state plants were arriving in that had been delivered to friends and I decided to do a better job. Caring about the plants was my first priority.” 

Blake’s ability to adapt quickly to changed circumstances meant that Living Edge not only survived the pandemic, but, in fact, the nursery thrived. “Pretty much all of our plant sales were sent by mail in 2020 and, would you believe it, we had one of our best years ever!”

The art of packing and posting tropical plants 

As a testimony to the pride Living Edge take in the quality of their plants, and to nurturing their expanding base of loyal customers, Blake developed a method of packing and mailing that ensured the plants would arrive happy and healthy. So, how did they do it? Read Blake’s insights below:

  • “We make sure we provide clear instructions to buyers at the beginning of every sale. This includes things like the cost of postage by plant size and weight; no postage to quarantine states unless a concierge (a licenced service that prepares, treats and sends your plants in accordance with State Quarantine Protocols) is pre-organised by the buyer; and letting them know that insurance is available (if needed), which is organised by me on postage day.”
  • “I always use boxes from Australia Post, which I buy in bulk. I find this easier than searching for suitable boxes elsewhere. And there’s never been a problem with ripped or damaged arrivals.”
  • “Most plants are usually sent in the pot, with the lid of the box keeping the tubes firmly in place. Larger pots - up to 140mm - are stuck down with packing tape and a bamboo stake placed through the entire pot to the base, which is then trimmed to meet the top of the box and covered with folded newspaper. We use lots of packing tape to ensure that the pot is firmly stuck down, and then use newspaper as a filler to stop everything from moving around.”

“Once the plants are packaged up, posting is the easy part!” says Blake. “Right from the start of this journey, our local Ourimbah Australia Post Office has been extremely friendly and helpful.” 

Accentuating the positive 

One of the standout characteristics of both owners is their ability to adapt in the face of significant challenges, and find a way to turn them into positives. 

“If it hadn’t been for the pandemic,” says Blake. “We would never have started selling interstate in the way that we are now. Sending plants by mail opened up a whole new market for us.” 

“David has been in the industry his entire life, and - because of the nature of plants and trends - we’ve always had lots of different things going on. This is probably why we were able to adapt so quickly and turn the pandemic into the bonus that it’s been for us.”

“We’re always looking into the future – the garden and nursery are an ongoing cycle of finding new plants, propagating them and then getting them out to the buyer. This process grows on itself - it's organic!

Want to know more about sending plants by mail in Australia? Read our guide to find out more.

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