Michael Perry is Mr Plant Geek, a self confessed tongue-in-cheek plant lover, gardener, TV presenter, hortpreneur, speaker and, if that’s not enough, a co-host of the new Plant Based Podcast. I’ve known Michael for a few years and watched his business go from strength to strength with each new project. From his fun, lighthearted and informative blog, to his TV appearances on QVC and This Morning, he’s also managed to travel the world, launch a gardening movement and create his own Rude Botany clothing line.
The Rude Botany brand perfectly epitomises Michael’s ethos where his geeky obsession for plant names turns playful with Carry On-esque T Shirts designed to be horticultural eye openers with slogans such as ‘Rubus cockburnianus’, ‘Lilium superbum’ and ‘Clitoria ternatea’ defining his USP of educating with a little fun. To top this off, he’s also known for going back to nature and taking his kit off for Grubby Gardeners which he founded to raise money for Perennial, a horticultural charity also known as the Royal Gardeners Benevolent Society by contributing to a naked calendar.
Michael Perry represents the modern gardener which comes at the perfect time as the industry is growing in popularity with millennials as it is now reported that 20% of the population age 18-34 reports gardening as a leisure pursuit (via MarketResearch.com ) thanks to our new focus on sustainability. Here, in my latest Getting Naked With Interview (excuse the pun), Michael discusses the golden age of horticulture and how Instagram is feeding our desire for a beautiful plant filled life.
NakedPRGirl: What did you study? What was your first job?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: I went to school in Suffolk, and was particularly taken with geography if I remember rightly. But it was at the weekend that I was beavering away in my parents garden, growing seedlings and all that jazz. As I got to the end of school, I wasn’t really sure what to do. The careers adviser suggested things like floristry or being a vet. I went on to go to college to study horticulture. My first job was at just 18 years old at Thompson and Morgan, training up in new product development.
NakedPRGirl: What was your big break?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: Not sure really. It has all happened organically. My first big appearance on TV was with a black Hyacinth on the Alan Titchmarsh Show, so that’s memorable.
NakedPRGirl: Tell me about your Mr Plant Geek, what is the idea behind it? What’s your USP?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: My USP is basically sharing my love of plants and inspiring others to do the same. The brand has been around about three years, and really acted as a nice umbrella for all my activities.
NakedPRGirl: How did you come up with the business plan? And name? Who did your branding for you?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: Gosh! It’s all happened as we move along, I don’t always have a master plan! My partner is a designer so he helped with the branding etc, so I’m really lucky about that!
NakedPRGirl: Do you have a particular career highlight that stands out?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: Do you know, good things happen all the time. I tend to say yes to anything, that is reasonable, and everything works out for the best. Of course, TV appearances are fab, but also lecturing in Japan, being asked to speak in Canada, I’ve become very global.
NakedPRGirl: What are your top three tips for anyone who would love to try gardening but is afraid to?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: Just get out and get your hands grubby. Try and grow something simple at first, and don’t be scared. There isn’t necessarily the right way to do everything. Plants are a living thing, so it might not always go to plan!
NakedPRGirl: What are you looking forward to at Chelsea Flower Show this year?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: It’s a great place to see all the people I know in the industry, and of course discover new ways of using plants. I love colour, so I particularly look out for use of contrasts. I’m also a plant geek, obviously, so spend a lot of time in the flower marquee.
NakedPRGirl: You’ll also be touring the UK with your Weird and Wacky Plants Show – what can people expect? Do you like to challenge the traditional views of gardening by translating it to a modern audience?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: Oh yes. I think I can do that very well. Many people don’t believe such plants are real, as plants are so interesting and exciting. I also like to teach people where everyday products come from, because usually they don’t know!
NakedPRGirl: Do you enjoy the explosion of Instagram-friendly, flower enhanced shop fronts that have become so popular in London (eg Peggy Porschen)?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: Yes, and it means I am no longer alone in being a plant geek! This is a golden period for horticulture!
NakedPRGirl: With the recent emphasis on creating a more sustainable world, have you seen a shift towards people embracing gardening, particularly with growing their own with a view to an increasingly plant based diet?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: Yes, it’s crazy. When I was a kid, I was visiting lots of health food stores and buying a lot of the products that are popular today. Perhaps I was ahead of my time! However, at the moment I’m not a vegan, oops! But I do eat a lot of plant!!
NakedPRGirl: You often appear on ITV’s This Morning how did this come about? What is like to film?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: Just through my social media. It’s always enjoyable and fun, and being behind-the-scenes is never as you would imagine. Of course, with live TV there are lots of smoke and mirrors too!!
NakedPRGirl: You’re also a regular on QVC and I always think about how hard the candidates always find this task on The Apprentice. How did you find the change to the challenge of live television shopping?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: It’s become very natural, I barely remember I’m on camera sometimes to be honest! I know the plants inside out so that makes me the best person to sell them to people!
NakedPRGirl: How do you deal with the nerves of live TV? Any tips for wannabe presenters?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: I am always nervous to do something for the first time, because you don’t necessarily know the layout or how things will go. But, deep breathing always helps you to relax. And crack a few jokes with the crew, because that will relax you and them too!
NakedPRGirl: The Mr Plant Geek shop sells tongue in cheek T shirts with phrases like Rubus cockburnianus on it – why did you decide to add a little humour into the gardening world?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: Just because I am so cheeky. So it seemed like a natural step for me to take!
NakedPRGirl: You recently launched The Plant Based Podcast for all the people appreciating the importance of plants in our day to day lives. How did this come about and what does it discuss?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: It has been incredibly successful. We are super happy with everything! We have been in the top 10 on iTunes quite a few times. Most importantly, we are delivering serious information but in a relaxed and light-hearted way, far too many things are serious these days!
NakedPRGirl: What’s your personal style? Have you had to look at marketing yourself as a brand?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: I really like fashion and clothing, just what I want to. I am not scared to try new styles, and people seem to like that! Even get people stopping me in the street to ask about what I’m wearing sometimes!
NakedPRGirl: How do you use social media for your business? What’s your favourite social media channel? Do you have any social media tips?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: Right now it’s Instagram- but I stay pro active and watch them all with intent! I think being authentic is wholly better than any other method too..
NakedPRGirl: How have you seen your industry changing over the last few years?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: Definitely more young faces, and it makes me SO HAPPY!
NakedPRGirl: Where do you see it evolving in the future?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: I think it will continue to be popular, this love of plants. They have nicely become mainstream, and people appreciate them more, and age incorporating them into day-to-day lives. That will only improve.
NakedPRGirl: How do you manage your website/social media workload – are you a planner and a scheduler? And do you get techy in the back end?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: I do have some help with everything, because my working days are getting busier and busier. I couldn’t do it without Jen.
NakedPRGirl: Who in the industry inspires you?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: I will have to think about that, I tend to just carve my own path. I inspire myself, I think that’s a good thing!
NakedPRGirl: How do you split your time between business and real life?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: Gosh, it blurs! That’s the problem of having passion that’s also a career, but I wouldn’t change it for the world!
NakedPRGirl: Do you have a motto or mantra that you live by?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: Always be decent, get back to people on time, and do a thoughtful job.
NakedPRGirl: Where would you like to be in ten years time?
Michael Perry aka Mr Plant Geek: I never think too far ahead. I think when we do that we can become lazy, almost allowing ourselves to a certain point, like oh I’ll do that IN ten years… It’s best to just evolve as you come along.
Follow Mr Plant Geek on:
Shop the Rude Botany range: https://mrplantgeekshop.com/collections/rude-botany
Shop the artshirt & artsweater from these images from Eks’kwizit here.
Photos: Rafal Czaniecki