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Planters with purpose

Words by Hannah Tapping.

A potted history of a Cornish brand whose aim is to simplify and de-mystify the watering cycle of houseplants with elegant and effortless design.

With a background in product design, which has ranged from head designer at iconic child’s wheeled suitcase brand Trunki to designing for Anglepoise lighting and Cannondale bikes, founder of Frond, Joe Allam is no stranger to functional design and manufacturing. “While my professional experience has covered a broad spectrum of products and various manufacturing processes, I’ve always had a passion for plants, and in particular house plants,” he explains. “I really wanted to become more in tune with the environment and nature and I found that that was something I wasn’t really getting through the work I was doing.” The idea for Frond was born in 2017 with a simple sketch: “I was working at the time,” explains Joe, “and so it sat on the backburner until 2019. I decided halfway through the year that I needed to take the leap and started the business.”

“I began to develop prototypes, making the products myself and then COVID hit,” adds Joe. “I was unsure whether I should go ahead with it or not, but spent lockdown prototyping and figuring out whether it was feasible to manufacture the product in this country. Frond launched in February 2021, by which time I realised that my dream of being a designer/maker was not going to work in reality. Instead, I worked closely with manufacturing companies in the UK for the ceramic planter and the metal stand. In order to maintain quality, the glass is manufactured in China, but the whole thing is assembled here in Cornwall.”

The first product, named Flo, is a planter with a unique self-watering concept. Its minimalist and modern design, combined with practical features, was to become the blueprint for Frond’s designs. Its handcrafted ceramic planter nestles within a glass reservoir, cradled by a metal stand. This combination is not just designed to be visually appealing it also raises Flo above the surface, reducing contact points and preventing the mold growth that can plague many other planters. Its ingenious self-watering system keeps plants perfectly hydrated, with an integrated recycled cotton wick that gradually waters your plants from the bottom up. You can see the water level at all times, meaning you’ll know when your plant is thirsty again which promotes robust, healthy root development.

Frond’s ethos is to create really good-looking products with excellent practical application, promoting direct contact with nature in our homes. With the environment in mind, Frond products are designed to have longevity and are an active discouragement from the throw-away culture of buying cheap plastic plant pots. Joe continues: “we want people to engage with our products, learning about growing and the whole water cycle and for those products to be used over and over again.”

All of Frond’s products are designed by Joe in Cornwall with meticulous attention to detail and while some are manufactured elsewhere, others are created in the Frond studio, including stitching and waxing the cotton pouches for the super-cute Mini-Snips.

“House plants are becoming more popular,” adds Joe, “with people buying them because they want to have more of a green home environment, but they don’t necessarily know how to look after them. If you buy a plant that’s used to a tropical climate and then bring into your dry home, without expert knowledge of how to care for it, it will only last a few days before it will die and have to be thrown away. What we want to do is create products that enable people to grow plants and look after them so that they will last indefinitely.”

Green Rooms Markets and the Chelsea Flower Show have been successful platforms for Frond to engage with their customers and the products have been incredibly well-received. After exhibiting this year, Frond was short-listed as a finalist for the RHS Chelsea Sustainable Garden Product of the Year 2023. Celebrating the horticultural industry’s efforts to promote eco-friendly and ethical consumerism within the gardening sector, this was an important accolade for a company in its infancy. “We don’t necessarily push a sustainability agenda,” says Joe, “it’s just something that’s inherent in everything we do.

“My main objective when I started this business was that I really wanted to be able to be hands on with products – something I was unable to do in my early career. I really like being involved at a granular level, making improvements as I go and continually developing products. My background in product design has always taught me that a product designer (physical product) should be able to do everything – kind of a jack-of-all-trades – and so I’ve built the business by doing everything from photography and graphics, building the website, creating sales documents and contracts, down to designing the packaging.”

With such a fragile product, it was hugely important that the packaging was effective. “Originally, we intended to re-use the packaging that the glass reservoirs were shipped in from China, but there were too many breakages and so I redesigned the final box packaging from scratch, with multiple card sections that neatly house all of the products components whilst keeping the glass safe during transport.”

Orla, a humidity regulating glass planter has joined the Frond stable. Designed for specialty plants like orchids and other epiphytes it has a unique double-glazed planter and biome combination. The dual-layer glass design comprises an inner glass with slots on the underside, strategically placed to prevent waterlogging from overwatering, as well as crucially aiding airflow and moisture movement around the roots. The transparent nature of the glass allows for a quick and easy assessment of your plant’s root health, which is key to understanding the watering schedule, and in addition offers an opportunity for creativity with your potting medium.”

Then comes Cos, a terrarium that derives its elegance from its simplicity. With a wide opening, set up is easy and its hemispherical design makes it look as if it’s floating. This is, of course, a design element that embraces both form and function, eliminating the problem of condensation and mould growth you might find under a more traditional terrarium. Cos creates a self-sustaining environment, requiring minimal water which allows enjoyment of lush greenery without the hassle. Collaborating with like-minded brands has also been important for Frond, which has seen them join with Soil.Ninja to create a ready-to-go terrarium package. Joe tells me that tableware for a Japanese style of flower arranging called Ikebana is in the offing. Translating as ‘making flowers come alive’, Frond’s iteration of this elegant Japanese art form will be as thoughtfully designed, innovative and elegant as its sister products.


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