“We’re so happy to be part of the community here,” — Sonia Pounder, The Plant Point

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It all began on a Tuesday afternoon, two months ago, with the pursuit of an elusive plant. The plant was a hoya — a tropical climber that bears waxy flowers in fragrant globes. Sonia Pounder, now the co-owner of The Plant Point, had tried all the regular spots — IKEA, B&Q; the very everyday suppliers of the greenery that furnishes her home. The hoya, it seemed, was nowhere to be found.

She mentioned it to her sister Ada, on that Tuesday afternoon, when it all began. ‘How ridiculous!’ she said to her. ‘Why can’t I find it?’

‘Surely,’ Ada replied, ‘you aren’t the only one wanting to buy it’.

They decided, that day, to open a shop that would sell hoyas and other rare plants, and more common plants, and flowers and more. And two months later, they did.

“It’s incredible,” says Sonia, on the day we visit The Plant Point in Leeds Corn Exchange. “That Tuesday we decided to open the shop. I had the business plan almost finished by the Friday. Meanwhile I was working full-time as a store manager at a very busy store in Trinity shopping centre. That was two months ago.”

She laughs, and adds: “It doesn’t feel possible, if I’m being honest.”

For Sonia and Ada, the chance to create the impossible was inspiring. They wanted to share their love of plants in a space that their plants would love too. Transforming a unit on the balcony level of the Corn Exchange into an airy jungle was part of that challenge; they carried a twenty year-old yucca plant up the winding stairs one morning, as the security team watched on. The grand yucca is now a canopy for the three hundred or so plants that fill the bright room.

 

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“My sister studied landscape design and we both read a lot,” she says. “Before retail, I spent ten years in hospitality; that gave me a very good understanding on customer needs and customer service.

“I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert on plants, but I love them. I’ve lived with them — and I’m talking about a jungle — for over a year,” she adds, laughing. “And I’ve killed a few. That’s how I’ve learned. There’s obviously certain ones that are more difficult; it’s all about experience.”

“It just fits doesn’t it?” she says, when we ask about the choice of location. “A gentleman named Stephen came from Simcha Gallery the other day, and he told us how inspired he is by nature and greenery when he makes his jewellery.”

She looks over the balcony, to the railing that circles the lower ground floor. “I was thinking of some sort of installation there,” she says.

“We have a ton of ideas and we’re so happy to be part of the community here.”

Jennifer Lee O'Brien