Thriving in the Green

Meet Benjamin, the passionate co-founder of The Botanical Assembly and Planters Market

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Benjamin, Grower and co-founder of The Botanical Assembly and Planters Market. I’ve been collecting and growing exotic plants since 2017. Before co-founding The Botanical Assembly (TBA), I was a Creative Head in a media solutions company. I’m also an avid wildlife enthusiast with interests mainly in flora and fauna species endemic to native Singapore.

What inspired you to start your own nursery, and how did the idea come about?

I found meddling with my plants especially had a positive effect on me. Researching and experimenting with their husbandry always helped me to see things from a different angle. Back in 2017, I was on the hunt for this Variegated Banana plant. Checked out the regular nurseries, no luck. Lo and behold – I accidentally stumbled upon it at this private grower’s plot in the western part of the island. Walking into that nursery plot was like stepping into a plant wonderland – everything thriving! I knew I had to have a space like this when the time came.

Licuala mattenensis mapu

Four exhilarating years later, amid the chaos of the pandemic, I found myself teetering on the edge of a career crossroads. Faced with the choice of sticking to the creative grind until retirement or taking a daring leap to follow my passion, I chose the latter. The result? An adrenaline-pumping journey into the heart of my botanical dreams – a decision I’d describe as nothing short of exhilarating!

Philodendron billietiae variegata

Can you share some challenges you faced in the initial stages of establishing the nursery from scratch?

Access to rarer species isn’t always about having a big budget. Sometimes, it is about connections and connections to seasoned collectors and veteran growers in Singapore and across the globe who then have access to these things.

Syyzygium jiewhoei

One of the other challenges we faced was the uncertainty of the land lease. We started on a small plot in Punggol. The then-landlord did not manage to secure the land for the long term hence we were caught in a situation where we could not heavily invest in infrastructure that would otherwise aid in the propagation of plants. Thankfully we found a cosy space within Seletar and we’ve been there for almost 3 years now.

Other challenges include making ourselves stand out amongst local competitors and not forgetting, the foreign influences of plant prices from neighbouring countries decades advanced in horticulture.

Monstera deliciosa

“Researching and experimenting with their husbandry always helped me to see things from a different angle.” – Benjamin

Begonia fugurata

How do you connect with and build a community of plant collectors around your brand?

The brand and the name TBA were chosen and built with a vision of bringing a community of enthusiasts together to share and exchange ideas about growing and gardening. While we operate largely as an online business and visits to the nursery are usually by appointment only, we try to encourage our customers to come to the nursery for collection on weekends. On Sundays, the grow house can be at times packed with customers collecting their plants. And it is through these brief few hours, that our community comes together.

Musa florida var aka variegated banana

The other avenue in which we engage the plant community is heading out for events and shows to meet our followers and our customers whom we would otherwise be chatting with online.

However, we came to a point of realisation that this vision to engage was getting a little challenging especially because we can’t appear at every pop-up or festive event and Sundays are just too short. Hence we co-founded our other brand Planters Market where we brought as many plant sellers as we could together locally and around the region for an almost quarterly botanical event, that way we could engage our community on a more wholesome level over a few days.

Michaelmoelleria vietnamensis

As a young entrepreneur, what advice would you give to others looking to start their own business in the plant industry?

Have a chat with people in the industry and learn about the business. After doing so, ask yourselves how differently you would have done it if you were them. If you are fully convinced that you are going to bring to the table something different, and if you think you’re in for the challenge, take that step of faith!

Phyllagathis rajah

Looking ahead, what are your future plans and aspirations for the nursery, both in terms of growth and impact on the plant collector community?

Plans for expansion into a retail space are underway as land for horticulture becomes scarce. As the hybrid trend picks up from the latter half of 2023, in 2024 the company will also venture into hybridising.

Platycerium wandae

While we concentrate on expansion locally, we will also reach out internationally as we continue our search for the newest discoveries and hybrids in the botanical world and bridge the gap to make them available to our community of collectors here in Singapore.

Caryota mitis variegata